Warning comedians can die on stage!
Unless you are by nature very good at telling jokes my advice is don’t. There is nothing worse than telling a joke which does not work. Especially, at the start of a presentation. Even if Billy Connolly had the audience in stitches with exactly the same joke, it doesn’t mean you will get the same reception. This is because most business audiences have not been given permission to laugh. They believe they are there to carry out the serious task of doing business, not to enjoy themselves. So when they hear the joke they are uncertain as to how to react. When they go out to see Billy Connelly perform they are expecting to laugh and will do so at the slightest thing.
Of course, I might be biased as the only joke I can ever remember is “What’s brown and sticky?” ……. “A stick”.
Introducing some humour into the presentation can however be very worthwhile. People will remember your presentation far better if they enjoyed it and adding a slice of humour is a good way to help people enjoy themselves. It can also be a good way to recover if you have made a mistake. For instance if you have left your mobile phone on and it rings during your presentation, turning it off and saying “Sorry, I must tell my mum to stop ringing me at work” usually goes down well. Of course making sure it is turned off beforehand would be even better! Self-depreciating humour is the safest form to use but don’t over do it as you will undermine your position of authority as a speaker.
It goes without saying that racist, sexist, religious, or any other non-politically correct jokes must be avoided at all costs.