Jokes In Science Presentations #3: Thinking Just In Time

We’ve all been there. The early afternoon 1 hour seminar. For the last 45 minutes you have been sitting through a mildly interesting talk. The speaker has presented lots of data and they even got a chuckle out of you when they made a clever pun. The speaker starts to transition to their conclusion slide when you realize that they are not transitioning to their conclusion slide. Instead they utter the infamous words “And now I will switch gears and begin the second part of my talk.” The second part of your talk?! Your brain explodes.

You have experiments to do and data to analyze. Any good will they had earned from their audience from an earlier joke is gone and they will be hard pressed to win them back. Of the many constraints that you should base your talk around, your expected time limit is one of the most important. That does not mean it is an easy constraint to navigate, but putting in the extra effort to time your presentation, can pay huge dividends for your talk and thus, your jokes.

First, make sure your presentation is on time or has a little room to spare. Then see where you can fit in jokes. I recently had to give a 10 minute talk at a conference. I only had two set jokes in my presentation. As someone who loves humor, this was painful for me. But it would have been more painful if I went significantly over time, annoyed the audience, and shot myself in the foot by cutting into my own Q&A session or being disrespectful to the following speaker. Alternatively, when I gave an hour long department seminar, I had approximately 10 set jokes, and I also managed to be one time. However the strategy remains the same. Build your presentation and room for jokes should appear. If room does not appear, don’t panic. There are several strategies that we can use for joke integration and I will be discussing one of them in my next post.

The JISP of it: Time your talk, then jokes will flock