Five reasons why you shouldn’t say
“I’d like to start off by telling a little joke”
1) Part of what makes a joke funny is that surprise we call a punchline. When you warn us it’s coming, it’s not a surprise anymore.
2) If the joke doesn’t pertain, you’re not breaking the ice; you’re delaying. (If it does pertain, skip the intro and make sure the first line of the joke is a grabber.)
3) You’ll tell it badly. (I know this because the only people who open with “I’d like to start off by telling a little joke” are people who can’t tell jokes.)
4) 47.3% of your audience have heard that one before.
5) If you don’t know how to engage your audience, no joke will save you. Step slowly away from the podium with your hands up.