Okay, that sounds very self-serving because I’m a funny motivational speaker, but keep in mind that there are LOTS of hilarious speakers out there, like Judi Holler and Steve Rizzo.
And having done it for more than 20 years, I’ve learned a lot and gotten so much specific feedback from clients that I’m convinced most conference attendees prefer a funny speaker to one who isn’t, and here are three good reasons why.
A Funny Speaker Breaks Monotony and Energizes
Dozens of clients have told me they’ll have to cover a lot of very important material that has roughly zero entertainment value. They’ll say something like, “These poor folks will need a break to let their hair down and laugh a little or they’ll be jumping out the windows.” So, they hire me or another funny speaker. And, believe me, the attendees are always VERY grateful!
Similarly, I’ve heard a bunch of variations on this: “It’s been a tough year for these folks since the (merger, layoffs, tariffs, plant closing, buyout, big move, management shakeup) so I wanted to cheer them up and give them some valuable insights as well.”
I can assure you that they’ll pay attention to my Valuable Insights if I’m making them laugh throughout my presentation. I remember how deflating it was early in my career to see people checking their Blackberries or making a To Do List during my speech. Now that I’m polished and professionally funny, they can’t take their eyes off me for fear of missing out on a belly laugh. Or, as I like to say, “If they’re laughing, they’re listening.”
Which they all need to do, by the way—even those groups who have had a great year. Nothing elevates your mood, lowers your blood pressure and stress, makes you more receptive to new ideas, and generally energizes you like laughing (plus, it can kill cancer cells!); and if you’re hiring a motivational speaker, a funny one gives you more bang for your buck by providing laugh therapy along with the inspiration.
Kick Off the Conference with Laughter
As you know, it’s traditional for speakers to start their presentations with a quip designed to get a chuckle to relax the audience and put them in a receptive mood. I’ve learned that the same dynamic is true on a macro scale, as a funny presentation sets the mood for an entire conference.
In fact, I’ve got a dozen letters of recommendation saying “Mack’s uplifting presentation set the tone for the whole convention,” and quite a few suggesting that they have me open the conference every year. That won’t happen, as flattering as it is, because there are tons of very funny motivational speakers—men and women. I’ll bet some of my clients are looking for one to open their next conference as you read this.
Laughter Boosts Networking and Morale
My wife and I recently went to see a hysterically funny movie and were still giggling when we walked into the lobby afterward. We laughed harder when we saw a group of teenagers doing their version of a silly dance a character in the movie had done. Then, to everyone’s surprise and delight, a grown man started doing the dance, and people started clapping and laughing. My wife was mortified, but I’m good at that sort of thing and enjoy it as much as the people laughing at me.
Shared laughter has that effect on people, and a funny motivational speaker can provide loads of opportunities for the attendees. They want to keep that good feeling going, and a funny speaker can have a magical effect at conferences. For example, I do a bit about Southern people saying “Bless your heart” a dozen times a day; and when I perform it early in the conference, the attendees employ it to get a giggle and break the ice: “They were blessing each other’s hearts ‘til the end of the conference!” is a common comment.
And that’s just one bit out of an hour’s worth of nuggets. Other “call-backs” to funny bits and lines in my presentation that people have shared with me:
“Martin carried an ironing board into every breakout session and, well, broke them up!”
“Our vice president Evelyn spoke the morning after you left, and she got a huge laugh when she said her husband had Lasik surgery last month and for three days he was ‘half blind and half nuts’.”
“Our CFO, Ron, was rushing up the stairs to join the panel onstage, and he tripped and fell flat-out on his stomach. The audience gasped, and then he got up and waved and yelled, ‘I’m okay!’ There were nervous giggles and people saying “Thank God,” and such, and then Ron Erickson (who introduced you) shouted from the audience, ‘Falling on your face is still moving forward!’ and got the best laugh of the day and APPLAUSE, thanks to you!”
Among its myriad other benefits, laughter is the gift that keeps on giving.