I'm bearing down on two weeks from the first ever Comedy for Professional Presenters workshop – and I'm excited because it's been a journey to find the right people, the right place, and the right time to help my fellow presenters learn how to integrate comedy into their work. You can find out more about the workshop at http://comedy4presenters.eventbrite.com but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, let me first start with what I mean by professional presenters.
Sure, you can imagine Tony Robbins or former President Bill Clinton when I say professional presenter – but that's a pretty narrow view. I view a professional presenter as anyone who has to present to any group of two or more people for their job. This definition includes sales people, marketing folks, and even those in full time ministry. It's nearly everyone who works in a professional setting. Whether you present every week, once a month, or just once in a while, a professional presenter has to communicate with spoken word.
Even with 20 years of public speaking there is still the odd occasion when I get a little anxious before I get up to speak. Sometimes it's the size of the audience, sometimes the make-up of the audience, but honestly it's mostly about what's going on in my head. No matter what has me sideways, I know that a good laugh will fix it. We've heard that "laughter is the best medicine." That applies to more than just physical ailments.
If you can convince an audience to laugh, you've created a connection that you can use to communicate your real message. Every good speaker, nervous or not, will seek out the laugh to help build that connection. We've heard the over simplified "start with a joke" advice which is a good start – but how do you get comfortable with the group with a single joke? You need to be able to weave it into the conversation so they know you're there with them.
As I said, I've been speaking professionally for more than 20 years. In that time I've spoken at dozens if not hundreds of conferences all over the world. So last year when I was trying to figure out how to take my presentation skills to the next level, well finding a place to start was a daunting task. Luckily I stumbled across an Introduction to Standup Comedy class at Morty's Comedy Joint. The instructors, Chris Bowers and Todd McComas were intent on trying to help comedians be better. That's great, except the kind of comedy that works in a club while folks are drinking and relaxing on a Saturday night isn't exactly the same kind of comedy that's appropriate for a professional environment.
During the Introduction to Standup Comedy course I started reading including: The New Comedy Writing Step by Step and Step by Step to Stand-up Comedy
which I blogged about. In short, I was trying to learn what I could about taking comedy and applying it to business – extracting the dark, blue content and reforming it into something that could be used professionally.
I followed this course up with an Improvisation course taught by Michael Malone. Improvisation is about knowing how to make a scene better – and how to be comfortable with being there.
Since late last year my comedy journey had been put on hold until I caught back up with Kate Thomas – one of my fellow students in the Introduction to Standup Comedy class.
Formation of the Workshop
I've got a ton of things on my plate right now – that's pretty normal – but it means that I'm not able to really extend myself into creating a workshop on Comedy for Presenters – without help. When I ran into Kate Thomas at Morty's one night, we started talking about the course, and what we each wanted to do with the skills. The result was a decision to build a workshop (and our ultimate goal of creating a DVD.) Kate would be the primary author for the content and I would commit to help during the production of the workshop. Kate, by the way, has taught students in the US, Europe, and Asia. There's no real way to convey the confusion of hearing her say that she taught math to Asian students.
With Kate onboard, Bowers and McComas agreed to join us. That's the instructors for the workshop – an educator with experience the world over, a 20 year veteran of public speaking, a comedian and educator for the state police, and a motivational speaker and comedian. There's going to be a crazy amount of experience at educating, presenting, and at comedy assembled to teach the students how to integrate comedy into their presentations.
So on April 21st at Morty's Comedy Joint at 9AM we'll start our six hour journey to share our experiences and to teach folks how to be professional presenters who've integrated comedy. The cost for the workshop is $99 and seats are limited. Go to http://comedy4presenters.eventbrite.com now to get your ticket – before they're sold out.