Dear Meeting Guru,

I've been asked to write a few humorous opening lines for my boss to give at our next all-associate meeting. I'm a funny person; however, the total number of meeting attendees tops 400 and to make matters worse, the meeting begins at 7:00 a.m.! I don't know about you, but nothing gets me to laugh that early in the morning. Help!


Blessed Meeter,

George Gow once said that "laughter is the salt of personality. It is the most effective means of easing a difficult situation." Everybody loves humor, but most people fear using it in their speeches and presentations. They worry that if they try to use it and it doesnít go over well, they will end up with egg all over their faces. Trying to get a large group of people to laugh in the early hours of the morning is most definitely a challenging thing to do. Itís nevertheless very important. Professional speechwriters will tell you that most people in an audience will forget 90% of a speech by the morning after it is delivered. Amazingly, however, people in the same audience can repeat well-chosen quotations or humorous items from a speech, sometimes several years later. Try the following ways to add humor to your opening lines:

Find something that everyone in the audience can relate to, and exploit it. Because you are all from the same company, you might think of something everyone knows about and put a funny spin on it. Make light of the fact that youíre actually meeting at such an early hour, or talk about the top five reasons why your organization is the best to work for. Make fun of something your company is good at, or is notorious for, such as having the greatest coffee station in the world Ė or maybe you donít even have a coffee station!

An almost risk-free trick is to use quotations in your speeches and presentations. They can be used to both make a point and provide humor. If the audience laughs loudly, thatís wonderful. If you get a good chuckle, thatís wonderful too. And if no one laughs, nothing is lost because you have made your point anyway.

If you are really stuck, e-mail some of your colleagues. Ask them if there is anything they have used or heard in the past that they thought was "good material." Another idea is to head to the library and pick up a joke book. If you find something appropriate from either source, great Ė but donít use it verbatim. Mold it into your own words so that it will sound more personal and less canned.

It is generally agreed that a good sense of humor is an important management tool that will carry you a long way in business and in life. As the wise man Confucius once said: "The virtuous will certainly have something to say." If you are persistent, funny lines will come your way. Your audience is sure to remember your speech if you follow these ideas from the meeting guru!

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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