There’s an old showbiz saying I use a lot in my workshops and seminars. In fact, I say it so much you would think I’d have some type of ownership deal on a trademark to plaster it all over coffee mugs, t-shirts – and mouth guards for compulsive talkers.
Always leave them wanting more.
This is great advice when enhancing your conversations with humor. And in case you’ve missed any of my past articles, a dose of relationship-building humor is a great way to grab your listener’s attention and help them remember you AND your message.
You never want to overstay your welcome.
Wait a minute… that sounds like another old saying. And that one is pertinent to both business communications and family reunions. But when it comes to leadership, networking and team building in the business world, business comes first. I doubt anyone would be thrilled about taking orders from the office jokester who delivers continuous one-liners in the break room all afternoon. But a good leader will focus on what needs to be accomplished and the most productive way to get it done.
A happy worker is a productive worker.
Wish I could also claim a trademark on that saying, but it’s already popular in the business world because it’s true. An article with that title by Marilyn Tam in The Huffington Post states:
When people aren’t happy with their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less and their work quality suffers.
In one of my past articles I wrote about Southwest Airlines and employee training that includes a happiness factor for both team building and customer service. In the stress-filled travel business kindness and a smile are the first line of defense when dealing with uncomfortable situations. If you’ve ever been delayed for a few hours in an airport or stuck on a runway you know what type of situations can arise when nerves and tempers are on edge. The second line of defense is to call security. I’m sure we’d all agree the happiness factor is the better option.
It’s the same with your business relationships. Humor is a better option than a temper tantrum – and can increase productivity. But what does that have to do with our opening old saying? It goes back to not following (respecting?) leadership from the never ending and non-productive office jokester.
Don’t overdo a good thing.
That’s another old saying we’d expect to hear more from a doctor than a comedy coach, but I’ll jump on the bandwagon and also tout its benefits here. Humor will always be an attention-grabber, but when used sparingly it can be more effective. Again, you don’t want to overdo the laugh factor – just like you don’t want to be the happiness factor killjoy that would inspire your co-workers to double up on sick days when you’re in charge.
Here’s a quick story…
You’ve heard that one before – correct? And then the storyteller bores you with a long-winded dissertation on… well, a boring topic. I’ll keep it quick.
I use techniques from my comedy workshops in my business communications seminars. In both cases I emphasize leaving the audience wanting more. In other words, grab your listeners’ attention by keeping them entertained just long enough to hear and remember your message. In comedian terms, it would be a punchline. In business terms it would be business.
I was coaching a young stand-up comedian to write and perform a very funny five minute routine. After three weeks he was prepared and ready for a live audience at The Cleveland Improv comedy club. He was introduced, walked on stage and very quickly had the crowd laughing.
But instead of sticking to our game plan of leaving the audience wanting more, he finished his practiced five minutes and morphed into the jokester you’d normally avoid at the office water cooler. The best description is to say he became flushed with success by the laughter and overstayed his welcome. Old jokes, tired one-liners and random thoughts silenced the audience to the point they had forgotten how funny he had been during his first five minutes. Finally he saw my frantic arm waves from the back of the room to leave the stage.
He walked up to me after and asked, “How’d I do?”
“Great,” I answered, “for the first five minutes. Too bad you did thirteen.”
For his business it was a bad move. He’s never played that club since. In the business world the same lesson applies. Humor can enhance your conversations and raise the happiness factor. But it should never distract from a leader’s message – the game plan. Don’t get carried away and become the office jokester or the audience (employees or co-workers) might stop following (respecting?) your conversation. And when that happens, the silence – in business terms, productivity and attendance – can be deafening.
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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author of six books including How To Be A Working Comic. He has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. Dave is a keynote speaker and training seminar leader (for your next event!) and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on communication skills, comedy and pop culture.
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