Start Your Next Presentation with a Story, Not a Joke

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A recent survey says you will be more persuasive if you start your next presentation with a story and not with a joke

Research from the newly released McGraw-Hill book “Presentations That Change Minds” has documented that the most common way to begin a persuasive presentation is not with a joke, but with a story. In a recent survey, 41.8% of presenters surveyed said they begin their presentation with a humorous story and 37.8% say they begin with a serious story. Only 19.3% say they begin persuasive presentations with a joke.

According to “Presentations That Change Minds” author Josh Gordon, the old cliché that you should start a presentation with a joke ought to be retired. Stories, both funny and serious, are the preferred way to begin a persuasive presentation because they engage an audience and invite an empathetic response. Says Gordon, “When you tell a story about the most embarrassing moment in your life, audience members either start thinking about a similar event in their lives or imagine being put into your story’s situation.

Humor works differently as a persuasive tool. Humor has the power to reduce an audience’s critical thinking or resistance to change long enough to get your points in. Concludes Gordon, “Humor can help you in reducing audience resistance, but when you are just starting a presentation, audience engagement is much more important. This is where stories are more powerful.”

Only about 14 % of presenters saying they jump right into their content without an opening.

This survey was conducted for the book “Presentations that Change Minds” (December 2005) McGraw-Hill.

To ask questions about the survey call author Josh Gordon 718) 802-0488


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