I think that’s why I love public speaking – there’s nothing like cracking the right joke at the right time and getting the audience to laugh along with you. Let’s face, it’s a serious world out there with a lot of problems, so we gotta laugh, right?
Someone who can use humor well in their speaking (and writing) is going to sell. People love a laugh – that’s why memes are so effective and go viral. Because they’re hilarious! Humor usually always works well if you are selling or marketing.
But there was this one time it backfired on me.
I was presenting at a women’s networking event about the power and importance of story in your marketing. I was on a roll! The audience was eating out of my hands, laughing and engaging. I told a lot of stories, and I was using the Harry Potter movies and books as examples the whole time. How Harry represents a hero on a quest. How he gathered his team, and how important it was that they do the same. How to expect ‘owl letters’ to arrive from time to time, calling them out on new adventures in their business. We were having fun. I was having fun.
Then I wrapped it up with a compelling sales offer to join one of my programs. My assistant had handed out a sign up form, and the crowd was just deciding whether to buy from me or not.
There was quiet, as they sort of shuffled around. I could tell they were deciding on making the investment to work with me.
Then I noticed one of the ladies coming back into the room to sit down, and since the chairs were a bit crowded, everyone was kind of moving around and letting her in.
And I, being the clever one, said “Oh, why don’t you just let her Slytherin … ” (which I thought was funny, since she was ‘slithering in’ and that was also a name of one of the houses of Hogwarts).
Anyhow, it got a few laughs and it broke the tension. People just started shuffling around and then right at that moment, the host of the event thought it was a good time to grab the microphone and wrap up with some announcements.
And, you know what? When I got back into my car that night to drive home and I looked at the forms I’d collected, the overall sales were disappointing. (ok, I was exaggerating a bit in the title – a few people did buy, just not what I’d expected – I try to have fun in my blog titles too
Everyone loved the presentation. The next day the host emailed me saying she had a lot of very positive feedback. I knew I had shared great information and entertained everybody too.
So why the poor sales?
I think it was because of the timing – My joke broke the ‘sales tension’ in the room. It distracted everyone from their focus on my order form and filling it out.
In marketing and influence, we often talk about breaking neural patterns. In order to move people into action, in order to get their attention, you have to upset the apple cart. Break their habitual thinking patterns. Humor is great at this because it is usually something unexpected, like a word play with double meanings (aka a bad pun like mine) or a paradoxical or unusual situation. It makes us laugh because it is unexpected.
But here’s where I went wrong – I broke a pattern I actually wanted them to be in! I wanted them to be in a ‘fill out the form and buy’ pattern, but right when they were deep in the pattern, I interrupted it with a joke!
Bad move for a sales person.
Now I’m more strategic when it comes to humor. I love helping people create a speech or presentation and when I’m working with someone, we have a lot of fun sticking in jokes or funny comments or humorous stories. There’s been times when I’m working with a client, and we are both just howling with laughter over what we are creating!
It’s fun stuff, and I really encourage as much humor as possible in a presentation.
But not during the sales pitch!! When you are offering them something and wanting them to make a decision, keep them firmly in the tension of the sales process.
Don’t be so funny that no one buys.
Putting together a presentation, webinar or speech? Want some help finding and telling some funny (or not so funny) stories? Contact me today. I’m offering a limited number of “Discover Your Story” consultation sessions this month. Apply now!