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It’s no joke

Photo by Michelle Phillips on Unsplash

I read this Harvard Business Review piece and brought back some memories. In the years of lecturing at University on Communications, the topic of jokes and humour always came up! It always came up because I brought it up!

First, in presentations and speaking in public ‘Never tell jokes.” Full stop. It is a hard and fast rule. Professional comedians fall flat on their faces more often than not and we, as mere mortals, neither have the talent, the skill, the creative writing ability nor the hundreds of hours of testing jokes to make sure they fly. And telling a hackneyed old joke does more to get groans than laughs.

So what do you do?

You can relay anecdotes or if a funny instance happens in a speech roll with it. But joke telling is the kiss of death. You have no idea if someone will be offended, you will lose your audience if it flops and your brand will take a hit.

Secondly, about your personal brand?

I was giving a course for a large Telco and one of the sessions was for folks to prepare a 5-minute presentation I would film and go over the video and everyone could contribute – those sessions were my favorite! And a great many folks have told me they loved them. Well, one fellow did a presentation. It was brilliant! The best I had ever seen. He was funny. He was SNL-level funny. Great writing and as a person he was charming and engaging and the life of the party … I mean class.

After the session, I asked him to stay. First I told him how much I loved his skit (It really wasn’t a presentation!) and as someone who was in the entertainment biz for years I thought it ranked up there with the pros.

But …

I asked him to consider something? Let’s say you are well-admired and loved by your peers and managers as I can tell you are. You are maybe known as the “funny” guy. or the “hilarious” guy! What do senior managers look for in promotable folks? Does “the funny” guy brand rank up there with; Strong work ethic: Setting and achieving goals. … Dependable: Consistently following through. … Positive attitude: Creating a good environment. …Self-motivated: Working effectively with little direction … a team player?

Now I did not ask him for that answer right then, but I did tell him to think of this. This is a music truism.

One of the keys to great music is dynamics. For something to sound loud you have to have something quiet (soft) in front of it. It is about relationships.

There’s no punch line in team!

So if you are the hilarious guy … make sure there are way-more serious and work-related business/serious moments. Not only does this make the funny bits stand out – you also leave room for other folks to shine. There’s no punch line in team! And you can be noticed for all the other wonderful talents you have … plus your humour.

You also will more than likely get the attention of senior management for your good spirits occasionally rather than being a one-trick pony.

Yep laugh at the office, but don’t become the class clown!

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