Should You Start Your Speech with a Joke?

George TorokCommunication skills, Insights, Presentation Tips, Public Speaking, Story telling Leave a Comment


Is it okay to start a speech or presentation with a joke?

Short answer – No.



Three reasons not to start with a joke

Do not start your presentation or speech with a joke


One: Poor Delivery

The average person can’t tell a joke well in front of an audience. Consider that professional comedians rehearse and train to deliver their material and still they occasionally bomb.

Imagine if you start with a joke and the joke fails or they’ve already heard it. You’ve lost the audience before you’ve even started do deliver your key message.

Two: Not Relevant

The joke often has no connection to the topic or your key message. That leaves the audience wondering, “What does that have to do with the topic?” That means the first impression is both disappointing and confusing for the audience.

Three: Offending

Perhaps the most important reason to avoid using a joke is that most jokes make fun of somebody else.

Don’t make the mistake of telling a lawyer joke to a group of lawyers, unless you are a lawyer. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can make a joke about somebody not in the room. The danger is that that joke might offend some of the people in the room. Offending your audience or putting people down isn’t a positive way to begin your speech.


Instead of Telling a Joke…

If you want people to laugh, tell a funny story about yourself. The story doesn’t need to be hilarious. It simply needs to encourage your audience to relax and lighten up. If most smile, the story was effective.

Be sure to tell a story that relates to your message, so the speech naturally builds upon that story.

That’s a delightful and positive way to start your speech.


A better way to help people laugh

Steak tartare delimna, funny story in your presentation

When I deliver my presentation about communication skills, I often relate my experience of the first lunch with my new boss. Naturally, I wanted to make a good impression. He ordered Steak Tartare which I had never heard of. I assumed that it was steak and I like my steak medium well. Imagine my shock when the dishes arrived. I picked my way through that meal.

The story is funny and it reveals an embarrassing moment. The audience can laugh and feel that I’m being open and honest with them. The story also makes a point that fits the message of this presentation. The point is that assumption is one of the biggest causes of misunderstanding.

That story is much more effective than a joke.



When you tell a story about a flaw or embarrassing experience, the audience feels that you are being authentic. Thus they can relate to you more easily.

Should you start with a joke

Don’t start your presentation with a joke


Don’t start your presentation with a joke.




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Read more posts about how to start your presentation

Thee Tips to Begin your Presentation with More Confidence

Open Your Presentation with Pizzazz

How Not to Start your presentation: 10 Mistakes to Avoid


Do not start your presentation with a joke

Do NOT start your speech or presentation with a joke

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