Wednesday, March 28, 2012

JUST FOR LAUGHS - Making Humor a Part of Your Speaking

Humor is just another defense
against the universe.

Mel Brooks, famous funny person.
Here are some quick tips on using humor in your speeches.

  • Don't presume you are incapable of being funny. You can learn to be funny and incorporate humor in your speeches. This is a skill like any others you need to speak.
  • Feel free to be funny.Let yourself go. A confident relaxed attitude is the first thing you need to master. Injecting the right humor at the right moment can capture your audience’s attention.
  • No need to be Louis C.K. or Jerry Seinfeld. You’re not trying to be a famous comedian. All you want to do is share a funny, positive moment with your audience.
  • Find your unique style of humor. It will take time and you will need to be patient, but find out what works for you. As with most other things in this world, everyone’s sense of humor is unique. Look at Jim Carrey vs. Charlie Chaplin vs. Groucho Marx vs. Steven Wright. All of them make us laugh. Do they do it the same way?No. Neither will you!
  • No joke works 100 percent of the time. If your humor doesn’t work, don’t draw attention to it; just keep going. People will think it was part of your speech anyway. (BTW, if your joke doesn’t work SEVERAL times, you should think about cutting it!)
  • Humor should never exclude. True humor is fun. It does not put down, kid or mock. It makes people feel wonderful, not separate, different, or cut off. The best humor the same underlying truth — that we are all in this together. This also applies to political humor.
  • Any of the tips above will backfire on you at one time or another. I guarantee it! Instead, learn from the following quote:
…The humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people — that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.” - James Thurber

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moldy Words or Molded Words?

Out of curiosity today, I picked up a 40-year-old American Heritage dictionary to see the definition of pundit. The first entry defined it as "A Brahmanic scholar." ("Brahman" refers to a "highly cultured person."). The second definition was "a learned person" (from the Hindu word pandit).

 Compare this to a more current definition from the website The first definition also calls a pundit "a learned person, expert, or authority." But the second definition is "a person who makes comments or judgments, especially in an authoritative manner; critic or commentator." It is that second definition that most people attach to "pundit" today, and it is not meant to be flattering. So much changed for this simple word over those decades.

Forty years ago, "elite" was defined as "the best or most skilled members of a given social group," which to my mind is a status worth aspiring to. Today, many use it as a pejorative, synonymous with exclusionary. Do you have an education, and did you take the time to actually study something before you offered an opinion on it? Well then, you are an elite; you're not one of us.

Today many people use adjectives recklessly to discredit ideas so that they are essentially dead on arrival. A proposal may be discarded out-of-hand simply by branding it as "conservative" or "liberal"  without taking the time to examine the content of the idea. (Those two words have been so overused and poorly employed that I am not sure they have any meaningful value except to elicit a knee-jerk reaction.) "Racist,""bigoted," "politically correct" -- all are terms hurled indiscriminately, though I would not say thoughtlessly. Actually, these words are used quite strategically to kill a reasonable discussion before one has even begun. It is easier to win an argument with emotion rather than the inconvenience of facts.

It is good to choose one's own words carefully so that a conversation remains rational rather than reactionary. On the other hand, we can also be on guard against those who would willingly highjack an analysis with the weapon of words. But I will also admit that this is easier said than done, as incendiary words can set a policy discussion ablaze before we know what has hit us. 
And now on to the campaign commercials!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our Responsibility with Social Media

Any of us who choose to blog, Tweet, trade opinions on Quora or otherwise disseminate information via the social media assume a great responsibility. Once we attain a position where people trust us, we become their quick and easy route to information. But what happens when we are wrong? 

The damage is more likely to be small and personal rather than global or catastrophic. We can mistakenly or purposefully take a quote out of context and change the entire meaning of what was said. An innocent restaurant can be irretrievably damaged by a hastily, unfairly scribbled Yelp review once it hits the ether.

Check and double check your information before you hit that "send" button. Reassess your mood when you composed your post in order to eliminate any unintended bias. Will Rogers said in the first third of the 20th century that a lie can go halfway around the world before the truth gets its sneakers on. What would he have thought of the potential, damaging power of our viral media today?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Big Ditch or a Big Idea?

New York Governor DeWitt Clinton predicted that a canal connecting the Hudson River with the Great Lakes could improve the economy of his state.
He was thought to be mad. After all, the cost of the project equaled one percent of the entire country’s gross domestic product (an amount roughly equivalent today to more than $146 billion). The endeavor — which came to be the Erie Canal — also required moving a volume of earth and rock equal to more than three times the volume of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. When the federal government declined to help, Clinton managed to build the canal entirely through state funds. His foresight resulted in a series of fortunes that eventually led to the establishment of New York as the financial capital of the world. It also ushered in the American belief that we could complete big projects, whether it was building the Brooklyn Bridge, digging the Panama Canal, or putting a man on the moon.
This story reminds us not only to think big, but also to think generations ahead. It is a reminder to put our time and efforts into things of value and not simply for the moment. Who do you think is ahead -- the person who charges a Slurpee on a credit card or who puts spare money into an IRA?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Erosion of trust comes from slow drips of offenses

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure got a landslide of negative publicity after its controversial opinion to deny funding to some groups associated with abortion. The firestorm said less about Komen and the other groups involved than it did about the skepticism for charitable groups in general.
Over the last two decades, starting with the United Way, we have seen various nonprofits bring down the entire field with a multitude of sins, such as outrageous executive pay, the mismanagement of funds, and abuse of tax-exempt statuses. Over time, these offenses have sullied the reputations of many groups.
It is the same with our own organizations, even ourselves. A damaged reputation is hard to repair, and a lost reputation is hard to regain. We should always be beyond reproach with our communications with employees and external stakeholders (through press releases, annual reports, meetings and more). The public slammed Komen for the Cure disproportionally for this incidence. That does not diminish the significance of the event. It also provides a lesson for all of us in our ongoing communication on how our indiscretions may affect not only the reputation of our own organizations, but also that of all the people who work in our field.