Laugh Lines: Generating Fun for PowerPoint
Don’t worry, be funny!
By Malcolm Kushner
Photo Credit: Image from www.hetemeel.com
You’re sitting in the audience at a meeting. The speaker gets up, turns on the LCD projector and fires up the PowerPoint. About 200 slides later, you wonder if you’ve died but didn’t go to heaven. This is commonly known as “death by PowerPoint.” The speaker drones on and you’re almost literally bored to death by an endless display of slides.
But what if the slides were funny? What if “death by PowerPoint” meant killing an audience with laughter? That’s the goal I set when writing Don’t Worry, Be Funny: Web Sites That Can Automatically Generate Humorous Material For Your Next Presentation And How To Use Them – Even If You Can’t Tell A Joke. Well, maybe the goal isn’t really killing the audience, but making them chuckle a bit.
As a humor consultant, the two questions I’m asked most often are: (1) How can I use humor in a presentation if I can’t tell a joke? and (2) How can I find material? The answer to both of these questions can be found on the Web; specifically with an online tool called a generator.
Web generators let you create, produce or generate something – hence the name. For example, you can visit a Web site that lets you upload a photograph and then change it into a pencil sketch. Another Web site lets you key in your initials and then generates an image of how it would look carved in cuneiform – the writing of ancient Babylonians. Another lets you key in your name and puts it on the image of a chocolate bar. There are hundreds of these types of sites on the Web.
Unfortunately, most of them don’t generate humorous material of use to presenters. But some of them do. Those are the ones that I’ve gathered in Don’t Worry, Be Funny.
One of my favorites is the Einstein Dynamic Photo Generator. Here’s how it works. Go to http://www.hetemeel.com/ einsteinform.php and you’ll see a photo of Albert Einstein writing on a chalk board. The site lets you key in whatever words you choose so it looks like Albert Einstein wrote them on the board. Then you can download the image and use it in a PowerPoint presentation.
This is a great tool for anyone who has to present a formula; use it for budgets, projects, training programs, anything! Just make an equation using the first letters of the words you want to emphasize. Then say that it’s Einstein’s other formula.
For example, say you’re presenting a budget to an audience who will inevitably increase the amount of their demands. Start out with a PowerPoint of Einstein at the chalk board writing the formula B=TSFYP. Then tell them, “Everyone knows E=MC2. Most people don’t know Einstein’s second most famous formula B=TSFYP. Budget = Too Small For Your Project.” That will defuse them in advance and pave the way for a much smoother discussion of your budget numbers.
But here’s the main benefit: Anyone can use this type of humor successfully. You don’t have to be able to tell a joke. And your audience will appreciate the “humor break” in your set of PowerPoint slides. By the way, there are a lot of other ways to use the image of Einstein at the chalkboard. It’s only limited by your imagination.
More Humor Generators
Another clever generator is the Bumper Sticker Maker. This one has a picture of a bumper sticker on the rear of an automobile, and you can write the sticker’s message. In fact, you get four choices. The quick choices allow you to complete a bumper sticker message of “Honk If You Love…” or “I Brake For…” or “Happiness is…” The final sticker is blank and you can make it say whatever you desire. Once you complete one, you can then download the image and use it in PowerPoint.
This is a great tool for poking fun at colleagues or competitors or even yourself.
For example, you can show a slide of a bumper sticker saying “I Brake For Children and Engineers” and claim that it’s on the back of a marketing manager’s car. Or if you’re in accounting and viewed as stodgy, you might put up a slide that’s supposedly from your own car: “Honk If You Love Optimizing ROI.” Whether it’s political, poetic or pathetic, a funny bumper sticker provides a simple way to attribute a funny message to someone else or yourself. You can find the Bumper Sticker Maker at http://www. redkid.net/generator/bumper/.
How about one more? The Wanted Poster Generator does just what its name suggests – it lets you upload a photo of a person and turn it into a wanted poster.
You can customize the person’s “crime,” an alias and a reward amount. This is great for meetings where everyone knows each other, such as clubs, associations and work groups. Just make a wanted poster for someone with a strong trait that’s familiar to everyone. For example, someone could be wanted for leaving big tips, adopting too many pets or talking too long. This type of (inside) humor is always effective. You don’t even have to say anything. If you choose the right person and the right trait, your audience will start laughing as soon as they see the slide.
Again, use your imagination. A wanted poster isn’t limited to people. You can make a wanted poster for pets, products, ideas – anything! In a technology company, an engineer might show a wanted poster that offers a reward for a coherent marketing plan. You can also get laughs by playing around with the reward amount and “crime” for which a person or object is wanted. You can find the Wanted Poster Generator at http://www. glassgiant.com/wanted.
So What Are You Waiting For?
An ancient Chinese philosopher once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Let’s change that slightly. My version is, “A journey of a thousand smiles begins with the first funny slide.” This is especially true if you view a presentation as a journey. And you should. It has a beginning. It has an ending. And when you’re presenting, you’re the guide that takes the audience between these two points.
The journey will be more fun for everyone if you include a few stops for humor along the way. Just use a few humor generators. They can provide an endless amount of material that’s easy to use and easy to customize. And that’s no joke.
Malcolm Kushner, is the author of Public Speaking For Dummies and Presentations For Dummies. His latest book, Don’t Worry, Be Funny, is available at www.museumofhumor.com.