Of all the challenges in an effective presentation, the one that is probably most difficult for me is developing humor in the speech. One way I have found to be relatively simple is to use a joke, one-liner, or anecdote which identifies with me personally.
For example, recently I found this joke that I plan to use in my next presentation. The barbershop was crowded, so the woman at the cash register offered to put my name on the waiting list. “What is it?” she asked.
“Stephen, with a “P-H,” I said, as I’ve said many times before.
Minutes later, a chair opened up, and my name was called: “Pheven?”
I’ve had this spelling problem with my name all of my life because my name is Stephen. Most people write my name “Steven” instead, even people who have known me for years.
Here is a way I might incorporate this joke to solicit a smile or chuckle from my audience. Early in the introduction, I’ll mention the spelling of my name and say, “You may have heard about a man who had a similar problem.” Then I will tell the story, saying, “Sometimes it may not be worth the effort to insure that your name is spelled correctly–maybe just on legal documents or checks written out to me.”
Another example of this principle of borrowing a piece of humor closely related to you is this story:
One of the biggest issues many speakers face is stage fright. I deal with this regularly in both my presentation skills seminars and individual presentation skills coaching. I learned to be careful with my advice, however. A young man walked into a professor’s office saying he had a stage fright problem. The professor asked him what he had done thus far in dealing with the problem.
“I went to see the school psychologist,“ he said.
“What idiotic advice did he give you?” the professor asked.
The young man responded, “He sent me to you.”
You could work this story into about any occupation you might have. I think I first found this joke when the characters were a physician and a pharmacist.
Humor does not have to be original with you, though you must be honest in not telling it as it happened to you if it did not. You, however, can make it real and relevant to your audience by reworking the content to poke fun at yourself.