I often get asked, “What happens if my attempt at humor backfires?”
To which I reply, “Have you been to one of my talks?”
As a Hall of Fame international business speaker and occasional humorist, I’d be the first one to admit that sometimes my humor doesn’t work. Maybe it’s a joke, an anecdote, or a turn of a phrase that in my mind was hysterical, but from the audiences’ perspective…not so much. Maybe it was an attempt to ad-lib and riff off something an audience member says to me that, again, falls flatter than a Saskatchewan pancake. It happens. And it happens to the best of us.
Legendary talk show host Johnny Carson was masterful at recovering from jokes that fell painfully flat. Professional comedians keep an arsenal of recovery lines close at hand in the event that a joke fails to properly deploy and the oxygen gets sucked out of the room. So if professional comedians who have studied their craft for years sometimes fall short of generating guffaws, what’s the hope for the rest of us mere mortals?
Of course every attempt at humor you make in a business presentation or during a business meeting isn’t going to work. But given all the benefits of demonstrating a sense of humor at work, that shouldn’t prevent you from bringing your sense of humor along for the ride. Humor helps build relationships, it builds trust, lowers stress, sparks creativity, and creates an atmosphere that’s more conducive to open and honest communication. Don’t let a false fear of your humor bombing prevent you from sharing it! The benefits far outweigh any negatives. Remember, it’s not always about trying to be funny. In fact – DON’T try to be funny – instead, strive only to be yourself and do things in a spirit of fun.
And if you want to tilt the odds of your humor working in your favor, here are a few thoughts about humor that works, and humor that doesn’t work, in a business setting.
Humor That Works…
And finally, humor that works is humor that yes, sometimes really will fall flat. Because falling flat helps us stay humble and human. It helps remind us of our imperfections and reveals our true authentic selves. And that, above all else, is humor that works!
Michael Kerr is a recovering government manager, a Hall of Fame international business, and very funny (sometimes) motivational speaker. To leverage your humor advantage, check out his raved about latest book, “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank!”
“Just wanted to say “WOW!” Our group has had many speakers over the years, but none the likes of Mike Kerr.”
Richard Dansereau, President, NAPA Autopro BDG
“Michael Kerr is one of the best speakers I have seen. I highly recommend him!”
Veronica D. Bouvier, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Aspen Properties Ltd.
“Mike held the full attention of our senior management team for a full FOUR hour
presentation – no small accomplishment!”
Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics