Are you looking for alternative ways to shake things up with your meeting content or at least sprinkle in something new to engage attendees? Why not add some humor! No matter the audience, integrating humor in a thoughtful manner can be a welcomed change and a compliment to a traditional or technical content approach that attendees are accustomed to experiencing.
Most event planners believe that having a professional comedian in any capacity could be a “career-ending decision” and not worth the risk. Especially, if the speaker decides to go off script. As an event professional, assessing the risks and rewards are part of the job, and selecting a speaker, humor or not, should always be carefully evaluated, researched and referenced in the same way.
Debunking Comedian Stereotypes
I have always enjoyed an occasional night out with friends catching a comedy act downtown or watching Saturday Night Live. During college, I had the opportunity to see Andrew Dice Clay which was the most shocking and offensive act I have ever seen. Experiencing Andrew’s performance that evening had resonated with me over the years, and honestly steered me away from considering having a comedian for a corporate event because of the stereotype I had placed on the entire community. I was so wrong. There are so many professional comedians that understand the art of performing for meeting audiences and can deliver “clean” and appropriate content that elevates the meeting experience. For example, during my tenure with a financial institution several years ago, the organization hired an award-winning actor and comedian Wayne Brady, which was truly brilliant. He was able to customize his “Whose Line is it anyway?” TV show into the conference theme. As a result, he delivered an unprecedented performance in front of 3,000 branch managers. The audience was engaged, mesmerized, entertained, laughing, and in turn this resulted in the highest rated conference ever.
Another example and more recently, I hired the Water Coolers who take sketch comedy to the next level by embracing opportunities to learn more about the organization’s hot buttons, products and regulatory confines. Then, develop custom lyrics and stage props that poke fun in a positive way. The Water Coolers created four different acts which played out throughout dinner service and the audience was engaged and entertained. They certainly appreciated the change of pace.
There are infinite possibilities to add humor to your next event by hiring a professional comedian or entertainer to “wow” your attendees as the master of ceremonies (MC), a motivational speaker, an inspirational speaker, a headline, a keynote or just for traditional entertainment. Jaki Baskow, CEO and Founder of Baskow & Associates based in Las Vegas, states “I have had the pleasure of booking comedians for over thirty years, and the caliber of entertainment talent continues to impress me and our clients. Along with the traditional nationally-acclaimed comedians like Jay Leno, Seinfeld, Ellen and Wayne Brady, there has been new channels of talent discovery including television reality shows such as America’s Got Talent. Terry Fator, Matt Franco and Tom Cotter have seen success because of their appearance on the show, and our clients are capitalizing on the opportunity to have top talent, with amazing star power, at a fraction of the traditional expense.”
Ultimately, adding humor to an event can give the event a nice change of pace while simultaneously increasing the level of attendee engagement. However, event planners must be selective about the comedians that they book for their meetings. Although event planners should select a comedian who understands the art of performing for meeting audiences, this alone is not enough. Planners must communicate with comedians before they perform so that they can tailor the humor to support the goal of the meeting and/or event.
For more information about integrating laughter in your next event, including more about the Water Coolers and other comedians, see the recent article published by Financial and Insurance Meetings magazine titled “Happily Ever Laughter”.