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SWaynePow'Rful Presentations Newsletter
September 2008 - Humor is a serious topic for you to study
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist PowerPoint® Presenters communicate clearly with audiences.
In my effort to please the widest range of readers and knowing that adult learners acquire new skills in different ways, you may find typographical or grammatical errors in this newsletter. No need to point these out to me. Some readers learn best by analyzing text for errors. 
Also, depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be, well let us just say "imaginative".
© Wayne Botha 2008
Creating your humor.
Have you been in a setting where the presenter told a bad joke and everyone politely laughed, while you cringed inside? I am not sure which is worse. A speaker who tells a bad joke, or a speaker who tells a joke from the Internet as if it happened to them personally. For example, I heard a speaker tell the overused starfish story as if it was his own grandfather who walked along the beach with him. This is the ultimate embarrassment for everyone in the audience and the speaker instantly had zero credibility.
You are probably aware that humor makes any presentation more enjoyable for your audience. Speakers are trying to engage the audience and make the presentation enjoyable by using jokes. The problem with using jokes is the following:
1. Not everyone can tell a joke. (And you may be a person who can't! )
2. Your audience may have heard the joke before (possibly from the preceding speaker).
3. The joke may not be funny.
4. The joke may offend your audience.
Therefore, the better option is to uncover humor in your presentation and not tell jokes at all. Personal humor takes more effort to identify and develop but has many advantages, including:
1.It is unique to you. No other speaker can deliver your humor.
2. Once you have learned how to create humor, you can create an infinite supply of humor.
3. You can customize your humor for your presentation and are not dependant on off-color jokes from a joke book.
I can hear you say "Wayne, I am convinced that personal humor is the best solution. Now how do I create personal humor?" I am glad you asked. Let's dive deeply into humor for your presentation in this newsletter.
Firstly, humor is "the unexpected". If you remember these two words, you have 80% understanding of why something is humorous and how to create humor.
Think of a funny story or joke that you have heard. The reason it is funny, is because the punch line was not what you would expect. The setup lines get your mind thinking in one direction and your mind thinks it has the expected conclusion. Then, when you deliver the unexpected change of direction in the punch line, your mind is tricked and you laugh.
Watch a stand up comic and you will see how the unexpected deviation makes the humor. (My favorites are Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.)
Doug Stevenson shares this example. His wife asked him what he was going to get at the store. Doug's response was "Some Apples, some Oranges and some Plywood". This is funny because you mind thinks "Oh, Doug is getting some fruit. Apples, Oranges and another type of fruit" and then you laugh when your mind is tricked with "plywood" because it is not the expected next word, which would have been a type of fruit. Plywood is unexpected in this sequence of apples, oranges and another type of fruit.
The unexpected can also make you laugh when the words are out of character and in conflict with the expected situation. For example, at a Toastmasters meeting, a speaker told us about his favorite family beach vacation. He told us that children were only allowed to go with adults to the beech if they brought their own cigarettes and beer.  No one expects children to bring cigarettes and beer on a family vacation, and the unexpected criteria in this situation makes it funny.
Cool, so now that we agree that "the unexpected" creates the humor, what next? How do we know what is expected and unexpected? This is straightforward.
Make a list of words that would be expected in the situation, and a second list of words that are the opposite. For example, when you walk into a bar, you would expect to see the following: bar stools, bar counter, draft beer machines, glasses, wine, brandy, soda dispensing machine, bar attendant. You would not expect to see: baby diapers, homework books, condoms, the Bible, clothes detergent. Therefore, a simple punch line to joke could be "I walked into the bar and ordered my usual - Sam Adams light in an ice-cold glass and a pack of baby diapers". It takes some thought, but you can also learn to create humor.
I was surprised to learn that you can study humor. Humor is partially a science. You are not at the mercy of other people to write jokes. You should pick up a copy of Judy Carter's books on comedy for your library to accompany Judy through the process of creating humor.
Also, note that good humor is not always easy. Judy instructs readers to create humor and then try it on a friend. Sometimes the lines which you think are hilarious, just aren't. Stand up comedians practice a lot and throw out a lot of material in order to select and deliver the best material.
Exaggeration also helps to enhance your humor. Exaggerate the quantity. If you slipped on the floor and two people giggled at you, tell the story with 20 people laughing hysterically. Exaggerate the size of your obstacle, and the speed you were driving. Think of Robin Williams in the movie RV. Driving a 4x4 trail with a Class A motorhome is such an exaggeration that just the idea is humorous.
Tom Antion shared this tip with me - be "in fun". Get your audience "in fun" by having some humor in your introduction. Also, to deliver good humor, you must be "in fun". If you look and act like you are the undertaker delivering the last Rites before measuring your audience for a casket, then no-one is going to enjoy your humor. Act as if you are enjoying your presentation and your humor. Then your audience is more likely to follow your lead and enjoy your humor as well. Set the example and be "in fun".
The Rule of three, is the other 20% of humor that you should understand. Most jokes come in threes, such as "Three guys walked into a bar", and "Some Apples, some Oranges and some Plywood". Remember the rule of three. The first two situations or words setup the line of thought. The third one is unexpected and creates the humor. Don't try to expand this to the Rule of Four. After three the humor becomes tiresome. Stick to the proven Rule of Three.
Fortunately, humor is easy to practice. So go ahead and create humor for your presentation. Then slip it into your daily conversation to practice and be willing to throw out the average humor so that you can keep the great humor.
If you would like to learn more about humor, then consider studying humor from a professional comedian - Darren La Croix at one of his humor Bootcamps, by clicking here. I also recommend that you purchase products from Doug Stevenson, Tom Antion and Patricia Fripp in your study of humor creation techniques.


Are presenters in your organization putting you to sleep? Contact me and let's discuss if I can help you to train your presenters to deliver presentations worthy of their professionalism. Do you need a speaker for your conference? Contact me and let's discuss if I am the right speaker for your event.

Email me with any questions that you have about presentations and I will attempt to address them in a future newsletter.

More next time!

Wayne Botha

Copyright 2017 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897