HA HA! – 3 top tips to using humour in business

Humour can help you stand out in a crowd and influence positive outcomes in business. As with any skill, humour can be taught and learned. And no – it is not joke telling! To help you on your journey here are my top 3 tips.

It all begins with you
Humour starts with you. You have to manage your state first so other people respond to it. The office grump won’t get anyone to laugh, but a positive, cheerful person will. You have to look like you are enjoying yourself – are you smiling? Are you energetic? This is what audiences will respond to. The airline safety briefings warn that you have to have your oxygen mask on first before helping others. The same rule applies to humour.

Curate don’t create
You don’t have to create humour from a scratch (unless you are a professional comedian). Instead curate humour by finding and adapting the best ideas for your own context. For example at a book launch a speaker used Groucho Marx’s quote ‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too hard to read!’  All great comedians are keen observers of life. Seinfeld’s technique was simply to milk his everyday observations and put them together. You don’t have to be original, only observant.

Channel your inner Boy Scout
Our only guarantee in life, beyond death and taxes, is that things will go wrong — it’s Murphy’s Law. It’s hard to think of a humorous quip on the spot, when things do go wrong. But just like boy scouts we can be prepared. For example technology will usually fail at some point. Can you pre prepare a funny line to use should this happen?

Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate shares this example: ‘The moment I walked on stage for a recent speech, my microphone died. I said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve been trained in mime . . . And I’ll be delivering the entire speech in interpretive dance.’ By the time the laughter died down, my new mic was ready to go, and the speech went on to a standing ovation!’

That is what mastering humour can do for you: standing ovations, happy people and your message zipping through.

Please comment – I love hearing from you.


Blog post adapted from original article published in Women’s Agenda – Top 3 tips for using humour in business

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  • Reply

    I think for most people humour equates with telling jokes – and very few can actually do this well. Badly told jokes is a painful experience for speaker and audience. But perhaps humour is more a state of mind, a friendly feeling, a smile as we speak, not taking oneself too seriously. Your thoughts?

    • Yamini

      Hi Stephen – The biggest misperception is business humour is telling jokes and this is not the case. Humour at work is all the things you have said plus a lightness of being – taking our work seriously but ourselves lightly.

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