In-person events are back and so are the stresses that come with them.
From picking a venue that fits your needs, to making sure you adhere to hundreds of dietary restrictions, to ensuring the A/V team has the right dongles so that a presenter’s audio plays and the entire room doesn’t have to sit through the speaker sweating as the team troubleshoots in real time.
One thing that shouldn’t stress you out is picking the right keynotes. Does your client have the budget to bring in 2? 1? Is it a multiple day event where multiple keynotes are needed? This seems like it would be stressful, but there is one thing you should look for in your speaker selection process that can alleviate that stress: make sure those speakers are funny.
“But this is a legal conference and all the client wants are cut and dry informative topics. There’s no time for funny speakers.”
When you attend a concert you can be sure of 2 things.
1. The main attraction sure as hell isn’t opening the show – there’s another performer whose job it is to warm up the crowd and get them in the headspace to get the most out of the main act.
2. That main attraction is ending the show with one of their biggest hits to send everyone home happy.
Think of planning out the conference in the same way: create positive momentum so they’re primed to learn, then close the conference on a high note so they’re primed to look back fondly.
But why do the keynotes have to be funny?
The effective use of humor has a powerful effect on human beings, and when you have a conference room packed with hundreds of humans, you want to make sure they’re fully engaged and excited, and laughter can take them from zero to whatever number the client wants them to reach. I’m not saying to book Gallagher for your conference, as I’m betting the client probably doesn’t have an allocated watermelon or poncho budget, but certainly find a speaker who can weave elements of humor in and out of their inspirational talk.
Here are 4 outcomes you miss by NOT booking funny keynotes:
When a room is packed with hundreds of strangers, nothing brings people together quicker than sharing laughs. Once that opening keynote gets that first laugh, you can literally see people relax in their seats. When the group continues to laugh together to open an event, no matter what the rest of the sessions contain, you’ve broken down silos so that when people are standing in the buffet line, worried that their specific dietary restriction might not be accommodated, one person can turn to the stranger behind them, quote something funny the opening keynote said and create an instant bond. I’ve both done that and seen it happen. We’re still connected on LinkedIn.
When you attend a conference, there’s a preconceived notion for how it will turn out. The beauty of humor is that it interrupts unconscious thinking patterns and presents new possibilities and perspectives. Though the rest of the day’s sessions are probably geared to be informative, giving attendees an opening to consider new perspectives up front can positively impact the way they absorb the information throughout the rest of the event. If neurological studies conclusively show that getting a joke primes the brain’s problem-solving capabilities, then not opening the day with laughs is failing to grease the gears in your audience’s heads.
In a study involving 500 college students, those who attended a humorous lecture on Freudian Personality Theory scored significantly higher than those who attended the same lecture, but delivered without humor, on retention tests given 6 weeks later. If you want the information taught throughout the rest of the day to stick better, be sure to open and close the event with laughs.
4. Connection Part 2
Not only can humor be used to connect people with one another, but humor can be used to connect disconnected ideas in our own heads. This is why closing the event with a speaker who gets the laughs going is the ideal bookend for your day. If you really want to make an impact, ask the closing keynote to stick around for the full day and weave the key points from earlier programs into his or her stories, anecdotes, and jokes so that the audience is mentally engaged in connecting the assorted topics they heard about earlier. If they charge extra to do something like this, pay it. The value of a fresh set of eyes sharing what everyone in the room saw that day cannot be overstated. Just like Phil Collins closing with a powerful rendition of “Take Me Home,” this will send your attendees home on an unbelievably high note, and have your client knocking down your door to book next year’s event.
There are a number of phenomenally funny keynote speakers out there who can amplify the success of your event. If I’m not your cup of tea, here are a few others that I stand by:
Jeff Rogers: https://www.meetjeffrogers.com/
John Garrett: https://thejohngarrett.com/
Karyn Buxman: https://karynbuxman.mykajabi.com/
Andrew Tarvin: https://drewtarvin.com/
Ray Engan: https://leadershipthroughlaughter.com/