By Bob Geline
May, 2017 – When is the right time to use humor in a presentation?
How much funny stuff is too much? What kind of stories are o.k.?
Questions like these come up frequently in workshops, and I have heard a variety of opinions on the answer. My view is that humor is a powerful tool that can have benefits for the presenter and the audience. When used properly, it can be a great way to establish rapport and set comfortable tone that helps maintain audience attention.
At the same time, humor does have risks. Don’t forget what Winston Churchill said: “A joke is a serious thing,” First and foremost, humor you decide to include in your talk must be relevant to your topic. Unless your assignment is to do a stand up comedy routine, telling jokes for the sake of telling jokes is a no no.
You must also pay attention to the kind of humor you are using. Self-deprecating remarks usually work well, especially if they highlight a quirk or shortcoming that’s common to everyone. Making jokes at someone else’s expense is almost always a bad idea.
One final thought. Sad but true, when it comes to telling jokes and being funny, most of us aren’t terribly good at it. As the old show business saying goes: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Think about your own abilities in this area, and your limitations. Do the calculus in deciding whether the benefits of humor in your presentation are worth the risks.
by Robert J. Geline
President, 144 Media LLC
March 2017 — March Madness, the college basketball chase for a National Championship, is an American Rite of Spring. In the annals of this annual attraction, there is no basketball coach whose record of success begins to match that of the legendary “Wizard of Westwood,” the late John Wooden.
Between 1964 and 1975, Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 of 12 NCAA championships, including seven in a row. No team or coach has since come close to this extraordinary record. Wooden’s success was built on his ability as a teacher, but his teachings were not basketball-specific. For example, here are three eminently adaptable sayings of the “Wizard” to help you succeed when you give a presentation, meet with the media or speak to any audience.
by Robert J. Geline
President, 144 Media LLC
January 2017 – In the first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 jumped to the top of the best-seller list on Amazon.com. Why the sudden attraction to an almost 70-year-old warning about the dangers of totalitarianism that introduced the idea of “Doublethink” and the language of “Newspeak”?
With the understanding that correlation does not mean causation, it is difficult not to conclude that President Trump’s performance during his first days in the White House – a tone-setter during which, among other things, he presented us with the patently false notion that the crowds who attended his inauguration were the largest ever, and declared war on what he terms the “dishonest media” over its debunking of that claim amid other perceived sins – was behind the new interest in the old classic.
For the record: I am not a Donald Trump supporter, and did not vote for him.
The conventional wisdom holds that Donald Trump “broke all the rules” in his successful campaign for the Presidency, and that he has possibly rewritten the politician’s playbook for success.
But I suggest that in order to best understand how Trump managed his victory, it is just as important to take note of the rules Trump did not break on his way to the White House.
The CEO was surprised. “I need to look away in order to think,” he noticed during a recent coaching session to prepare for a panel discussion to be video webcast to a global audience.
The executive was referring to his habit of regularly breaking eye contact in order to organize his thoughts while responding to questions during videotaped role-play interviews. The habit made him appear detached and ill at ease, detracting from his credibility and positive perception of his message.
There is an epidemic afoot in the land that you won’t find in a list of infectious diseases. I call it the “content-free speech” virus, and it is seriously degrading the quality of discourse at every level of society.
Be warned: Failure to treat this insidious malady can destroy careers, reputations, deals and entire organizations. The afflicted are unable to avoid interspersing their speech with entirely content-free words or phrases.
They often sound like this:
( Read aloud for maximum effect)
“So . . . I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to . . . y’know, like, um . . . talk a little bit about people who . . .um, y’know . . . say they are interested in being better communicators, all right?
Thanks largely to Hollywood and cheap jet travel, the British traveler often knows that to satisfy the cravings of a sweet tooth, you need to ask for a cookie in an America bakery, and not a biscuit, which will get you some kind of breakfast or dinner roll. And to answer nature’s call, Brits often understand that you’ll get there faster in the US by asking for the bathroom or the restroom, and not the loo.
Conversely, many Americans know that in Britain, French fries are called chips, and that if they want potato chips in the UK, they need to ask for crisps. The fact that in London the tube is something that you ride, not something that you watch, is also a usage many Americans are clear about.