The Wrong Way To Include Jokes In Presentations

The Wrong Way To Include Jokes In Presentations

Using a joke or an amusing quote in a presentation can be a great way to win over your audience. However, there’s a sure-fire way to ruin your attempts at comedy: putting the text of the joke on a slide and displaying it before you’ve actually said it.

Clown picture from Shutterstock

This happened repeatedly in a presentation I attended recently. The presenter had carefully hunted down a stack of relevant quotes, many of which included a punchline. But because they all appeared on screen well before he ever said them, we’d all read them in advance. Any impact from actually speaking these words was lost.

This is a specific case for one of the most basic rules of presenting: don’t just read what’s on your slides. Ideally, don’t put the quote up on screen at all: use a relevant picture instead and save the comment itself as a surprise. If you do want to display your selectively-pilfered shard of wit, don’t bring it up on screen until after you’ve said it — and don’t provide handouts either.


  • Death by PowerPoint!

    Many a presentation I have been to and the slides are just full of text and the speaker just waves the laser pointer slowly as they stumble over each word.

    I don’t understand why people spend a lot of time on their PowerPoint slides…the slides should only be there to assist your speech, yet people frame their speech such that their role only is to press the button for the next slide to appear.

    If anyone needs inspiration or tips, try watching a TED talk!

    Also, the best jokes, whilst you may have practiced them, the audience will appreciate them more if they appear spontaneous!

Log in to comment on this story!