When Is It Ok to Use Humor?

One question we are often asked is, “When is it okay to use humor in a presentation?”  Humor can help bring the energy up in the room, but to help you be sure it will benefit your presentation, we bring you five tips that will help you decide if humor is appropriate for your presentation.

  1. Humor is a high-risk technique to engage an audience.  What may be funny to someone may come across as offensive to someone else.
    Tip:  Seek feedback from someone who is familiar with your target audience.
  2. Humor works when the presenter has been proven to be appropriately funny before.
    Tip:  Someone, other than yourself, should agree that you have the knack to use humor effectively.
  3. Humor and jokes are not the same.  Humor works when it takes place within the context of your presentation.  Jokes often lead the audience’s mind away from your presentation’s core message.
    Tip:  As a general rule, avoid jokes. It is better to focus on being real during your presentation—we all have our own way of lighting up the conversation.
  4. Humor works best when it springs naturally from sharing an anecdote or common experience.   In this case, humor works because it gives the audience something in common with you.
    Tip:  If you focus on crafting a good story with valuable anecdotes, humor will sprout organically.
  5. Humor that works starts with a bit of forethought.
    Tip:  When considering whether to include humor in your presentation, keep three questions in mind:

a) Does it fit my topic?
b) Does it fit my audience?
c) Does it fit my style?

If you follow these few guidelines, you can be confident you are using humor in a way that is working in your favor.

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