There’s a cliché in the speaking industry that goes, “Do you have to be funny as a speaker? Only if you want to get paid.” The same could be said about training. Humor isn’t a requirement for becoming a trainer, but it is a valuable skill if you want to be effective.
In fact, humor is a missing skill that can help you in nearly all capacities of your work, not just in training. There are more than 30 benefits to using humor at work, regardless of what that work happens to be. Using humor in the workplace, however, doesn’t mean becoming a stand-up comedian or aiming for a Netflix comedy special. It’s not about making your work funny but making work a bit more fun.
Why go through the effort of adding more levity to your programs? Here are three ways humor can boost your training programs.
1. Help People Pay Attention
The average person is bombarded by 5,000 ads per day. At any given moment, we have access to a world of information using the devices in our pockets (even if we mostly use them for Instagram). Before you can teach a person, you have to reach that person — something humor can effectively do.
When you start your program with a story or a bit of humor, it tells the attendees that your program is going to be entertaining as well as educational and that if they want to be in on the joke, they should listen intently.
But humor shouldn’t just be used at the start of a session. Consistently using humor throughout your program — through stories, activities and interesting images — will keep people engaged. As Jerry Seinfeld said, “People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.”
2. Improve Attendee Understanding
A good educator doesn’t show off how much he or she knows but, rather, helps the audience understand how much they already know and then connects new ideas to that knowledge. After all, it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you can’t explain things in a way that other people understand.
Humor can be a great tool for taking complex ideas and making them more accessible. By associating new ideas with topics the audience already knows, the material is easier to process, and your training is more fun.
One way to make these connections is to create metaphors that compare your training material with pop culture, such as connecting Robert Frost to Lady Gaga. An added bonus to this method is that you don’t always have to be the creator of the funny content. Instead, you can share something humorous (giving proper credit and following copyright guidelines) and then connect that content to your material.
3. Help People Remember Longer
There is a big difference between learning something and knowing something. Many of us learned trigonometry in school, yet few of us know how to use it now (even figuring out the tip at a restaurant is calculator-worthy for many people). Humor can help people remember content longer, because they remember the fun.
Mnemonics are a great example of this idea. You may not remember the quadratic formula, but if you learned “SohCahToa” in school, chances are you remember that Sine equals opposite over hypotenuse, Cosine equals adjacent over hypotenuse and Tangent equals opposite over adjacent. Or, for the more musically inclined, every good boy deserve fudge helps you remember the notes on a treble clef: EGBDF.
By developing mnemonics for your attendees, or encouraging them to create their own, you’re creating a more humorous way to remember your material, long after the training session is over.
Using Humor in Training
There are countless ways you can use humor to spruce up your training programs. Start by identifying your goal, and determine the type of humor that will work best for achieving it. Think about how you can use humor to grab people’s attention, improve their understanding and help them remember your content longer. It may not land you a Netflix comedy special, but it will help you deliver better training results.