Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

high school studentI did a seminar recently for a group of high school seniors. I was told they were not necessarily underachievers, but had no firm plans after graduation. Some had thought about college, a job or the military, but most seemed only interested in hanging around waiting for something to happen. The common thread was a strong case of “Senioritis” and a short attention span for remaining school requirements.

The teacher that sponsored the seminar told me previous speakers had used the standard follow your dreams advice and ended up with a group of bored and distracted students. They had heard the same message since preschool days watching Barney and Friends, and he was concerned it didn’t say enough about what they would encounter in the real world.

Even though I don’t wear a purple dinosaur outfit, I’m the last person to discourage anyone from following their dreams. But the reality of the real world is not everyone will win The Voice or have their idea bankrolled on Shark Tank. My assignment that day was to keep the students interested and involved in my seminar on communication skills and share practical real world advice.

But as usual, I also had my own agenda…

Everyone has a talent and a desire for something. It may not even involve becoming The Voice or the next Bill Gates. But whatever it might be, it doesn’t have much of a chance becoming a reality by “hanging around waiting for something to happen.”

Groucho 2

The Wacky Professor

Lucky for me, the seminar was in the school’s library. So I opened with a very effective follow your dreams message by pulling two of my books from the shelf. It got their attention. Then to hold their attention (staring at book covers for more than ten seconds is not as interesting as checking text messages for most high school students), I turned the attention to them.

I asked about their personal interests.

With this particular group of students, no one said a word about math, science or history. They talked about music, poetry, fashion and art. And when they expressed their ideas, the enthusiasm was obvious. They wanted to talk about it and involve the others. I imagined it was quite different than their normal participation in math, science or history classes.

So I took it a step further and asked for two volunteers. Most of them raised their hands (probably unlike during the classes mentioned above), but since we had a limited amount of time until the class bell, we could only go with two.

One was a girl into fashion and the other a boy who played guitar.

I told the girl she was going to tell us about her favorite sweater. With the boy, we wanted to know about his dream guitar. Then I gave them a quick assignment. I asked each to write down twothoughts about their item. I wanted to know:

  1. How owning the item it made them feel and…
  2. How owning the same item could make someone else feel.

Then they would each talk about their item in a way that would convince the other students they HAD to have either the sweater or the guitar.

Sounds like a sales pitch – doesn’t it?

Then I borrowed an exercise from my stand-up comedy workshops. I told them to imagine we were at a party. All their friends had told interesting and funny stories – and now it was their chance to talk. How would they tell us about their item in a creative way that would express their feelings AND make us laugh?

This is similar to an audience participation game I use at conferences with business people and educators looking to improve their communication skills. In a nutshell, the idea is to make your message more effective while using creative and humorous enhancements to keep it interesting.

Guitar PlayerIf I could, for my next business conference seminar I’d bring these students with me, take a seat in the audience and let them talk. She basically told the other girls how great they would look in her sweater and how, of course, they would attract more boys. He told the guys how they could look like rock stars with his dream guitar and of course, attract more girls.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Yes, they were a lot goofier (for lack of a better term) than you’d expect during a real business world sales pitch or networking opportunity. But the end result was the same.

* They held our attention by delivering their message in a way we found very entertaining and memorable.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

In this case it was using creativity and humor to express and share their interests. In the case of high school students, their interests are what could determine future careers. For others in the real business world already pursuing careers, looking to expand or even make a change, better communication leads to better opportunities. The real world is competitive and to stand out from the competition you must know how to express yourself in a productive and interesting way.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Better communication leads to better opportunities. And along with that purple dinosaur, I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t try to make their dreams come true. Sometimes it all depends on how you communicate them.

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Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, and nationally recognized humor and comedy coach. For information about training seminars and keynotes for your next event or conference visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Leave them wanting more

girl finger over mouthThere’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.

Guy mouth covering

Leave’em wanting more!

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.

hand-over-mouth

Never overstay your welcome!

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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Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s training seminar or interactive keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

Corporate comedy open mics

Hey Dave – Last time you talked about ‘what is corporate comedy material.’ I would also like to learn about getting into doing comedy and humorous keynotes at corporate events. – E.M.

Hey E.M. – Okay, let’s pick up where we left off. I talked about the type of material comedians need to develop to get hired as entertainers at corporate events. But how and where do you develop an act for this market? Using material rated G and PG (max!) and jokes relating to the business world don’t always go over with the usual crowd at late night, beer-soaked open mics.

Not your audience!

Not your audience!

But that doesn’t matter because they’re not your audience anyway.

The business owners and event planners that would hire you to speak at a corporate function or conference are the networkers you’ll find at morning, afternoon and evening business or association meetings. Instead of late night bars, put your efforts into finding stage time at morning Rotary breakfasts, Knights of Columbus luncheons, and College Club dinners (to mention just three of many possibilities). Almost every city and town has business and social organizations and need speakers or entertainers.

The usual length of your program would be anywhere from five to twenty minutes between the entrée and desert.

The idea is to grab these opportunities and use them like open-mics. And like open-mics, don’t expect any pay. The key word to obtaining these spots is “FREE.” Offer to do a FREE five minutes of CLEAN comedy before the meeting’s featured speaker and it’s very unlikely you’ll hear the other key word that is so frequent in the comedy biz: “NO.”

Can't have the same program every week!

Can’t have the same program every week!

In my personal experiences using this method in putting together a corporate program, my FREE offer was only turned down once. And it happened with a Rotary guy in the Midwest who was about 90 years old and didn’t think his membership would want to hear from anyone unless they were selling insurance, fertilizer or both. When I explained my talk was about humor and creativity, he sounded like he wanted to have me arrested for being anti-American. I simply thanked him for his time, called a different Rotary Club, mentioned FREE and was invited to speak at their next meeting.

As you continue to write and test – successfully – corporate material, move into doing longer sets at these types of meetings. As mentioned above, featured programs usually last about 20 minutes. And again from experience, I’ve found the people who volunteer and are involved in planning can be open to offering a variety of programs. After all, you can’t have insurance, fertilizer or a combo of both every week.

After doing this a number of times and eating a number of FREE breakfasts, lunches and dinners (they always feed you) I had put together a corporate program. The next step was to network and do some promoting – and then I started getting paid bookings. There’s no way this would’ve happened if I had tried to develop the material doing late night open-mic bars.

So if you’re interested in the corporate market, I just gave you a great way to get the ball rolling. And it was FREE advice. When you can make an audience laugh and keep them interested during an early morning breakfast meeting, you’ve got a good chance to break into the corporate market.

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, nationally-recognized comedy coach, and 2015-2016 CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences. For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive training programs and breakout sessions for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

Have a comment or need more information? Please use the contact form below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing