Avoid Public Speaking Jokes In Your Talk (Do This Instead)

Avoid Public Speaking Jokes In Your Talk blog imageYou might be thinking about using public speaking jokes to open up your presentation. Now, here’s my advice around jokes. First of all, don’t use them. And second of all, just refer to what I said first.

The reason that I would never use a joke to start a presentation is you immediately realise that my whole talk is prepared.

I know that sounds weird because my whole talk IS prepared, but the audience doesn’t want to be reminded of that.

When I use public speaking jokes from the start, they think, “I get it. You prepared all of this. The whole thing is a canned presentation. Got it.

So using a joke to start a presentation will do more harm than good.

Effective and funny public speaker imageI’m a much bigger fan of discovering humour as I talk as opposed to scripting in jokes. That’s because discovering humour makes it a way more enjoyable type of laughter for the audience, and it also means you’re not trying for it.

Now, a lot of keynote presenters will use jokes at the start of their talks and that’s fine. Like if you were known around Australia for your keynote talk and it’s the same thing over and over again, then you can tell your joke because it doesn’t affect anything.

For instance, a professionally paid speaker who delivers the same 45-minute talk in corporations throughout the year can use their tried and tested jokes to start their talks because it’s the same thing they do 500 times a year.

But if I’m doing like a one-day workshop or a 90-minute speak to sell or something like that, I don’t want you thinking that this is the same thing I do every time. Also, scripting in jokes might make you come across as fake and phony.

So, try to avoid jokes to start your presentation, but instead, be funny! Let’s talk about how you can become humorous during your talk.

Public Speaking Jokes – Nay, Being Funny – Yay

Successful presentation imageThe reason we want to be funny is that it allows people to disengage what is known as the amygdala response.

The amygdala response is a fear-based reaction such as a fight or flight response that causes you to respond to threats. And laughter is the most effective way of disengaging that process.

So if you want your audience to make a decision and take action, and they’re afraid of that action, laughter will assist them to disengage the function that causes the fear around that action.

If you want to be funny, you’ve got to understand what humour actually is, so here is a very simple process. If you have a thought that is going in one direction, the brain feels safe. If for any reason at all and without the brain realising it, you rapidly change directions and send it on a completely different path, the gap between the old path and the new path is what causes laughter.

Benjamin J Harvey talks about where laughter occursThat’s because when you put me in a situation where I could experience fear, but I feel safe in the process, my brain doesn’t know what to do. So what it does is it laughs to protect itself.

Think about every time you laugh at anything. It’s because you are locked into a thought. You thought it was going on a very specific direction, and then all of a sudden the comedian changed the direction. But because you felt safe, rather than being afraid that you lost certainty, you laughed.

So all you’re trying to do when you’re making humour is get people believing that the story is going down one path a 100%. Then, when they’re fully onboard that path, when they’re on that train and they’re going there and every cell in their body says, “I know how this story ends”, at that moment, you pause, and then change direction. And when you do it, you’ll hear the room laugh.

Anytime that you can do this to people during your talk, do it. And the more that you can build up the thought, then pause before you change direction, the funnier it becomes.

So rather than using a joke to start a presentation, uncover the humour that is always there. Life is funny. You just got to look for those moments where people are going this way and then lead them to a totally different way, and voila, you got humour.

Crowd laughing image

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Ben is the Difference-Maker Mentor and Co-founder of Authentic Education. He is exquisite at inspiring people to share their message, make a difference in the world and live abundantly on purpose.

Ben has been featured in media such as the Today Show, Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post and News.com.au.