|Articles To help Project Leaders
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
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
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
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
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
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
me with any questions that you have about
presentations and I will attempt to address them
in a future newsletter.
More next time!