Should you use memes in presentations? Take the test. - The Pickering Group
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Should you use memes in presentations? Take the test.

Meme and you


What is a meme? We’re glad you asked. It’s a unit of social currency, a piece of concentrated information that spreads around a group. It’s an in-joke, like what we all know about Ian since the conference last year.  Although we associate memes with captioned images, they’re not just visual – calling someone a ‘Karen’ is a meme, as is the phrase ‘OK, Boomer’, or saying LOL out loud. A meme gets its life by being shareable: it’s passed around because it contains something impactful or valuable. Funny, shocking, provocative, inspiring or moving, it sparks a desire to share it with others.  Because of this, memes are a fast and efficient way of spreading ideas.



Meme Team
 
What memes create is group of people who are ‘in on it’. People who share experiences and references become more tightly bonded.  We’re seeing an increase in the use of political movements to use memes to reinforce solidarity in their followers and mock their opponents, exploiting the us-vs-them mentality.  Does it follow that we can use them in our organisations? Can we use memes and in-joke humour to bond teams and solidify a company culture?  Yes, we can, if we’re mindful about the content.




Show Me The Meme
 
We’ve seen an uptick in the use of memes in presentations. They’re a great way of keeping a talk fun for the audience, as well as reinforcing the sense of group. We saw a recent presentation on new reporting software that used geeky memes throughout – lego men, cats in lab coats, Star Trek – as self-deprecating, relevant humour to avoid the topic becoming too dry. A tongue-in-cheek apology for being overtly technical, it made the speaker more likeable and the topic more memorable. However, be sure you know your audience well so not to dent your credibility.
 
Advisory: Explicit Content
 
We always advise you to use humour carefully in your public speaking and communications.  This can sound like a list of ‘Don’ts’, because partly it is.  Organisations are no place to attempt edgy or provocative comedy, so leave the mic and fedora at home.  It’s best to avoid any digs at race, religion or politics, as your team may have a different perspective to you.  Jokes that reference gender, sex or sexual identity are not appropriate, nor is ableist humour or mental health. Even if you mean well, what you consider light-hearted may hit hard for someone else.  Here’s a quick test - if your joke can answer NO to the following questions, it’s probably okay.
 
JOKE TEST
 
1:  Would I need to believe in anyone else’s inferiority to find this funny?
 
2:  Would this joke make my listeners picture something that couldn’t be shown on kid’s TV?
 
3. Am I really, really, REALLY sure that everyone in this room votes the same as me? NB: this is not the same question as ‘Am I sure they should.’
 
4.  Is it that one about Ian?  Because we’ve all heard it.  We were there. We’re still scarred.



Just Have Fun
  
As a leader, warm humour that implies you’re all facing the same challenges together works well. A gentle mockery of endless meetings can soften yet another meeting appointment.  A wry dig at difficult customers can help the sales team feel seen and supported.  There’s a wealth of jokes around remote working – don’t pick one that shows working from home as a pyjama holiday but rather one that shows you appreciate the difficulties. With a single meme, you can send a message that you’re aware of your team’s challenges and you’re grateful for their efforts.



Here’s a meme generator you can use to change the currently popular image formats into jokes relevant to you.

You can follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook for memes and thought-provoking content, or talk to us about how to incorporate humour appropriately into your communications.  We’re always on deck for public speaking and presentation training, whether in-person or virtual.  We got you, fam. 

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