Harnessing Humor: Self-Deprecation

Pick up any book on presentations, and you’ll see that almost every one of them will tell you to use humor in your presentations.  That’s great if you are are naturally a comedian, but if you’re like me, humor (especially the spontaneous kind) doesn’t come easily.  The problem is that when someone tells you to integrate humor into your presentations, they almost never tell you how.  Well, today, I’m going to try to buck that trend and offer a specific method that might work for you.

The first thing to remember is that developing your sense of presentation humor will take time and experimentation.  If you are just starting out, make sure you are comfortable with the basics of public speaking before experimenting with humor.  When you are ready to try something new, don’t hinge your presentation on humor.  Add it in bits and pieces.

Readers of this blog have probably realized that I’m not a really funny person.  Regardless, over the past few years, I have managed to successfully inject a form of self-deprecating humor into my work.  It matches my personality and, having presented and taught to a wide variety of audiences in two different countries, it has proven to be widely accepted and easy to understand.

If you are considering this method of humor, there is a huge caveat that you must always keep in mind:  avoid downplaying yourself when it comes to the topic of your presentation or your field of expertise.  Doing so could betray your audiences expectations.  Instead, joke about the parts of your presentations that aren’t critical to your message (e.g. visual aids, small anecdotes, etc.)

For example, if one of my slides has a picture of some cheap fast food, I might say something like, “Don’t laugh–it beats my home cooking!” (Sorry if that’s not so funny—guess you had to be there.  Anyway, please see my disclaimer above).  My ability (or lack thereof) to cook good food has no bearing on my ability to teach a class about reading stock charts.

Well, that’s enough humor for now.  Hopefully my ability (or lack thereof) to be humorous has no bearing on my ability to share useful information through this blog…

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One thought on “Harnessing Humor: Self-Deprecation

  1. Pingback: The Mindful Presenter | The Business of Teaching

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