Or: Yes Brad, You Can Smile in Spanish.


I spent three weeks with my family in Guatemala over the holidays. (What can I say? I have a great job.) I learned about a million things: Spanish, smiling in guatemalaPoverty, Geology, and Food. I also learned that you probably cannot spend too much time with your kids.

But the most surprising lesson I learned is about the power of the smile. And I learned that I have a lot to learn.

Let me explain. During my day-to-day interactions with people, I use a bunch of humor. I joke with everybody from my wife to the teller at the bank to the woman at the grocery store. I feel that I get more of everything when I joke. More fun, less stress, and even better service.
smiling person in guatemalaRewind back to Guatemala. I don’t speak Spanish. And what little Spanish I know puts me well into the category of, say, an underachieving pre-schooler. In other words, my command of the Spanish language is … er … lame.

(I’m not kidding, I’m really bad at it. I probably know about 200 words, but only two of them are verbs.)

This means that my humor came to a dead stop. If you can’t use the language you can’t make jokes. There are no plays-on-words. No subtle sarcasm. No witty comebacks. My entire arsenal of humor was all wet.

To tell you the truth, I was so busy trying to just get by (“Where in the heck is the boat that will help us find the freaking market?” “No thank you, that big bag of onions looks fabulous but I’m trying to buy a banana!”) that I barely noticed that I had not even tried to be funny.smiling in Guatemala

But then — and I know you’ve had moments like this — I got it. I mean, I GOT it. I finally realized that I was totally connected to some Guatemalans, and not others. Some of them seemed super friendly, super generous, and willing help me and my family in spite of the fact that I was butchering their beautiful language.

Why? I finally realized that when I was smiling (or better yet, laughing) I could get away with ANYTHING and people just got MORE helpful. They would laugh and smile back.

So….smiling helps. Duh. I can’t believe that after years of training how to make people laugh, I forgot about the power of laughter.

smiling person in guatemalaSo… what did I do differently? From that point on EVERY time I interacted with a Guatemalan I made sure I had a smile plastered on my face. A big genuine smile. (Sometimes I faked the “genuine” part, but hey! Authenticity doesn’t have to be real does it?)

(Yes dear readers. That was a joke.)

The result was instant and obvious. When I smiled, people treated me better, I had more fun, and I got more of what I needed. Better directions? Smile. Need to find out what is that gross thing in the stew pot? Smile. Negotiating for that souvenir for your six-year-old? Smile!

So…what’s this got to do with you? When is the last time YOU worked — yes, I meant it: worked! — to make sure you were smiling? Do you laugh as often as you should? Should you smile more?

Don’t you think that smiling and laughing will help your leadership style? Won’t it help you manage others? Sell more? Communicate better? Darned right.

And the cool part is that even if you fake it at first, eventually enough good will result from your fake smiles that you won’t need to fake your happiness any more.

Now that I’m back among English speakers, I’m back to my sarcasm, wisecracks and jokes. But now I smile more too. And guess what? It works in English too.

ARE YOU SKIMMING? Then read this: when you smile and laugh more, you’ll get more of what you want.
What Do you Think? Share examples how how smiling has helped YOU get what you want. (In Business. At Home.)

Leave it in a comment. I dare you!

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Check with past clients.   Or… short of that… check for testimonials.  LOTS of testimonials.
Why is it important? If I were choosing among motivational speakers, corporate comedians, or humorists, the #1 thing I’d want to know is my speaker has a long list of happy clients, and DID THEY LIKE HIM?
Well, I’m pretty darned proud of my list of clients, and I think testimonials like this help take some of the risk out of choosing your speaker.

… and the South Carolina Rural Health Care Association:

If you’re choosing between motivational speakers, I hope you’ll pick me! :)

I’d love to be on your team.

Here’s the link to my motivational speakers site.


Brad Montgomery
Motivational Keynote Speaker, Humorist, Proud of my Track Record

I was recently on a coaching call helping a fellow motivational speaker, William Reed beefing up the amount of humor he uses in his keynote speeches. What made it fun is that we did it via video conference.But what made it REALLY fun was that for a moment, the technology glitched and the video just stalled. So we “hung up” and then restarted the video conference he came back on my screen wearing a clown nose.
clown nose during video conference
It was so sudden, so unexpected and so wacky that it just cracked me up. Funny? You betcha! Could you use this humor technique, or other props, in a business meeting, on a web cast, on a…you name it? Sure!

That’s my point: it was so easy for him to do, took just a couple of seconds, and got a HUGE reaction from his audience. From me.

Looking for an easy way to “break things up” or add a bit of humor to your workplace (or home?) Find a simple way to use a simple prop like my friend William.

Thanks buddy!

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Photos can make me happy.

A while back I worked for a hardworking team at Arcadis US.

