Talking about love in business might make us uncomfortable. Isn’t business all about head, not heart? When we talk of love at work, we don’t mean romantic love. It is love for what we do (passion), love for the people we do it with (teammates) and love for the people we do it for (customers).
I was sitting next to a wellbeing expert recently on a plane and she said there are three simple keys to happiness: laughter, music and exercise.
We hopefully do a reasonably good job at incorporating one or two of these keys into our daily lives. Sometimes exercising to old eighties aerobics videos lets me integrate all three keys. Did I just over-share there?
But our challenge as communicators and presenters is how to incorporate laughter into every presentation. Laughter is definitely one of the keys to delivering an inspiring presentation. When your audience laughs, they connect with you and your message. Motivational speakers know that humour and drama (usually in story form) will get you past your audience’s defences.
Some presenters think they’re simply not funny, or they worry about introducing humour to a serious topic. Some of us might have to work harder to engineer humour into our presentations, but generally it will be rewarded in spades by our audience’s engagement.
Our muse on how to do this well, even for serious topics, must be professional public speaker Hans Rosling, who presented a TED talk titled ‘The best stats you will ever see’. Rosling presents complex, longitudinal, global stats on child mortality, but he does it with drama, urgency and humour in the persona of a sports broadcaster. It’s magic and it works without minimising the seriousness of the issue he is dealing with.
When I mentor clients who are about to make a presentation I always challenge them with: “So, what’s your story?” And to this I now add: “What’s your funny?”
So, what’s your funny? Where have you seen humour used well in a presentation? I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment.
In the TV sitcom Modern Family, all the characters at different points speak directly to the camera. They talk to the audience in a break-the-fourth-wall style confessional.
The fourth wall is the invisible barrier between the audience and characters in a movie. You physically see the other three walls: one behind the stars, and one on each side. In movies and TV shows breaking the fourth wall sometimes works and sometimes it simply annoys the audience as they lose the illusion of being immersed in the story.
There is the same metaphoric fourth wall between you and your audience when you present. Your first goal as a presenter should be to break this wall, otherwise your audience will not connect with you and your message.
At an early-morning breakfast seminar Carolyn Creswell, the founder of Carmen’s Muesli, opened by saying: “When the alarm went off this morning, I thought, this better be good, and then I thought sh** – I better be good!” The audience laughed and immediately connected with her. She had successfully broken the fourth wall and she was one of us.
Standing behind a lectern or speaking to your slides rather than your audience strengthen the fourth wall and leave your audience feeling disconnected. Instead, share the real you perhaps through a relevant story or a humorous opening that captures people. Learning and using people’s names also work towards dissolving that fourth wall and immersing your audience in your presentation.
If you are directing a Hollywood blockbuster or a TV soap, by all means respect the fourth wall. However, if you want your next presentation to be a blockbuster, spend the first couple of minutes smashing that wall to connect with and dazzle your audience.