How to Make People Laugh During Presentations

You don’t have to be a comedian to get big laughs as a speaker.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read

This week I thought I'd continue talking about humor. I already wrote one popular episode on how to add humor to your presentations, and last week I wrote about three common humor mistakes. In this article I'll cover a few more quick and dirty tips to help you get more laughs when you deliver a presentation.

How to Make People Laugh During Presentations

I've said this before, but if I’m able to get an audience to laugh, you can too. I am definitely not a naturally funny person, but with time I was able to add humor to my talks; it just took a bit of effort and confidence to give humor a try. Today I'm going to share with you what I've learned about how to get more laughs. 

Tip #1: Encourage Laughter

First, I discovered it’s important to encourage laughter. And there are three things that I do to encourage laughter that really work.  At first, it didn’t seem like these would make much of difference-but in fact, they do.

For me, it helps if I’m laughing before I go on stage, and so that’s the first thing I do. It is not only relaxing, but it also helps me be more spontaneous and playful. The second thing I do is I always request semi-circle or theater-style seating in a room 10% smaller than would hold the registered number of attendees. The closer together the audience, the more infectious the laughter. Oh, and make sure you are close to the audience too. Keep most of the lights on and be sure the speaker system is good. For humor to be effective you need to be seen and heard. 

Finally, the third thing you can do is to encourage laughter by explicitly encouraging participation. I almost always tell my audiences to “interrupt me, please!”   Again, it may not seem as if these things are important, but both interaction and laughter increase when I do them.

Tip #2: Record All Of Your Presentations

Everyone occasionally gets a laugh with a spontaneous remark--the trick is to capture those comments so that the next time you make a presentation, you can recycle the off-the-cuff remark.

My next tip for getting more laughs is to record all of your presentations. Until I started regularly recording my presentations, I never realized that I was already getting laughs--not that many laughs, but some. Everyone occasionally gets a laugh with a spontaneous remark. The trick is to capture those comments so that the next time you make a presentation, you can recycle the off-the-cuff remark. An off-the-cuff remark creates an illusion of spontaneity--and no one has to know that your seemingly spontaneous comment was actually not so spontaneous. That’s why recording presentations is helpful--it's highly unlikely you will remember exactly what you said, or how you said it unless you do so.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.

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