Using Humor in Your Presentation? Here’s a Checklist for Success

For the last six months I’ve been working with an accountant in our Executive Immersion program. As his coach, I’ve helped him polish his presentation skills, strengthen his image, project personal presence and build self-confidence. Most recently I helped him prepare for an internal presentation he was giving to five hundred division managers. Today I received his email report card. “My presentation was a success,” he wrote. “I received countless compliments. I think the company still can’t believe that an accountant can deliver a good presentation.” I love working with this man. He is earnest, disciplined and, like most accountants, extremely detail oriented so he shows up to our coaching sessions prepared and ready to work. He’s one of those people who truly love numbers. But in spite of his admirable work ethic and commitment to his subject, he has a difficult time sharing his passion and enthusiasm. He has “mono-face” and a stiff posture, and he uses limited vocal accents in his delivery so he can come across bland and uninteresting.

But he has one thing going for him, which you can probably guess from his report card comment: Humor. And that has made all the difference. His humor has become somewhat of a trademark for him and he’s proud of this new development. He sprinkles enough humor in his presentations now that people enjoy listening to him, and they tell him so.

So I encourage you, as I encouraged him, to use humor in your presentations.

But beware! Whether you’re telling a story, anecdote, joke or one-liner, there are important steps you must take to ensure that your humor is effective. Here is a short checklist to test your humor in both content and delivery before you give your presentation:

Humor Content:

  • Is it in good taste? Will it offend anyone in your audience? Will it damage your credibility or reputation?
  • Is it cliché? Has it been overused?
  • Are you using humor just to include something funny in your presentation or is it relevant to the message?
  • Is the humor brief enough to be told in a short time? Or will it pull you off track and down a rabbit hole.

Humor Delivery:

  • Does using humor make you self-conscious and/or uncomfortable?
  • Can you communicate the humor well? Or do you need practice?
  • Is the punch line clear and easy to understand?
  • Have you rehearsed the humor for this particular audience?
  • Have you tested your humor on others?
  • What if your humor flops? How will you recover?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a comedian to use humor effectively. Simply use this short checklist for each presentation and every message you deliver will be memorable…and for the right reasons.