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The Myths of Mirth

“The shortest distance between two people is one laugh” – VICTOR BORGE

Humour and comedy are not the same thing

Jim CzeglediBy Jim Czegledi

Have you ever thought about how important humour is to running a successful event? Perhaps you’ve thought about it and wondered how you might do this in an appropriate and organic way?

Before you think you have to hire a stand-up comedian to add humour to your events, the distinction between humour and comedy needs to be made. When we think of people who have a good sense of humour, we often think of those who tell jokes and one-liners. However, a person doesn’t have to tell jokes to use humour or to have a sense of humour. The vast majority of things that make us laugh are not the punchlines of jokes, but the ordinary funny things that happen every day.

First and foremost, humour is an attitude. It is a way of looking at life, one’s self and one’s challenges with a perspective of lightness or less seriousness. It is the “seasoning salt” of people skills that adds zest, and it can be developed and honed. People skills are the skills we use both on and off the job to manage ourselves, others and situations better. If you work with or manage people, you need people skills.

Kimberley King, President of the Limelight Group says, “Humour helps open up audiences’ receptors and make them more open to receiving information.” When looking for signs that a speaker uses humour, King views web clips online and looks for audience interactions which are authentic. She also looks for the use of humour in the topic descriptions, speaker bios, introductions, and likes to see it referenced in client testimonials.

When used properly, humour bonds people together and eases tensions between them. It can allow for immediate emotional connections amongst people in meetings, one-on-one or in your audiences. Getting on the same wavelength will help them tune into what your speakers are saying and selling.

Humour is a great social lubricant. It melts the ice between people and puts them at ease. It can strengthen human bonds, increase team spirit, elevate morale, reduce inter-personal tension and stress and provide a coping mechanism for managing difficult people, situations and conflict. And, I didn’t mention that it also helps to create world peace! Does this sound like it would have been useful at the last event you organized?

Using humour will help your speakers build instant rapport with your audience. Audiences like to listen to and learn from people with whom they can relate. Speakers show their human side when they show their humourous side. It adds needed perspective to enhance any presentation by providing the pause that refreshes our minds and emotions; this can help lock in the learning.

Humour melts stress. Ask yourself if you feel stressed when you laugh. No? This is what it also does for your audiences. It relaxes them and gives them the ability to focus on what is being presented with less distraction.

The best thing about having a sense of humour is the sense of perspective it provides. It gives you the ability to focus on the funny and not always on the fatal. Seeing the lighter side opens you to new possibilities of what can be done. One way to try on this perspective is to wonder what a five year old child would think in your situation.

Think of a challenge that you had organizing your last event. Now, ask yourself, what would a small child think of this? Did you gain perspective?

Three myths you might believe about humour that are simply not true:

You have to be outrageously funny to have a good sense of humour. Being funny and having a sense of humour share similarities, but they are not the same. Your sense of humour is something that you enjoy for yourself and share with others.

You have to tell jokes to be funny. You can have a great sense of humour and not tell jokes. Jokes can be risky and offensive. They are also hard to tell; you have to remember the punch line. Telling funny stories is a better place to start.

You can’t develop or improve a sense of humour. We are all born with one, which is why we laughed as infants. The problem is that as we grew up we were taught to be serious. Humour is a skill that can be learned. You can rediscover and develop yours.

Using your own sense of humour is the best way to make you more identifiable and personable with people. Because it is yours and is unique to you, think of it as your funny fingerprint. It is about you and how you view yourself, what you do, and the world around you. Humour in its true sense is about the incongruities and absurdities of life. By sharing these observations you are sharing who you are and what you have to share of value in an interesting way.

The speaker who understands how to use humour in a healthy way has these perspectives on the subject.

  • Laughs with people, not at them;
  • Is not rude, crude or lewd;
  • Bonds people together and doesn’t put anyone down;
  • Pokes gentle fun at things you do;
  • Takes what others and you do seriously while taking himself/herself lightly;
  • Opens you to new thinking, relationships and possibilities; and
  • Sees the lighter side of life.

Mirth can be added to the makeup of your next meeting.

Humour plays a vital role in the smooth running and enjoyment of meetings, conferences and conventions. At the CAPS 2014 national convention, a cartoonist drew caricatures of attendees and presenters. The use of these caricatures to introduce the presenters was a great way to break up the seriousness of the subjects and to regain interest.

At this same event, the organizer brought in someone to demonstrate Nordic pole walking. The theme was around wellness and she wanted them to try something out of their comfort zone. The speaker brought enough poles for the group to try together and they had a lot of fun laughing and joking while trying to exercise with the poles. The result: many bought into the idea of pole walking, and collaborated on how they were going to use these at work and integrated the messages from the morning presentation into their commitment to wellness. The laughter and energy carried into the next session that they attended.

The reality is that nothing is as funny as reality itself, including what happens at meetings and conferences. Whenever 20 to 200 people get together, something humourous is bound to happen. This humour invites comedy in the commonplace. It is used when people observe the absurdity of what is around them. Seeing humour in everyday situations provides endless material and reasons to laugh.

Best of all, a sense of humour is a people skill that can be learned, practiced and developed to improve communication. It is an economical and environmentally friendly edge to better engage your clients and conference attendees.

Two simple things you can try in your personal or professional interactions to become more aware of the difference these qualities can bring to your relationships are to smile more and be the first to laugh. When you do this, it’s likely you will notice the mood change around you as people become more positive and energized. This makes them more open and agreeable to be around and to work with, which makes you easier to be around and work with…which, in the end, is a big win for everyone involved.

Jim Czegledi – Dr. Jim, The People Skills Guy, helps skilled people develop their people skills.

Appeared in Speaking of IMPACT, Summer 2015 Edition

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