My job was to help this small team  – there were only 12 of us – find specific ideas to take themselves less seriously at work, find ways to incorporate more levity into their work relationships and basically boost up the fun quotient at work.

What I love most about these facilitated session with smaller groups like this one is that I get to do more leading and less talking.  Generally the best ideas come from them.  And this group was awesome in that they did come up with some great, specific and killer ideas about how to find and incorporate more humor in the workplace.

So what, you might ask, were their great ideas?

To name a few:

They decided to create a wandering kaleidoscope.  Because of the way kaleidoscopes help us see life with a different perspective, their plan was to pass this kaleidoscope to people who needed a gentle reminder to lighten up. (Way better than a slap in the face, eh?)

This department also had a huge white board, and based on our time together, they committed to use the white board to celebrate each other as well as to create some fun.   They adapted one of our creativity exercises into a white board project. 

As a team, they committed to “write” a story one word at a time.  One person would start it with one word, and then leave the board.  The next person to walk buy would add the second word, etc.    This team building activity seems way more cool  – and workable – then falling backwards into a team-members waiting hands.

And finally, the committed to pick a single song as their Marketing and Communications anthem.  They would use that song to “push” each other into more cooperative moods and to generally remind each other of their mutual desire to make work fun.

But I think the coolest outcome from this Aracadis team was non-specific.  Together we spent three hours brainstorming ways to be more glad at work.   Ways to make our time in the office more fun.  And when they saw how badly tghe reset of the team wanted what they wanted – to enjoy work more – they felt better about themselves and their relationships to each other and to their jobs.

As for me, don’t get me wrong, I love working with large groups.  But there is something very cool about taking a small team and moving them closer to a happy, mellow, and respectful work environment.

Thanks Aracdis!

Think your team could benefit from a very funny motivational speaker who also happens to facilitate team building events?  Hire me. :)  Go to the contact page. 

Brad Montgomery
Colorado Speaker, Humor in the Workplace Expert, Fan of Arcadis US

I’m kidding. But it was close. :)
Last week I was in Dallas, Texas speaking to a group of Microsoft Partner Account Managers. I was hired to facilitate a discussion on how to make their attitudes about their jobs more positive and therefore more productive. I had close to four hours with them.
motivational speakers in dallas texas
I was thrilled to get more time with this group than just a motivational keynote speech. They wanted more… they were eager to make sure their people left with tangible action items they could leverage as they went back to work across the country.

First of all…this is a big order. It was a room full of very educated, very busy, very motivated people. They did NOT want their time wasted.

Second, I was thrilled. Getting more time with a group enables me to facilitate a transfer of ideas. Sure, I’ve got a TON of ideas about how to inject more humor into their leadership style and into their workplace in general. But what good are my ideas if they don’t embrace them.

Third, I learned not to joke about “Blackberries” in a room filled with “Windows Mobile Powered Smartphones.” Seriously. I’m not kidding. Don’t even use the word. : )

The day was a success.

Why? I think there are several reasons for the success of the day. In no particular order:

• These managers committed to the idea of working to make their jobs more fun. They wanted to make work more joyful, and were willing to take it seriously. (Now there’s an odd sentence.)

• They were willing to learn from each other. Most of the ideas we ended up with were best practices from different managers at that meeting. No individual in the room had all the answers — including me. But as a group, we had some serious horse power.

• They needed it. They have had some trouble with some internal tools that haven’t been working as well as they would like, and the past six months have been more stressful than they deserve. So investing some time to inject some new creativity, positive attitudes and humor into this group was a welcome lift.

• Finally, it might sound small, the the room set up was great. My contact at Microsoft took the time to set the room right, seat the people correctly, and generally work to get the most bang from the buck from this event. It helps more than you’d think.

Ok, so what HUMOR TIPS did they come up with? Glad you asked.

Here are the groups’ TOP ideas for leading the way to humor at Microsoft (as selected by the groups themselves.)

1. Create a humor ritual of a “You Rock” rock. (This is a rock that moves from person to person. People “earn” the rock by doing something extraordinary at work.) Of course, Microsoft being Microsoft was eager to make the rock virtual. What a crack up.

2. Create a CFO — Chief Fun Officer in your team. That person is in charge of making meetings more fun by bringing toys, coming up with cool creativity exercises etc. One specific example is to buy a bunch of those Easter peeps. (Those horrible yellow marshmallow chicks.) We had made jokes earlier about the slang word for friends: peeps. So one idea would be to award PAMpeeps candy chicks Peeps for excellent participation at meetings (Partner Account Manager Peeps.). Somebody makes a positive contribution to the meeting, and you toss them a Peep and welcome them to the team.

3. Put pictures of celebrities over your photo on your name badge. For example, paste a photo of Julia Roberts (cut from a magazine) over your own photo. See how long it takes for people to notice.

