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Safety training required

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: in your communications toolbox, humor is a dangerous tool. It should not be handled by amateurs!

I just returned from a Spring Break rite of passage: college tours with my high school junior. It is not my first time at this rodeo, so quite possibly I am listening with jaded ears. But far too many of the information sessions run by adults from the admissions office, as well as tours given by students, seemed to rely on "humor" as a needless way to bond with us. No bonding is necessary when your audience is there voluntarily, and for such a short time. We all played along and dutifully chuckled at the weak jokes. There was one person out of the ten we encountered this way who wielded her humor like a pro. I suspect she had previous training in stand-up comedy, and I am sure she had practiced her "routine" several times in front of an audience. She even made one or two of the "laugh lines" we had heard before sound fresh and new. But her comedy got in the way of her information delivery. To set up a joke takes time--and timing. Even one-liners have a certain rhythm, and need to be placed just so in your patter to work. Other content gets neglected at the expense of successful humor. Afterwards, I realized that this info session had actually given fewer of the basic facts than any other.

We did not travel hundreds of miles to be be entertained. We could have gotten better comedy from dozens of venues closer to home. We wanted information, we wanted to see what differentiated one school from another, we wanted a small slice of the experience of being members of that college community (because parents are very valued--if remote--members). It should have been about us and our experience. Not about how funny the representatives of the schools were. "Mom, Dad, I want to go here because the Assistant Dean of Admissions is a mediocre comedian," said No One.

Sadly, this desire to "entertain," this need to "break the ice" and "bond" with a group instantly, in a forced, synthetic way, is not limited to college tours. I have many clients who insist on starting with a joke. "Oh yes, that always works for me!" they tell me. Because who is going to let them know after the fact that their jokes fell flat, or needlessly slowed down the momentum of their presentations? Only the coach you hire to help you. Even a trained comedian saves her jokes for the appropriate venue. She does not subject innocent bystanders to them in her day job. And if you are not trained? Here's a quote from a friend who is a comedian: "I'll make a deal with you, I won't stand up here and do your job if you won't go back to the office and do mine!"

If you want to do comedy, take a class, then find a stage. If you want to communicate, find out what your audience wants, then give it to them.

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Reader Comments (1)

Really an Useful Information to manage occupational health , safety training Issues

June 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

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