It is quite common for those in the business world to be just a bit too self-serious and, to be completely frank, quite dull to be around. Of course, this is often a behavioral adaptation, as there are many circumstances in which expressing an opinion not shared by others or saying something unintentionally offensive can have serious personal and professional consequences. As a result, it seems that the overwhelming majority of business meetings lack any real attempts at humor, with most of those present instead opting for safe and pleasant exchanges that are completely bereft of risk.
In many cases, this is a sound professional strategy that is worth following. Though this may indeed be the case, someone like Ken Fisher might point out that the commonality of this particular strategy represents an opportunity to stand out from others and to make a positive impression that likely leads to very desirable outcomes. There is always a risk involved in this particular strategy for many of the aforementioned reasons, but when done right, the inclusion of comedy in business settings can become a tremendous and powerful tool.
The key to ensuring this particular strategy is effective is to have a deep understanding of the audience. Comedians will probably have a harder time accomplishing this, as they often have to draw conclusions about the audience based on general demographics and superficial judgments. In business, knowing the audience is essentially a requirement. If the meeting includes officials from another company, every self-respecting professional will have thoroughly researched that company’s operations and will have a general idea of the composition of the leadership team. Understanding an audience based on co-workers and executive personnel within an individual’s own company should be even easier, as daily interaction is the easiest way to gain insight into someone’s character and interests.
While a comedian preparing for a performance will have material at their disposal that can be altered to suit each specific audience, the setting in business demands a far different approach. Peppering in jokes during a team meeting is likely to create the perception that the individual lacks professionalism, and the same is true for those who lead meetings with the goal of encouraging laughter among the gathered staff. Instead, a far more subtle approach is necessary, with a few comedic asides used that are not just funny, but are also relevant to the discussion.
It is important to note the difference between being funny and being funny while remaining on topic. Someone who is funny may be able to maintain the attention of those in a staff meeting for a longer period of time and leave them feeling as though a meeting that is normally boring was at least enjoyable, but the goal of any meeting is to inform, not to entertain. On the other hand, someone who is both funny and on topic develops a reputation based not just on their humor, but also on their intelligence as well. After all, it takes an intelligent individual to be able to find humor in subjects that are quite often mundane, and those gathered in the meeting also recognize that the purpose of the meeting was achieved in a way that also happened to be simultaneously entertaining.
Utilizing a comedic approach in a business setting is not easy and it is certainly not a strategy that works for everyone. For those who are able to walk the figurative tightrope in a way that allows them to share essential information in a humorous way, the benefits of comedy are tremendous and clearly worthwhile. In an environment that is often far too serious, a bit of levity is almost always welcomed as long as it is delivered in an appropriate way.