How do I present a PowerPoint or a slide from any other program without laughing? This was one of the challenging questions that someone posted on Quora, and I decided to take up the challenge. Here is my answer based upon what I answered on Quora, but I have expanded this version extensively.
First of all, when you ask how to present PowerPoint without laughing, there may be only a few scenarios in which this question is applicable. I may have not even imagined some of them, and add your own scenarios in the comments: )
Here are some scenarios:
- You are presenting within your family at an event such as a wedding or a birthday party. Your slides may contain funny pictures and it may be difficult to speak with a straight face. But you cannot laugh because some content is best presented with a straight face. Also, you may have something even funnier coming up next!
- You are not in a family environment. In fact, you are now presenting at a board meeting with high stakes but there’s one slide that has a cartoon or a picture that needs to be presented. Yes, this visual is funny, but you have to ensure that you present it in a way that it does not look too funny. If you laugh, it may appear unprofessional.
- You are doing a Pecha Kucha style presentation, and even though you can laugh, laughing takes time! You have only 20 seconds to present each slide.
- Your slides are so terrible that you rather laugh than cry. Even then, laughing is not an option.
- You are presenting to a multi-lingual audience and something that is funny in your culture is sacred in another culture. Laughing may hurt the sentiments of others, and thus may not be the best option.
So how do you prevent yourself from laughing? I admit it is difficult to not laugh when you find something funny. This is the same as asking you to “not remember a mango,” and you are sure to remember a mango because you were told not to!
Having said so, here are some thoughts that can possibly prevent you from laughing:
Laugh Before You Present
Try and laugh even before you present, preferably with a friend or colleague who can provide you with some support. Then, when you present, you may be able to control your laughter. After all, how many times can you laugh at the same joke?
Think About Others
Think that if you do not laugh, you will be respecting the sentiments of others in the audience. That will help you. Helping others is an emotion that can help you too. Your most important obligation is towards your audience, and not towards yourself.
Think About Yourself
Clearly, there is a compelling need to not laugh, and laughing may prevent the success of your presentation. So you owe it to yourself to not laugh. After all, you do want your presentation to be a success.
Visualize Somber Thoughts
Think about something that’s moderately sad. And think that by not laughing, you are showing your support for a cause.
Believe in Your Message
Your message is important, and laughing may dilute it. Don’t you owe it to your audience to make sure that they don’t get distracted by laughter?
Reduce the Duration of the Funny Part
Time your presentation so that the duration of the funny part is small, and even better, squeeze it between two serious topics. Before the audience can decide whether they should laugh or not, you are already talking about something else.
Avoid Eye Contact During the Funny Part
I never thought I’ll ask anyone to avoid eye contact while presenting, but for the brief period when there’s something funny being shown, avoid eye contact. Even better, identify someone who is serious or someone who doesn’t like you at all, and look at them straight in the eye without a smile–if this person laughs with you, at least you gained something: ) But be sincere.
Postpone Your Laughter
Promise yourself a treat at a restaurant if you do not laugh. Also, you can laugh after the presentation, but you know, it may be difficult to laugh later!
Of course, there’s more to presentations than just preventing laughter. Learn more about these skills on this site!