4. For smaller groups, take a Walking Meeting. Two or three people walking can create a special and positive energy that remains elusive in a conference room.

5. Have rubber rats available at meetings. When anybody at the rubber rats for humor in meetings.  Ratholes!meeting feels the discussion going down a dead end, or “rat hole,” anybody is encouraged to toss a rubber rat on the table. This is a fun way to keep the meeting on track. (And is WAY less negative than “whining” about the off-topic trend.) My group at the Dallas meeting loved this idea. When we broke it down, they decided that these silly and simple rats would:
– Inject humor into meetings.
– Help keep meetings on track
– Replace complaining
– And —most importantly — increase productivity. Wow…that’s a lot for a toy. Way to go PAMs!

I did your homework for you, Microsoft. Here is a link to some cheap rats! $1 for four rats! Get a few dozen!

6. Conference Call humor. There were two ideas for conference calls. The first idea is to “sign in” as an alias. For example, when you are prompted to give your name, give an alias. Brad Pitt. Bill Gates. Etc.

I had an idea that would be funnier…and more outrageous. If you’re a Microsoft manager, I dare you to sign in as Steve Jobs, or Michael Dell. I dare ya!

7. Conference call humor #2. The second idea was to create some sort of team building exercise for the people attending the conference. (I suspect this would work in smaller groups well, and that you might have to experiment with larger groups.) One idea was to start a song, and have different people take a verse. ie: John sings the first verse, Sally sings the second. I think a safe idea (read that: more likely for people to actually do) would be to tell a story one word at a time. If there are 6 people on the call, you’d say every 6th word. It might go like this:

First person: “Once”
Second Person: Upon
Third Person: “A”
Fourth Person: “Time”
Fifth person: “A girl”
Sixth person: “hated”
First Person: “Powerpoint”
Second Person: “Luckily”
Third Person: “She”
…and so on and so on.

8. Word Substitution Game. Need something to spice up a meeting? Choose a key word (or seven) and substitute wacky words for them. For example, instead of saying “PEG LIST” (or whatever it is you’re meeting about) you would instead say, “cauliflower.” Instead of “manager” you might use the word, “radiator.” This would keep people on their toes and increase the humor quotient.

9. Use Nick-Names at Meetings.

My audience at Microsoft laughed at an idea that…well…might get them fired. (I’m not even gonna write it up, but I can tell you that it was funny…very funny.)

The basic idea was that everybody creates a funny nick-name and is thereafter referred to by that name — at least during that meeting. Here is my much safer version of that game:

My Name is Dorfus Dottydunkin.

My 8 year old son LOVES Captain Underpants
(which is a very cool kids’ book). Heck, I love it too.
The following is excerpted from a children’s book, Captain Underpants
And the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, by Dav Pilkey, in which
the evil Professor forces everyone to assume new names…


1. Use the second letter of your first name to determine your New
first name:

a = snickle
b = doombah
c = goober
d = cheesey
e = crusty
f = greasy
g = dumbo
h = farcus
i = dorky
j = doofus
k = funky
l = boobie
m = sleezy
n = sloopy
o = fluffy
p = stinky
q = slimy
r = dorfus
s = snooty
t = tootsie
u = dipsy
v = sneezy
w = liver
x = skippy
y = dinky
z = zippy

2. Use the second letter of your last name to determine the first Half
of your new last name:

a = dippin
b = feather
c = batty
d = burger
e = chicken
f = barffy
g = lizard
h = waffle
i = farkle
j = monkey
k = flippin
l = fricken
m = bubble
n = rhino
o = dotty
p = hamster
q = buckle
r = gizzard
s = lickin
t = snickle
u = chuckle
v = pickle
w = hubble
x = dingle
y = gorilla
z = girdle

3. Use the third letter of your last name to determine the second half
of your new last name:

a = butt
b = boob
c = face
d = nose
e = hump
f = breath
g = pants
h = shorts
i = lips
j = honker
k = head
l = tush
m = chunks
n = dunkin
o = brains
p = biscuits
q = toes
r = doodle
s = fanny
t = sniffer
u = sprinkles
v = frack
w = squirt
x = humperdinck
y = hiney
z = juice

Thus, for example, George W. Bush’s new name is: Crusty Chucklefanny.

My name is: Dorfus Dottydunkin

Microsoft! You folks were awesome. My one “take away” for you: in order to increase the humor (and attitude) at work, you DON’T have to be funny. You just have to lead the way to encourage positive humor to blossom.

I loved being on your team.

Thanks so much for bringing me into Texas.


Brad Montgomery
Motivational Speaker, Humor Expert, Huge Fan of Microsoft Partner Account Managers!

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A Colorado magician pal just sent me this cool mind reading trick that seems to work better on the internet than it ever would be in person.

It’s cool.

What do you think? Is it magic? (No doubt a clever magician wrote it.)