How to be funny when your content is not

You need to talk about your departmental strategy. It’s 3pm and the subject is about as captivating as the inside of a sock.

You’ve know that humour is a method that will make you more engaging and help the content become more memorable. (If you don’t know the scientifically proven reason why, and you’re interested, go here)

Your don’t feel very funny though. So here are 7 ways to use humour when you present.  No stand-up experience necessary.


1. Tell the Truth

‘Sorry I’m late but I didn’t want to come’.  
We often laugh because we recognise the situation/ reaction / emotion, not because a speaker’s trying to be funny.  Often the funniest comedians are simply relaying a situation that we can all relate to. 

The humour is a by-product.  If there’s nothing you’ve observed, use your network – LinkedIn, Facebook – and mine them for information.


2. Laugh at yourself

 “There’s nothing funny about a confident person who’s doing well.” Rita Rudner.  
Obviously, this depends on the audience but recounting failed attempts at something helps develop likeability and trust.   You can take your subject very seriously: it doesn’t mean you need to take yourself seriously though.

3. Compare two entities

Sarah Cooper, ex-Google Manager and author of ‘The Cooper Review’ uses a comparison between New York and San Francisco.

Humour can emanate from a comparison between the past and present; 2 procedures; Team A and Team B.  Make sure that the differences are so distinct that people will prefer one entity to another. 

Not only will you make them laugh but they’ll be talking about their bias after your talk.  You’ll do this without trying to be funny but by pointing out 2 contrasting realities that are totally relateable.


4. Unexpected similes and metaphors

These make people laugh, simply because they’re a surprise. 

For example, a budget cut is unnecessary. It’s like going to the doctor when you’ve got a cold and being told you need to have a kidney removed.  

Shelle Rose Charvet compares the skill of presenting to the sex life of dragonflies in her enlightening and humorous talk (link is at the end of this article). 


5. Cartoons

I might use one of these illustrations before I present on pitching



6. Twitter

I sometimes find funny feeds that I’ll rehash when I present.  Here’s a good source from @managerspeak. So, you could be begin a talk actually by doing that to your audience, instead of showing the Tweet. (If you prime someone at the beginning, they’re less likely to be confused and more likely to jump to order.)

A couple more examples of humour for you:

The first 4 tips are from Sarah Cooper.  As an ex-manager at Google who is now a comedienne and author of the satirical ‘Cooper Review’, she’s learned to hone her humour.

In her clip, ‘How to make Make Boring Stuff Funny’, she gives 4 tips on how to do exactly that. 

I then added the last 3, which show how you can borrow humour. 

Check out the highly amusing Cooper Review here:
Shelle Rose Charvet – the sex life of dragonflies


Now, I’d love to hear from you:

In what specific do you add humour to your next presentation? Leave your answers in the comments!




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