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Directing Sarcasm

The element of caring is one of 21 skills preferred by audiences. One of the challenges to caring is a presenter’s use of sarcasm when delivering a talk.

Sarcasm can be useful in highlighting specific issues within a topic, or just placed as a generalization about life. Suppose this statement is made, “The trouble with this world is there’s too much apathy; yeah, but then again, who cares?”

That type of sarcasm is directed toward the general public (“this world”); and, the tagline (“who cares”) associates the speaker as part of the general public. The “target” is not a problem because you can always poke fun at the universe, especially if you include yourself in the group. When the brunt of the sarcasm is unlimited in scope (the world) or limited to just you, no one is offended. In fact, if the target is “bigger than life”, such as a celebrity or world leader, the sarcastic tone is met with acceptance nearly every time.

But be careful of directing sarcastic comments toward a specific person (not well-known), whether that is someone in your audience or outside of the presentation setting. As soon as an innocent bystander is injured by your seemingly harmless banter, you will reduce the sense of caring an audience perceives in you.

As a presenter, you are in a position of strength and anyone who is not on the stage with you is in a position of weakness. You have the “bully pulpit” and they don’t. If you use your strength at the expense of one who is weaker, your sarcasm will appear as a weapon and you will be perceived as “having an attitude”.

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