Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Hiring “Humor in the Workplace” Speakers

Considering bringing in someone to speak on humor in the workplace for your next conference event or meeting?  A lot of speakers, frankly,  have jumped on the “humor in the workplace” topic bandwagon because it’s perceived to be an “easy” topic with a fast-growing demand.  So do your homework before investing a lot of time and money in your next humor speaker.

Here are a few things you may want to consider/ask a potential humor in the workplace speaker:

1.  What is the balance between humor and content?   Some “humor in the workplace” speakers are former comedians who really just present a comedy act and call it “humor in the workplace.”  So try and get a sense of their background, and the ratio of content vs. humor in their presentations.  Depending on the audience, the time of day and your goal,  you may indeed be better off just hiring a comedian for the event (for example, if it’s an after dinner venue where alcohol is served!).

2.   Does the speaker practice “safe humor”?   Many of my clients have complained about former speakers (again, more of the comedic bent) whose use of humor crossed the line  – suitable for a nightclub act, but not suitable for a diversified workplace audience.

3.  Humor in the workplace is a broad, multidisciplinary topic that touches on a number of workplace issues such as managing stress, communication, creativity, employee motivation, leadership and customer service.  So again, be clear on your purpose.   Humor in the workplace presenters often have different areas of focus or expertise, so be sure to ask again what their background is,  what areas they focus in on, and what their messages are.

4.  It’s extremely easy to send the wrong message about using humor in the workplace.   The topic can come off as “light-weight,” superficial or even a little flaky.  It’s easy to use humor as window dressing or as a band-aid solution in the workplace, and even easier to do things that are frankly a little corny.

For any discussion of humor at work to be taken seriously, you need to go deeper.  You need to hire speakers who understand how workplace cultures are nurtured and who understand the complexities of managing an organization. You need to view humor as both a tool/resource AND as the end result of working in a successful, high-performing workplace culture.  It’s all about context and placing humor in the right context.

5.  Does the speaker do any interactive activities?   Again, you may WANT some audience interaction, depending on the length of the presentation and your desired goals.   But again, be very careful – ask about the activities the speaker is planning.  Do they really add anything to the event?   Are they going to be viewed as being a tad “flaky” by your audience?

So how can you make sure the humor in the workplace speaker you hire is the right match for your event?

  • Check references and testimonials from trusted sources
  • Ask to see some writing from the speaker, be it articles, blog postings or their books, so you get a sense of the depth of their background, expertise and also to see what their views are on workplace culture to make sure they fit with your culture!
  • Plan your questions thoroughly.  Ask probing questions.  Challenge their assumptions.  Are they flexible with their timing,  their messages and style?   How much can they tailor the examples they use and the content to your particular audience?

Copyright Michael Kerr, Humor at Work,  2010

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