What did Tennessee? The same thing as Arkansas.

Did you chuckle? Maybe just a smile?

Stepping into a classroom or conference room full of apprehensive participants can be a challenge, but humor is an excellent tool to lighten the atmosphere. Incorporate comedic wit to break the ice. No one wants to sit through a dry informative presentation…or blog.

Here are four facilitator techniques to incorporate humor in the classroom.

Begin with a funny anecdote, quote, or joke. Participants are typically quiet when class begins, especially if they do not work together. A joke is an opportunity to loosen everyone up, but avoid stereotypes or anything potentially offensive! I recently started a class with a quippy sentiment, “Hopefully this class brings you more value than a longhorn presentation – a point here and a point there and a whole lot of bull in between.” I received a giggle and the room immediately lightened.

Use self-deprecating humor. Sharing personal and/or professional experiences is an easy way to incorporate humor and connect with your audience on a human level. Once while facilitating, I experienced an allergic episode, making my nose red. Using this situation to my advantage, I introduced myself saying, “No, I am not auditioning for the part of Rudolf the Red-Nosed reindeer.” – making myself relatable instantly.

Play off participants’ funny remarks. Alluding to someone’s funny comment during the presentation is another opportunity for humor. Once, a student pointed out a small typo in the presentation material, triggering another student to ask if they could leave five minutes early for every mistake found. I turned around and said “I’m glad you aren’t trying to find my mistakes; otherwise, we would be gone by now.”

Use jokes to get your point across. Jokes are a good way to gently hone in on topics and bring lightheartedness, giving participants a break from the information dump. While discussing active listening, I made the following joke, “there was a fellow talking with his buddies, telling them he and his wife have the perfect marriage and never needed counseling. His buddies asked how that could be. He answered that his wife was a communications major and that he had a theater degree, so she does all the talking and he acts as if he is listening.”

These tips are only a starting point to liven your presentations. Most importantly, have fun while facilitating! Participants pick up on your tone, body language, and sense of humor right away. Set yourself up for success by creating a relaxed environment and don’t take yourself too seriously, even if your joke falls flat! You can always use the situation as a chance to incorporate humor later.


Walter is a PMP and CSM certified consultant with 15 years of project management experience, and 40 years of overall training and public speaking experience. He also possesses a MCTS certification and is a Microsoft Project scheduling subject matter expert. He leverages his background as a Program and Project Manager; which when combined with his technical and curriculum development expertise, he consistently delivers excellent training solutions for Federal and Commercial customers.