Funny Presentations: They’re the Ones You Remember

One of the most powerful communication tools you can use to deliver your message is humor. It’s what makes you real. When it’s used appropriately, humor can be one of the most effective ways to make your presentation memorable. So, if you are contemplating whether to use humor in presentations, the answer is a resounding yes.

Why do I say “when used appropriately?” Because there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Your presentation can’t be one joke after another–you’re not there to put on a stand-up comedy routine. No, when I say you have to use presentation humor appropriately, I mean you should use it to break up tension or offer a brief release from the intensity of your presentation. The average human adult can focus their attention for about five minutes, so it’s a good rule of thumb to add a humorous element to your speech at least that often. This breaks up your presentation into manageable chunks of time (in terms of your listener’s attention span) to keep your audience interested so that you have their focus for another five minutes.

Use Humor in a Business Presentation

Unless your business sells clown costumes (and really, even if it is), business presentations are heavy. They’re laden with numbers and facts and all sorts of jargon. It’s easy for all that serious business talk to cause a person’s attention span to drop out. That’s why using humor in a business presentation is just as important as adding it to an informative or instructional presentation.

The best time to deliver a serious point—one you want to drive home with your listeners—is right after they laugh. Why? Because laughing is a tension reliever. When your audience is relaxed and attentive, you can hit them with something you want them to remember.

How to Use Humor in Presentations

For presentation humor to be effective, you need to plan for it. Sure, there are times when you can ad-lib (like when something unexpectedly goes wrong—humor can be a great way to recover from a presentation mishap). Still, it really should be an element that you plan and execute deliberately.

Part of planning is knowing the audience will “get” your humor. Jokes that reference pop culture won’t get the same response from a group of seniors as they will from a room full of teenagers. A quip about ledgers and income statements will be lost on people who don’t know the first thing about accounting. Take the demographics and general interests of your audience into consideration. Everyone loves a good laugh—so the more information you have on your listeners, the easier it will be to tickle their funny bones. Do you need a few ideas on how exactly you can add some humor to your next presentation? Try these:

Personal anecdotes: The easiest (usually best) person to poke fun at is yourself. Share a personal story that will lend itself to the point you’re trying to make. Personal stories are always full of funny details, and when you talk about something that’s happened to you, people can relate sometimes; that’s why the story is funny.

The best part of using a story from the pages of your own life is you already know how to tell it because you’ve probably been sharing it for years (unless it’s something that happened on the way to the presentation). If sharing a story based on your experience will help make a point in your presentation, use it!

Funny quotes: Did you know that the Beatles songs “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Eight Days a Week,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” came from Ringo Starr mixing up his words? People say the darnedest things and it can be pure gold—just ask the Fab Four.

Find a funny quote that lends itself to your topic, and use it at the appropriate time. Jump on Google and search for “funny quotes,” but remember to do your homework and verify that a) the quote is accurate and b) it’s attributed to the correct person.

Funny analogies: Winston Churchill once said “a good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” This is a double whammy—not only is that a funny quote, but it’s a great analogy, too.

An analogy draws a comparison between two different objects or concepts to highlight some similarity. They’re not always easy to come up with yourself, so listen to what the people around you say. When you hear a funny analogy, make a note of it. Even if it’s not perfect for your presentation, you can always swap out a few words or facts to make it work.

Cartoons: If you’re going to use Powerpoint for your presentation, the least you could do is add a funny cartoon or two to your slides. How many times have you been talking to someone and the conversation reminds of you of a funny cartoon or meme you saw on Facebook? Why can’t that be the same for a presentation?  Whatever your topic, there’s a good chance there’s a funny cartoon floating around about it. Visual aids are great for public speaking—and if they’re funny, even better.

Funny Signs: I recently saw a sign outside a local greenhouse that read, “Spring is here! We’re so excited, we wet our plants.” It’s a great play on words, but it’s also a funny sign—and a memorable one at that. There are probably five nurseries within about a 10-block area, but the one I remember the most—and its exact location—is the one with that sign-out front.

Funny signs are everywhere. Once, I saw a “Dead End” sign posted next to a cemetery. (OK, maybe that one was more ironic than funny.) If you keep your eyes open, great material is out there, and it’s all up for grabs for your next presentation.

Use Presentation Humor Sparingly

Humorous presentations are a great way to break the ice with your audience, to keep your listeners interested, and to ensure your presentation is memorable, but don’t feel like you have to be a comedian. A few well-placed jokes to show your human side is all you need.

If you’re thinking about how to make a presentation funny, stick to humor that won’t isolate or target a segment of the audience, and pick “clean” jokes that don’t rely on profanity to make a point. And no matter what, your humor should never be at the expense of others.

Do you use humor in your presentations? Is it effective? Tell us about it in the comment section. Don’t forget we are always posting useful public speaking tips on our social media channels, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.


  1. Some great tips here. Thanks Mike…I recently attended one you workshops and it was nothing like I expected. It was entertaining and that’s what made it memorable. I’ve been slowly trying to add some humor into my presentations and it seems to draw the audience in. Thanks again

  2. Britanica says:

    I have never been one to use humor though I wish I knew how. I tried a few times and it just ended awkwardly. Someone else I work with, a man names Stuart Williams… He does this effortlessly. He said you have to work with what you have worked with, in other words… Make fun of your own experiences.

  3. Great advice on using humor in a presentation. Thanks!

  4. This is absolutely true. There are way too many dry, boring presentations. The ones I remember are the ones I have truly enjoyed, and without exception, they’ve all be presentations where the speaker was funny and personable. That alone kept me engaged.

  5. Agreed, a little levity goes a long way toward keeping the interest of your peeps

  6. I think humor, in almost any situation, makes life a bit better. So I definitely agree that it’s appropriate in a business presentation. But yes — plan it ahead and be careful not to do it at anyone’s expense. Don’t go into Michael Scott territory:P

  7. Sam Anson says:

    I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to add a little humor, as long as it’s appropriate and in good taste.

  8. L. Lincoln says:

    I find humor is a tough skill to master if you don’t know who’s in the audience. People can be really sensitive!

  9. Presentations that don’t have any humor are so hard to pay attention. I easily find myself drifting off and not tracking with the speaker. Bad Presentations!

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