I really enjoy comedy clubs and watching good stand-up comedians draw in their audiences with their wit and humor through perfectly timed jokes. I also love making others laugh, but have never saw myself as a stand-up comedian, that is until I attended a workshop for PR professionals at a comedy club in New York City. The purpose was to help us understand how we could apply stand-up comedy’s tools and concepts to business presentations, new business pitches and daily work.
Now everyone in attendance had the same thought, we’d go to a comedy club, hear a speech on best practices, tips and advice, possibly enjoy a stand-up routine from the speaker, have a light dinner and do some networking. While all of that was definitely on the agenda the one thing missing was that each of us had to perform a 1-2 minute stand-up routine. As you can imagine this was no laughing matter for anyone in the room. You heard a lot of people saying out loud, “we’re in PR, we’re not funny!” What in the world could a bunch of PR people come up with to say that was funny, much less for 1-2 minutes? The results were shockingly funny.
For reasons unknown to me, and certainly not because I muttered some sarcasm under my breath about needing a drink that was overheard by the speaker, I was chosen to go first. He told us that we should think about something that irritated us, or a real-life experiences others could relate. Fortunately for me I was an early first-time mom at the time and had a world of material in the form of parenthood. I proceeded to get up in front a room full of my peers, none of which I knew, and performed a stand-up routine on something that really irritated me…unsolicited parental advice from total strangers. I guess I picked a good topic that others could relate to because everyone was laughing and the more they laughed the more I shared. Of course, I’ll never know if they were laughing with me or at me, but the speaker said I appeared as if I had done this before because I didn’t seem nervous and had total control of the room. I told him I had never done this before and I thought I was going to be sick. Read – I wasn’t going to quit my day job!
While stand-up comedy may appear as if anything goes these concepts and tools actually help most comedians to be funny. Many of these same concepts and tools hold true for business settings too. Of course, there’s always a danger to think pure stand-up comedy can be translated to business, especially since not everyone is funny. The point is to identify your comedic style, think about how to apply it to any given situation and use the rules of engagement to help you be more comfortable in different business settings.
Laughter is one of the greatest releases of tension and comedy lets people know you’re real and human. Always keep them laughing and never let them see you sweat!