A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Conference
Note: This piece was written by a guest blogger, Leigh Anne Jasheway, who is one of our members in the entertainment industry.
Every conference needs a humor speaker. That’s right – meetings of marketing directors, conventions of cardiologist, gaggles of game developers – every time a group of people gets together, there should be someone there to make them laugh.
I say this because for the past 21 years I have been a humorous motivational speaker and stand-up comic who has presented at 30-50 meetings a year and no matter who the group or what the topic, adding giggles and guffaws to the schedule makes everyone appreciate the event even more.
Think about it from the attendee’s perspective: you know you’re going to have to sit through 6, 8, 10 hours of “lectures” on how things in the profession are changing, what new regulations have to be understood, or how technology will leave you in the dust if you don’t start using social media to get ahead of the game. You need more than coffee and the promise of a wine tour at the end of the evening; you need to laugh.
How Laughter Strengthens Meetings Laughter is one of the most important tools we humans have to communicate our ideas, feel closer to our peers, and relieve tension and stress. All good speakers will sprinkle in a joke here and there, but having a professional humor speaker such as me on your schedule promises to get the meeting off to the perfect start or end things with a bang.
Did you know that laughing helps people learn? That we’re more creative after we’ve had a belly laugh? That conference attendees are less likely to fall asleep midday if they’ve been able to see the funny side of things? (Just think how much money you can save on coffee!)
Whether the message is managing stress, embracing change, seeing the positive side of things, building stronger teams, or any other business topic, I can and have presented on it and brought audiences to tears with laughter. Oh, and by the way, studies show that humorous messages are remembered more clearly and longer too.
It’s About Time In the U.S. we’ve been programmed to think that comedy is something saved for night and that it can often be too bawdy or political for diverse groups of people. Both of these are myths that the right speaker can easily dispel.
The best time to work a humorous speaker into your agenda is either at the beginning of the day or near the end – you know, that “dead period” between 3 p.m. and dinner when no one wants to present because conference attendees are tired or restless. An early morning rush of laughter helps motivate everyone to move into other sessions with a positive spirit and a willingness to learn what comes next. And late afternoon session reminds them that you’re thinking about their needs as well as your own; it recharges them to be ready for the next day.
And of course, having a humorous speaker to end the entire event is always a good idea: There’s a reason they say “Always leave ‘em laughing.”
Comedy doesn’t have to be risqué or alienating. Done right, it brings groups together and reminds them of their similarities, not their differences. As both a humorous speaker and a stand-up comic, I know the difference between comedy meant to inform, educate, and bring joy and that which is more appropriate in a bar. What I bring to you is clean, fun, playful comedy. My evaluations always show that people love what I’ve done and want me to return.
Let Them Get Their Hands Funny In addition to listening to a humorous speaker, one of the best ways to reinforce messages with laughter is by adding workshops or breakout session that takes on topics that are relevant to the overall conference theme, but presented as games and interactive exercises.
I do those too, bringing my background in stand-up, teaching, improv, emotional intelligence, and group facilitation to the room to get everyone involved in a fun learning experience they’ll talk about for months.
About the author: Leigh Anne Jasheway, M.P.H. (master of public health/mistress of public humor) is a stress management and humor expert who helps people manage stress, embrace change, and become healthier by learning to lighten up. She is a member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) and the author of 21 books, including How'd All These Ping Pong Balls Get In My Bag!?; Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny; 101 Comedy Games for Children and Grown-Ups; and Bedtime Stories for Dogs. She won the 2003 national Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Award for her true story on how her first mammogram caught on fire. She teaches at both the University of Oregon and Lane Community College, is a humor columnist for the Register Guard’s Weekend section, a blogger for multiple online sites, and former host of The Giggle Spot on All Comedy 1450 AM. You can find out more at accidentalcomic.com.