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April 4, 2008

Jo Howarth: When humour makes sense

Our working daily lives are packed with people fighting for our attention. Read this website; check out this blog; call this person; go here. So, if you’re planning on organising an event and expecting people to give up their valuable time to attend– it had better be worth it. We all know that there is nothing worse than arriving at a conference or roadshow to be forced to listen to yet another three-hour speech from an egocentric business guru or entrepreneur bursting at the seams to sell you his latest widget creation. He stands on the stage prattling on oblivious to the sea of blank (some sleeping) faces looking back.

Whoever said it was illegal to raise a smile at a corporate event? Why don’t more event organisers suggest bringing in a sense of entertainment or fun? Yes, its business, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

It’s crucial that you pay close attention to how you’re going to deliver the content of the event. What key messages do you hope to get across; what are you hoping your delegates will do during the event; will there be a call to action after the conference? Whether your aim is to motivate, inspire, reward, inform or educate – (or all five). Think long and hard about how are you going to present your information.

It doesn’t have to include the usual podium at the front of the room looking over rows and rows of seats. Have you ever thought of spicing things up and using comedy sketches performed by a theatre group; bringing in film clips to highlight what you’re talking about or flying in celebrity speakers to bring in the crowds, and give your product or service celebrity endorsement?

Even the most boring subject can be brought to life in the simplest ways. Using a professional facilitator to chair your conference adds value in many ways, from the addition of humorous commentary and questioning to allowing you to control speakers who threaten to over-run.

Employing the services of an established theatre company works incredibly well in bringing messages to life, especially dreary ones. Scripts are written specifically for your event and tailored exactly to your theme and key messages but the emphasis is on making the audience laugh. A series of short sketches can then be placed throughout the day, in between speakers to underline what has been said in the more conventional way but also to wake delegates up again.

There are a million and one ways to add some life to your event and I urge you to consider them all. Everybody wants their event to be unique and memorable for the delegates, everybody wants to leave a lasting impression. At the end of the day, it’s essential that the delegates stay awake and leave your event remembering it for all the right reasons. And, not for the most dreary presentation.

Jo Howarth is conference and event manager at Sandstone events

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