That’s a question I get a lot. And the answer is “No”.
But I can teach you to keep it light. And for most business settings, that’s better than being funny.
Being Funny is Hard in A Business Setting
In a workshop recently, I told a story about how my dog seems so happy to see me when I come home from work. It received a big laugh. Two days later, I told the same story again and everyone stared at me without cracking a smile. And I have no idea why.
Humor is a craft. Standup comics spend years fashioning jokes that will reliably make people laugh. My friend Jeff Justice, who teaches a great standup comedy workshop here in Atlanta, says that a joke can become unfunny by changing one word.
And humor is doubly hard in conference rooms. People attend meetings to solve problems, not to laugh. And if you tell a joke and it flops, it can undermine your bond with the listener.
So unless you want to work on the craft of humor, it’s safer to leave it to the professionals.
But Keeping it Light Isn’t Hard
Come into the room with energy. I’m amazed at how many people walk up before their audience looking like they’ve just left their dog’s funeral. Just as bad is to walk into the room and begin fumbling with your laptop or, worst of all, looking down at your iPhone.
Instead, walk into the room like you’re ready to connect with people and help them solve problems. As you walk into the room, have a little spring in your step, have your head up and look for people to connect with. Your movements should say, “I’m here to help and we’re going to get something done!”
Greet people. Nothing sets a positive tone better than greeting people individually as they walk into the room.
I spoke the other day at Georgia Tech in front of about 40 people. As everyone walked into the room I said “I’m Joey Asher and I’m going to be your speaker.” Then I asked them where they were from and maybe how to pronounce their name properly (there were a lot of people from other countries).
It was just light cocktail party conversation. But it set a nice tone.
Limit Your Slides. Nothing creates a feeling of doom and gloom like 70 slides.
Encourage Interaction. Early in every presentation, I tell people “This presentation is for you. So don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions. In fact, I encourage you to argue with me. I’m here for you. In fact, I challenge you to throw me off. That’s what makes this fun.”
It’s a disarming statement that usually makes people nod. It lets them know that this is going to be fun.
Look Happy to Get Questions: I was watching a presenter recently at a conference. When a hand went up, he looked up and grunted “Yeah.” The message was “You’re bothering me.”
Far better to look at the questioner, smile and say “Yes, Sir!”, “Yes!” or “Rita!” You want your tone to say “I’m excited to take your question.”
Keep a light tone. You may actually get a few laughs. But more importantly you’ll connect better with your listeners.
Joey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”