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The overlap between laughter and a great presentation

Yamini Naidu /

I was sitting next to a wellbeing expert recently on a plane and she said there are three simple keys to happiness: laughter, music and exercise.

We hopefully do a reasonably good job at incorporating one or two of these keys into our daily lives. Sometimes exercising to old ‘80s aerobics videos lets me integrate all three keys. Did I just over-share there?

But our challenge as communicators and presenters is how to incorporate laughter into every presentation. Laughter is definitely one of the keys to delivering an inspiring presentation. When your audience laughs, they connect with you and your message. Motivational speakers know that humour and drama (usually in story form) will get you past your audience’s defences.

Some presenters think they’re simply not funny, or they worry about introducing humour to a serious topic. Some of us might have to work harder to engineer humour into our presentations, but generally it will be rewarded in spades by our audience’s engagement.

Our muse on how to do this well, even for serious topics, must be professional public speaker Hans Rosling, who presented a TED talk titled ‘The best stats you will ever see’. Rosling presents complex, longitudinal, global stats on child mortality, but he does it with drama, urgency and humour in the persona of a sports broadcaster. It’s magic and it works without minimising the seriousness of the issue he is dealing with.

When I mentor clients who are about to make a presentation I always challenge them with: “So, what’s your story?” And to this I now add: “What’s your funny?”

So, what’s your funny? Where have you seen humour used well in a presentation? I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment.

Yamini Naidu is a global thought leader in storytelling and business communication. She is a director at yamininaidu.com.au, and was previously a director at One Thousand & One, a company she co-founded in 2004.

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