The Value of Humor and the Unexpected in Presentations.
Listening is tiring. No doubt about it. People nod off at the symphony soothed by the music and the warmth in the hall. And people, by the dozens, nod off at presentations. Can you blame them? Especially if the speaker talks in a drone-like monotone (more on voice variation in upcoming blog posts) and is backed by slides filled with text.
How can you keep people interested in your topic? One good way is with humor. But not everyone is funny, and using stand up humor in your presentation is risky if you are not practiced. Most comics practice for years to find their “voice” – who they are and how they can entertain alone on a stage without a safety net. Most comics will tell you that they failed to be funny over and over again before they found the sweet spot where their material connected with their audience.
A safer way to inject humor in a presentation is with funny visuals like the one above. Using a funny visual doesn’t require a perfected stand up act. In fact, you need to say very little that is humorous with a funny photo. And to be honest, the visual alone doesn’t need to be amusing – although chickens in and of themselves are oddly wacky. What makes the visual funny is the caption that directs the viewers attention to the detour sign and, by implication, to the old chestnut of a chicken joke, “why did the chicken cross the road?” With the addition of the caption, all of a sudden, a bunch of funny stuff is happening in the photo.
But a presentation is not a slide show of funny photos. It is an argument for a point of view. How could this photo support a presentation? When the context is spot on. For example, what if this photo was used in conjunction with a discussion of the limitations of taking the usual path or of the value in taking the risk to explore uncharted territory. Then the photo and the humor in it, are amplified. This approach also asks that the viewer think, connect the dots, really look at the photo. None of this is apparent at a glance. The viewer is rewarded for being smart and quick and getting it. The first to laugh in the room is the winner.
The wonderful thing about using a photo like this is the subtlety of it. You aren’t hammering anyone over the head with your point. In fact, you are doing just the opposite. You are gently leading your viewer to see and see again and maybe even see for a third time. A photo like this one and its caption make for a busy and engaged brain.
A viewer will remember much longer the funny photo of the chickens and the clever connection you made through that photo to the topic of your presentation. Good stuff.
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