July 12, 2007

The mystery of humor



As Scott Adams points out in his blog today, it's not always clear what will make people laugh. Each of us has a slightly different sense of humor from the next person, and sometimes our sense of humor is very different from the next person.

When I give presentations, I never tell jokes. I'm not good at remembering them, and there's too much pressure to get a laugh. I prefer sprinkling light humor throughout the presentation. My humor is a little bit goofy, offbeat and low pressure, and I usually get a good response.

Because my humor is "me" and fits who I am, it feels natural in my presentation. A lot of my humor is at my own expense - for example, when I laugh at myself for constantly whacking my clipped-on microphone. It's also used as a teaching opportunity, so I can laugh at myself and also point out a public speaking mistake at the same time. (It's important not to make fun of yourself too much; then you start to look insecure, and that's a turn-off for an audience.)

I like to say, "public speaking isn't life-threatening" and then say, "unless you get too close to the edge of the stage" - which always works best when I'm standing on a podium and can demonstrate the danger of falling three feet to my death.

But what happens when your humor isn't working? Humorist John Kinde has a great article about how to deal with this.

One thing he points out is that everyone reacts differently to humor. Some people may laugh out loud, and some may smile. Some may show no reaction at all, but are laughing inside!

I frequently find that my least responsive audience member is the one who comes up to me afterward with nothing but appreciation, and I know now not to judge audience members for their lack of response during the presentation. They're engaged in their own way, and sometimes there's just no way to tell.

While you're at John Kinde's site, make sure to sign up for his Humor Power Tips newsletter. If you're looking to use humor more in your talks, or want to learn how to make your humor work better, this newsletter will have all the tools you need.

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3 comments. Please add yours! :

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed. said...

I agree Lisa that using our natural style of humour most often works best. I too have trouble remembering jokes unless they were really funny to me and then I sometimes laugh when telling them which spoils the delivery.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Oh no! That's the worst - laughing before you've even finished the joke. Like I said, WAY too much pressure! Seriously, the only joke I remember was one I heard when I was 8 years old.

Australian Public Speaking Courses said...

Great to hear a public speaking coach telling others to avoid jokes. Humour (yes that is the way we spell it in Australia!) is sooooooooo much better than a joke.

Cheers

darren
www.executivespeaking.com.au

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