You’re an event planner, you’ve got a corporate function coming up. You’ve lined up the venue and the catering, but one big challenge remains: the entertainment.
Are you considering a comedian? Because you should be.
The not-so-obvious case for comedy
The ultimate goal for any event is happy guests.
And there’s no better way to make a room full of people happy than making them laugh. Whether they’re clients, prospective customers, or employees, laughter means smiles on faces and people feeling good about the experience they just had.
Aside from the well-documented health benefits of a good belly laugh, there’s research showing why laughter will make your organization work better.
Why laughter = better organizations
When you laugh with someone, you feel closer to them. You feel more bonded, you trust each other more.
Laughter sparks the release of oxytocin into your system. You’ve probably heard of oxytocin: it’s the hormone that promotes social bonding, increases trust, and speeds up self-disclosure.
Laughing is a fantastic way to get an oxytocin rush with coworkers. The typical methods of boosting oxytocin—giving hugs, saying ‘I love you,’ petting a dog—aren’t ideal at the workplace. Just ask HR.
But laughter is still legal. And that’s where comedy comes in.
Is comedy right for my group or audience?
News flash: comedy isn’t right for every corporate event.
There are a two questions you can ask to easily answer the question: “Is this a good idea?”
#1: Is senior leadership supportive?
If the bosses aren’t on board with the idea of comedy, your show will fall flat on its face.
In a corporate event, most people look to management to see how to react during the show. I’m serious—this is a thing.
The leaders set the tone, and if they’re not enjoying themselves, others will hold back, too. That will be the difference between roaring laughter and dead silence, and it’ll make or break your event.
Pro tip: Leaders at your organization must be into it, or it’s a no-go.
#2: Is it what the audience wants?
Let me tell you about the two worst events I’ve ever performed at.
The first was your typical blue-collar factory with a number of white-collar office employees mixed in.
When I took to the stage, the audience was stone-faced and angry. I didn’t get much laughter that night.
After the show, the coordinator explained that before I arrived, the employees were informed that instead of giving out bonuses to everyone, the company bought three flat screen televisions.
They were going to hold a drawing and give them to three “lucky winners.”
So instead of everyone getting a couple extra bucks at the holiday time, three employees would get a TV, and everyone else got to stare at me. (Quite a consolation prize.)
As I performed, the entire audience was thinking: “That’s my bonus money standing up there.”
The second nightmare event had a planning committee in charge.
The committee asked the employees what they wanted for entertainment. Some said magician, others said a band, and a third batch voted for a comedian.
The committee decided comedian, which left many employees feeling as if they had been slighted.
Even before I took the stage, two-thirds of the audience was already pissed off that I was even there.
While I was able to win parts of the crowd over throughout my show, some just weren’t willing to give up their laughter for the show they didn’t want in the first place.
Pro tip: Be sure the audience actually wants to see comedy.
OK, you’ve gotten the right answers to these questions, and you’re ready for what’s next! So… what is next?
Time to plan your event.
In the next post in this series, I’ll talk about what you can do during planning that will make your comedy show an even bigger success.
Other posts in this series:
https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/humor-serious-business. Joel Stein, Humor is Serious Business. Published in Insights, the Stanford Business School magazine, July 2017.
Image by Tumisu