When in doubt, leave it out. If you have to ask, you probably already know the answer.

Those are the answers.

What then, you might ask, is the question? The question, and I get this one often, is “What do you think about using humor?”

Humor is tricky, and there’s a difference between using humor and entertaining your audience. I would suggest that entertaining your audience is the preferred objective.

Usually when people ask about using humor, they’re referring to telling a joke or a funny story. What they are implying, though, is something that’s funny to them. The audience’s definition of funny is a big unknown, and that’s the problem.

Jokes and funny stories are risky, they involve people’s own personal lens’s and tastes. It’s way too easy to offend with humor. I often tell people that the only safe humor is self-deprecating; you can bust on yourself but not on others.

Entertaining your audience can be accomplished in a variety of ways – e.g. using photos or other media as visuals, digressing and telling stories, asking for volunteers and doing demonstrations. The most basic definition of the verb “to entertain” is to provide someone with amusement or enjoyment.

So, think about ways of entertaining versus using humor. Your audience doesn’t need to be rolling on the floor laughing … unless you’re a stand-up comic, and then you know the risks all too well!

Beth Levine