Public Speaking – 3 Reasons Why Telling Jokes Could Be a Fatal Mistake When Marketing a Business

Public speaking presents many opportunities for solo professionals and small business owners to market your business. You’ve probably heard the following:

“Always start off with a joke.”

“Make ’em laugh and you’ll have your audience eating out of your hand.”

So goes the conventional public speaking wisdom. One of my favorite professional public speakers, Tom Antion, has recently been blogging about ways to successfully use humor in your speeches. But what if you’re not a professional speaker and don’t want to be? What if you’re just a regular small business owner or solo professional who wants to market your business using the most powerful and effective method for getting new prospects and clients in a hurry? Do you have to market your business and be funny, too?

Using humor in your speeches inappropriately can backfire so fast you’ll not only lose your audience, you’ll lose your credibility, and along with it all chances at enjoying the many positive benefits that go along with using public speaking to market you business. Here are three reasons why you would not want to use humor in your speeches to market your business:

1. You’re Just Not Funny

Ouch, sorry. But this one is obvious. If you’ve never been accused of being funny in your life, you only remember the punch line to one joke (and it’s the knock-knock banana / banana / orange joke that kids learn in Kindergarten), and you don’t “get” most of the email jokes that your friends send you… well, I hate to break it to you, but you may have been born without a funny bone. While you may appreciate good humor and enjoy a chuckle with the rest of the world, you may not be able to come up with your own humorous material or deliver jokes others have written. And that’s ok. Not everyone was born with Letterman’s wit or Ellen’s timing. I’ve seen many wonderful speakers marketing their businesses and getting the results they wanted without a joke in sight.

2. You’re New to Public Speaking

If you never before delivered a speech to a live audience except maybe that Shel Silverstein poem you had to memorize back in the sixth grade, you might want to avoid telling jokes in your first few speeches to market your business. Trying to remember all the points of your speech, the organization you planned, your special offer, getting your visual aids to work right, and connecting with the audience in a meaningful way is plenty to focus on without trying to remember to be funny, too. Give yourself a break. Unless you regularly use humor as a way to relieve tension and make others feel comfortable in your everyday life, don’t try to insert comedy as part of your speech just because you heard it was a good idea. Get the details down first and after you have a few presentations under your belt, if you feel comfortable, try adding humor where it fits.

3. You Haven’t Practiced Your Speech with a Live Audience

You risk a couple of unsightly outcomes in this case. First, what’s hilarious to you may not be one bit funny to someone else, especially if you’re not familiar with your audience. If you haven’t practiced in front of a kind, but constructively critical audience, you could be missing the humor mark. The second possible problem could be if the audience does laugh. How is that a problem? If you don’t have experience with a live audience laughing at your jokes while you are presenting, you could have some trouble. What if they laugh at something you didn’t intend to be funny? That could throw you off. You might be surprised that people are laughing and your nonverbal reactions could be telling. Then how do you know how long to stop for the laughter? Or when to keep going? Or if you should get carried away telling more jokes because you’re really doing great? Yikes. Where does that leave your marketing?

Don’t lose sight of the reason you are presenting in the first place: you want to market your business to get more prospects, more clients, and more cash flow. Being entertaining does have it’s place, but you can still deliver a powerful and successful presentation and get the results you want without having to feel like you’re a stand-up comic. Pay attention to the big details of your speech, provide the audience with valuable and useful information, and you’ll be well on your way to effectively marketing your business with public speaking.