Jokes: What Works and What Doesn’t with Various Types of Humor

Using humor in presentations is not always a laughing matter.  Sometimes it can backfire and actually hurt your credibility.  Other times, humor can help you stand out and build a rapport with your audience.  How, then, do you know when to use humor in your presentation?   In general, humor can be beneficial for increasing the audience’s interest and keeping their attention.  When used skillfully, it can be a great way to break the ice and present information in a way that will be remembered.  Having said that, you do need to be careful when using humor because doing so poorly can sink your presentation.   Consider these important tips in order to appropriately infuse humor into your next presentation. 

Know Your Audience

A joke told without knowledge of the audience is a risky move.  These jokes can leave you stranded on the stage.  Humor varies from person to person and group to group.  What you might find funny might be odd or even offensive to someone else.  Therefore, you need to do some research beforehand and find out some general information about your audience.  What is the average age of the audience?  What are their credentials?  What are their general interests?  The humor you use should align with your audience.  For example, a joke referencing pop culture might not be as humorous to a group of seniors.  Likewise, a joke about income statements will be completely lost by an audience who isn’t familiar with accounting.  Before infusing humor into your presentation, be sure to consider the demographics of your audience.