Public Speakers — Creating A Humorous Slide Show

Here are some tips on creating a humorous slide show or PowerPoint presentation.  You’ll often have a specific story, punchline, or song lyric to which you want to fit the right photos.  There are several types of photos which could fill your specific needs.  For me, when building a humorous A/V show, the slides usually fall into five main categories:

1.  Borrowed photographs which were not really from the life of the guest of honor but which were used embellish on his life’s story.  The honoree had been working at the same job for a long time, and while most people had been at this work location for three or four years, he had been there for ten years.  I found a photo of a wagon train.  “And here’s a photo of him arriving for his first day on the job.” Note the pacing of delivery.  When using photos and words, the key is to determine which is the punch line (gets the laugh).  Is it the spoken words or the photo? Normally you would want to save the trigger of the humor till the last moment.  So in this case it would be wrong to show the wagon train slide and then say the line.  It’s much more effective to say the line first, then show the slide.  That sequence puts the punch in the best place.

2.  Borrowed photographs which were not used “as they were” but which were doctored or pasted up to create an image to fit the program’s script.  One such photo, we pasted the honoree’s face on the body of Arnold Schwartzeneger.  With today’s computers it has become easy to manipulate photos.

3.   Old-time photos of the honoree are perfect for setting up great humor lines.  I met with his wife and she provided me with many photos from the early part of his career and childhood.  When you’re looking at the old photos, you’ll be asking yourself, “What else could this photo be or what else could it mean?”  It’s like writing cartoon captions.

4.   Actual photos shot in candid situations; specifically everyday activities caught on camera.  Also, we shot some planned photos of the honoree which we needed to fit a certain punchline.  So we looked for situations which would lend themselves to the right kind of pose or background (the honoree was unaware of specifically what we were doing and had grown accustomed to me snapping photos all the time).

5.   Staged photos with a stand-in, look-alike person.  We couldn’t find an identical-looking person, except from the back of the head, but still shot several posed photos to set up the punchlines I needed.

6.  After collecting hundreds of photos, selecting the right ones, and writing the script, it was time to pull the pieces together.  I produced the script and then marked the “slide advance” spots with a red dot, keeping in mind the precision sequence needed for maximum humor impact.  Sometimes the dot was before a specific sentence.  Sometimes at the end of a specific sentence.  Most often it was in the middle of a sentence.  You will always have to allow for some audience reaction time and will need to show a slide a half-beat before you really want it to register.  Because of the pacing of the humor, if you’re using PowerPoint, I recommend manually advancing the slides to allow proper audience reaction.  If you have a segment set to music, an automatic advance sequence works fine.  It’s an art.  Done right, it will give you one of the most magical presentations ever.

Related article:  The Magical Performance