How to joke during online presentations?


In our previous post, we’d discussed why and how to effectively use humor in a presentation, along with some tips for selecting appropriate jokes and using them to engage the audience and anchor important points. This article will explore the art of joking during online presentations. We’ll look at famous speakers’ examples to understand how to use humor effectively to engage and entertain your audience.

First, let’s figure out why joke at all during thematic public speaking? This idea has quite a few opponents. “There is no need to turn a serious event into a stand-up show!” – Have you ever come across such a point of view?

Here are three main arguments for humor in presentations:

  • About 80% of visitors to presentations think that most of these events are boring (Presentation Panda).

This is the perfect place to remember the immortal wisdom of the great French enlightener Voltaire:

“All genres are good, except the boring kind”.

If an online presentation degenerates into a boring genre (and, judging by the statistics mentioned, this is quite possible), it will not benefit either commercial events or educational ones. Of course, jokes are not the only way to “wake up” the audience, but certainly, one of the most obvious.

  • More than half of the visitors to presentations say that it is easier for them to remember information presented in the form of a good story (Prezi).

In light of this, the question arises, what is a good story? One possible answer is one that evokes emotions. It is clear that in the case of presentations, these should be positive emotions, and not those that will make the audience swallow tears. So telling a story based on a joke is an obvious option.

Keep in mind that it should be accessible to your audience. In other words, try not to overload it with special terms and scientific expressions.

Take the great advice of the great scientist Albert Einstein:

“I always say: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Because if you do, then you can try to explain it to your grandmother.”

  • Most people are more or less susceptible to the fear of public speaking.

According to a study conducted in the United States (Orai), about 90% of Americans are embarrassed when they need to speak in front of an audience, and 77% are completely afraid. Definitely, in other countries, the statistics look the same.

This state of affairs was aptly played by the wonderful comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who once remarked:

“I found that the most people are afraid of death and public speaking. So if you’re afraid of death, you should try public speaking.”

A joke is a viable option not only to win the audience over, but also to overcome your embarrassment.

As Mark Twain used to say:

“The best way to deal with public speaking is to imagine everyone in the audience naked”.

True, the author of “Tom Sawyer” claimed that this method does not calm him down, but makes him nervous. But that must be because he was using it improper.

In connection with the latter, it is not superfluous to note that jokes will work well during the presentation only if they are, as they say, in the subject. If they have nothing to do with the presentation itself, the impression of even a witty joke or an elegant pun will be rather negative. Your audience may decide that you don’t value them or your time.

By the way, we think you noticed that during the introduction, we smoothly moved on to considering good jokes from people who have experience of public speaking. There are even more such examples below.

Jokes and tricks of some famous presenters

Many speakers are afraid of even a hint of a smile in relation to the subject of their presentation. They think that joking about the main topic of the speech will show their frivolous attitude towards it. As a result, the audience will not pay enough attention to what is said. In fact, the ability to successfully joke about your business demonstrates, rather, that you can relate to the subject of the presentation objectively and are open to any, even acute questions.

Who, for example, can say that Steve Jobs was not serious about gadgets? He, in the literal sense of the word, devoted his life to them. However, when it came to communicating with an audience, he always had a sharp word for his favorite topic. How do you like, for example, this reasoning of his:

“What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

Agree, it is very non-trivial to compare one of the most complex inventions of mankind with what the inventors serve as a kind of equivalent of simplicity. It is no coincidence that there is a saying: there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

And this is not the only case! Jobs once admitted that one of the sources of inspiration for creating the user interface was… the refrigerator:

“It was because of the refrigerator that I came to appreciate the power of a great user interface. With the fridge, you put something in, you take something out, and you don’t really know how it works.”

Now let’s ask ourselves, how did Steve’s irony work? Are Apple products being taken less seriously? Or did Jobs’ jokes once again emphasize and help to fix in the minds of the audience one of the main messages – working with gadgets from Apple is as easy as riding a bike or using a refrigerator?

Another great example is the popular lectures of astrophysicist Carl Sagan, one of the pioneers of the systematic active search for extraterrestrial civilizations.

Among other things, he became famous as a tireless popularizer of science. It is not often possible to meet a scientist who can discuss the most complex scientific problems in an accessible and exciting way to a wide audience, but Sagan has mastered this art to perfection.

Here is a great example of his style:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

The phrase, at first glance, is infinitely far from the scientific language and stereotypical ideas about scientists.

But she does an excellent job with the tasks of the presenter:

1) Attracts attention;

2) Serves as an introduction to the main story (in this case, about how familiar everyday things are related to what astrophysicists study).

This technique, one might say, was Sagan’s “business card”. For example, for a story that the interaction of space objects is a kind of mechanism that obeys strict laws, which are much easier to understand than the chaos of life on Earth, he used the following comic statement:

“If you want to find God, you must look beyond the stars. If you want to find the devil, you must look closer to home.”

Speaking of science, it is impossible not to mention how another brilliant scientist and lecturer, Stephen Hawking, worked with the audience. A serious illness chained him to a wheelchair and forced him to communicate through a computer speech synthesizer.

Hawking understood his non-standard appearance and voice distract the attention of the public, who sympathizes with him. Therefore, he often joked about this, making it clear that it was about his usual state of affairs and, thanks to this, switching the attention of listeners to the main topic of the lecture. Here are two examples of such jokes:

“I don’t think I can count on being listened to if I speak through a synthesized voice. No matter how hard I try, I still sound like a grumpy robot.”

“My new speech synthesizer is my best friend. It always listens to me, never complains, and I can change its voice to any I want. I think I’m going to make it sound like Mickey Mouse.”

On the example of Stephen Hawking, we saw one of the most interesting tricks. If the topic of the presentation itself is not very conducive to jokes, the presenter may well joke about himself. So, often, the founder and head of SpaceX Elon Musk does:

“I’m not trying to be Tony Stark. I’m not that rich.”

– he once said, playing on the image of a technogenic businessman imposed on him by the media.

By the way, this is another lesson from successful presenters. A touch of noble madness is very well remembered. In the end, the image of a crazy genius was firmly rooted in the mass consciousness (or rather, the subconscious). On this occasion, it is appropriate to recall the words of James Cameron, the most successful director of our time and, in combination, a fearless conqueror of the depths:

“I’ve always felt that you have to be a little bit crazy to do something that’s never been done before.”

So don’t be afraid to joke about the topic of your presentation and yourself. Even if it will bring you fame as a slightly eccentric character. For the presenter, this is much better than being considered boring.

As a bonus to the article, we have attached some witty statements that did not fall into the main text of the article. Read and get inspired.

Collection of jokes from famous speakers

Thomas Edison, engineer, inventor, one of the founders and leaders of General Electric:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer:

“If someone says you’re weird, say Thank You”

John Cage, a composer and music theorist, a pioneer in electroacoustic music:

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox:

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”

Lily Tomlin, actress, screenwriter, producer:

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”

Bob Iger, chairman of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company:

“Do you know what the CEO acronym stands for? It stands for “You’re going to work from dawn to dusk, including Sundays”

Reed Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, member of the board of directors of Microsoft:

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”


Andrey Tkachenko for ROI4Presenter


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