Humour is a funny thing (no kidding) when used in a corporate arena. On one hand it can be wielded to increase your influence when speaking, but on the other its use can diminish your authority and how ‘professional’ you are perceived. Though in a different blog I’ve discussed how humour can affect the perceptions of corporate men and women to differing degrees, in this one I’d like to share how, regardless, humour is a necessary technique you should master on your way to leadership!
It all starts with why. When speaking to an audience, the greatest outcome you can ever really hope for is a true, authentic connection. A connection between you and each individual listening that will open them up and persuade them to feel the impact of your message as strongly (or more so) than you do. Perhaps the most effective, reliable and time-tested way to connect with your audience is to build moments of empathy into your presentation. Humour is a perfect means to do just that!
There is a strong emotional reason for being funny. When you create a hilarious moment, you and everyone else who stifles a laugh enjoy the same emotion at the same time, which is really powerful! It creates a unity, togetherness and even a therapeutic feeling of being put at ease. From this point on, they’re with you in a relaxed state. Perfect! All in all, it’s why opening the floor with a bit of humour is such a brilliant idea! In one fell swoop you can break the ice and set a collaborative tone right from the get-go!
But there is also a strong physiological reason, and it all goes back to the actual definition of a laugh. Like aerobic exercise, a hearty laugh involves contraction and relaxation of facial, chest, abdominal and skeletal muscles, easing muscle tension and spasms that create chronic pain. This also means you start breathing deeply again as that part of your body most of us rarely think of – your diaphragm – is released from its held state. Once you get a laugh from an audience, it is like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Everyone comes to life.
Dealing harsh truths and touching, well… touchy subjects is all par the course as a professional speaker and a leader in any setting. So, you no doubt can see the value in being able to defuse any tense emotions you and your audience feel with humour. With it you can essentially control the ebb and flow of tension within your speech. Just like in the movies (and other forms of art) that we love, and which resonate with us the deepest, it’s the carefully constructed relationship between dissonance (tension) and consonance (peace and resolve) that makes us feel so strongly and so engaged. A purely safe and pleasant presentation can be boring, where an ultra-tense one can be all too frustrating or negatively charged. Find the balance and use humour to bring the tone back into the light when you need to!
Beating the bore of corporate speeches is a sure-fire way to standout. If you create moments poignant fun and hilarity throughout your presentation, then these highlights are what will be remembered when it’s all said and done. So, for example after a string of speeches, yours will stand tall as the most memorable, and thus – recommendable! The hard truth is that it won’t matter how important your message is or how well you executed your speech, if you don’t create emotional moments worth remembering.
Here are some ideas to create humour
- Funny quotes
- Funny voices
- Self-deprecating humour
Hopefully I’ve helped you realise the true benefit of injecting into your presentations a bit of light-hearted humour, and if you’d like to consider one of the courses that I offer help you improve your presence and influence, then follow the link!