Do you remember your first interview?
I still laugh when I remember mine. Memories of my interrogator, Mr Johnson, glaring at me across the desk, whilst I wrung my hands in desperation; trying to remember the guidelines we’d be given at college.
“Be punctual” they’d said. “Ask questions” they’d said. “And don’t forget to make eye contact.”
Unfortunately they didn’t specify which eye. The stern Mr Johnson had a ‘lazy’ eye; a strange name for such a mobile little object.
Confused and befuddled I struggled valiantly to maintain eye contact, and consequently spent ten minutes chatting to a hat stand. To my chagrin I was reprimanded for not paying attention, and quickly ushered out.
So what’s the point of this tale? Well, at sixteen I was mortified, but years later I’ve found that my little story still serves me well. I’ve shared it with numerous office colleagues, and now, having escaped office life, I use it in my presentations on how to incorporate humour in the workplace.
Some would say there’s no place for humour at work; but then some people fail to realise that humour can bond us. It also reduces stress, creates rapport, and helps your audience retain information.
All these reasons make humour a wonderful weapon to have in your presentation armoury. The key, of course, is to use it to back up important points. (For example, I use my interview story to show that there are some things you just can’t plan for).
So be brave. Pop some subtle humour into your presentations. If you’re stuck for ideas, I’ve given some below.
- Use personal anecdotes; share your experiences and what you’ve learned from them. Self deprecating works well in the office environment as it’s not threatening, but be careful not to send up your qualifications or expertise.
- Play with statistics! I open my humour workshops explaining that children laugh more than adults…and then come up with my own reasons why.
- Source amusing pictures to use as slides. You can find entertaining ones on the web (be careful of copyright) which are wonderful for the ‘How not to do things’ message.
- Collect amusing snippets and stories from newspapers to demonstrate different types of behaviour.
- Look for interesting quotes. Give examples of when they are appropriate – and then some instances when they’re not.
Have fun – but remember, always tie your humour in with a salient point. The key for any presentation is to be informative, but if you manage to be entertaining as well, you’ll find yourself with a happy, attentive audience.
Jan Jack is a writer, stand up comedian and trainer.