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85: How to Keep your Audience Awake Using Humour: with Jeremy Nicholas


Presenting with humour - Jeremy Nichols

It’s always a pleasure to speak with Jeremy Nicholas, experienced BBC broadcaster, speaker, speaking coach, MC, Compere--the list goes on! I was lucky to catch him before he heads north to debut his comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August (more details about that later) to ask him for a few tips on how to use humour in business presentations.

Incorporating wit into your business presentation will make it more engaging for your audience. With most people having an active attention span of about 20 minutes maximum (the reason Ted Talks are 18 minutes) humour is a great way to keep the audience listening and interested.

It’s not about doing stand-up and certainly not about becoming a clown. In a business context there is a balance to be struck between using humour to improve your presentation and being a total comedian where you might lose some business credibility.

It’s also not about saying anything in the interests of humour which might be interpreted negatively by the audience. You’re not entertaining your mates in the pub so think about how your audience could react to anything you plan to say. It’s about being appropriate and sensitive to the setting.

Presenting with humour - Jeremy Nichols

Some Do’s & Don’ts

  • If you know that you are not a naturally funny person, don’t force it. You’ve got to be comfortable but Jeremy is clear that anyone can learn to be funnier than they are.
  • Try to stay away from using puns—they generally don’t work. Also, don’t tell actual jokes as such. That is, don’t say, “Did you hear the one about…” Instead, tell any “jokes” you want to use as part of a story.
  • Always observe the timing rule—when you do say something funny, pause. The pause gives people the permission and the opportunity to laugh. Tip: If you find that delay difficult, take a sip of water to take the pressure off.
  • Try using the rule of 3’s, an effective technique in speaking generally. To use it humorously, the 1st thing you say sets up a pattern, the 2nd thing reinforces it and the 3rd completely subverts the pattern.
  • Breathe! Slow, deep breaths will improve your speaking voice and give you gravitas. You don’t want anyone to miss the punchline!

Jeremy’s show, After Dinner Stories from my Disastrous Broadcasting Career, will be at the Edinburgh Fringe every day at 1:30pm, 1st-27th August at The Gilded Balloon Teviot


Jeremy’s website: www.jeremynicholas.co.uk

Jeremy’s favourite humorous presentation: Sir Ken Robinson (go to ted.com)

Jeremy’s favourite book on the subject: Be a Great Stand-up: Teach Yourself by Logan Murray

For more details on how to warm up your voice and more check out Jeremy’s YouTube Channel

What do you think?

Whether this is the first episode you've come across, or if you've listened to all 84, I would love to hear your feedback. Reviews on iTunes are hugely important to the success of the show, so I would be incredibly grateful if you were able to spare a minute to leave some honest feedback there. Thanks so much if you are able to help.

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