If science events are to compete with other events available to the public as a night out, they need to be entertaining as well as informative.

Scientists may not be willing or confident enough to share their often-keen sense of humour with a public audience.

But injecting a little humour is worth experimenting with for a few reasons:

  • Humour is a powerful social lubricant (and cheaper than beer).
  • It helps cultivate our ability to think laterally, which is useful in science.
  • It makes the evening more memorable for your audience.

A speaker who uses humour appropriately will engage the audience. This is as true for a scientific audience as it is for an audience of school kids.

Presenting to an engaged audience that is being entertained will also help calm your nerves.

4 top tips

  1. Tell an anecdote about yourself. For example: ‘I spend my time milking poisonous snakes for their venom. It’s a lot easier than milking cows.’
  2. Make a statement that has a double meaning. For example: ‘I belong to the world’s oldest profession’ (a line Jenni has used to start a talk about communicating science).
  3. Show a funny cartoon or image that links to the theme of your talk.
  4. Avoid telling jokes. They are difficult to tell well to an audience, are usually not relevant to the topic and are often discriminatory.