The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Humor During a Presentation

Audience members tend to gravitate toward speakers who highlight their presentations with humor, and they prove to be more receptive to the overall message. However, humor has its share of do’s and don’ts:

DON’T start with a joke for the sake of starting with a joke. Instead, make sure it ties directly to your message and is a logical fit for your audience. Avoid the old “a duck walks into a bar” routine.

DON’T overpromise, saying “This is the funniest joke you’ve ever heard.”

DON’T bill yourself as a humorist unless you are; otherwise, they’ll be expecting a stand-up comic. Under-promise and over-deliver.

DON’T even think about jokes pertaining to race, politics, sex, religion, age, disabilities—or one’s hair color!

DON’T include off-color jokes, even if you are certain people will laugh.

DO poke fun at yourself, not audience members.

DO practice your recitation at least 20 times out loud. If you don’t, you risk “laying an egg” in front of your audience. At best, you’ll get sympathy laughter. A joke always sounds better in your head, so say it out loud 20 times before the real deal.

DO use more one-liners. Longer jokes are less effective.

DO pause before the punch line. It’s not as funny if it has to be repeated.

DO prepare for your humor to bomb.

And why tell jokes at all? Your life has more funny material than any joke book.

Humor and warmth can be found all around you:

  • Funny comments your children say
  • Personal stories
  • Cartoons used with permission
  • Humorous quotations from others
  • Funny visuals and slides


To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.

Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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