I’m amazed at how often I hear it from my clients: “We just had a speaker and he (or she) told stories and jokes that were just TOTALLY inappropriate for our association.”
Well folks, I’m here to tell you that if you want your speaker to use humor… ask them whether it is clean humor. Ask ‘em how they define “clean comedy.” If you need to, ask for examples. Last thing you want is for your boss and HR director to call you in to their offices to show you the stack of complaint letters about the comic speaker who “just wasn’t funny.”
I was chatting with a meeting planner yesterday who told me the story that I think sums up meeting stupidity. A huge corporation booked a known comedian for a corporate event. This was a very well known comedian… a person who at one time had their own TV show, and had plenty of tape on HBO and the Comedy Channel. Anybody… and I mean ANYBODY who has seen even 23 seconds of this comedian gets the accurate impression that they don’t work clean.
It was more than an occasional curse word. It was the whole act. Sex. Genders. Ethnicity. Curse words. Making fun of nearly every group. Predictably (in my opinion), five minutes after the comedian started the show at the convention, the CEO walked on stage and personally escorted the act off the stage. The full fee was paid, the audience was shocked, and the CEO probably had a fit with whoever booked that act. (And the comedian probably wondered, “Why in the world did they book me if they didn’t want me to do my thing?”)
My question was this: What did they expect? There are a ton of great corporate comedians who work 100% clean and are both professional and hilarious. But it is up to the meeting planner — or whomever is booking the speaker — to check to see if they are clean. And if you have any doubts… keep asking questions until you know you have a speaker that you know will be more than funny you want a speaker who understands corporate, government and association audiences.
I was speaking to a potential client on the phone today and I was impressed with some of the questions she asked me. I was amazed at the quality of her questions. It was clear that this woman had a clear plan in mind when she started to choose and select her motivational speaker.
Most of her questions were centered around my experience; basically she wanted to make sure I had lots of it. Tons of experience. And I was impressed with her questions. And it struck me that she — perhaps without knowing it — should teach a short class in how to Make Sure Your Speaker Has a Proven Track Record. She wanted to make sure I:
•Am a motivation speaker with a long list of happy clients.
•Consider booking only speakers who have earned thier CSP (Certified Speaking Professional… this is a pretty big deal.)
•That I am a speaker who can provide RECENT references. And that ALL of my recent clients are happy clients.
•That I am a speaker who’s clients are not only numerous, but go back a LONG way. (She wanted to make sure that I had experience over time.)
What a great idea. It reminded me of how my wife and I engaged a construction firm to re-do our kitchen. We did check references, but we did not ask for the firm’s Six Most Recent clients. We should have done just that. That contractor was a nightmare.
He had references, but heck… anybody who has been in any business a few years can find happy clients. What I should have checked was this: are ALL of his clients happy? At least the ones in the last year?
So when this perspective client wanted more than clients… she wanted recent clients … I was impressed. And totally thrilled to give them to her.
Bottom line: book a speaker with a LONG and PROVEN track record. (Of course.. I’d love it if you book me. : )
Jason is my hero. Check out his blog here…. http://jasonspage.net. It’s a collection of weird news and some personal blogging from Jason.
His site rocks. But what to me is extraordinary is Jason himself. He’s a rock star. When I put out a cry for help witih my blog, it was Jason who came to my rescue. He is pro. He is an expert. And he is unbelievably helpful.
Even after I begged for tutoring (because I’m a novice at this WordPress software) Jason helped me.
How cool is that?!
And what’s best? He did it with good humor, grace, and warmth.
I am just back from a job in Omaha, Nebraska where I spoke to the staff of the
Bankruptcy Court. Everybody to support staff to deputies to clerks. The whole crew.
Yup… the justice system needs humorous motivational speakers too!
These folks are over worked, under-appreciated… and a ton of fun. We had a great time talking about the power of humor, laughter and play. And we came up with some strategies for humor in the court.
I was flattered when one of there computer support folks sent me an email
which actually beat me back to the office. This guy, Frank, really knows how to have fun. I reprint his email with his permission.
I had a really good time at our seminar Tuesday and wanted to tell you a few things I do to break the monotony. If my wife forces or tricks me into going to Wal-mart, I’ll walk along side her down an isle and then yell ‘Look out honey, FALLING PRICES!!!’ and then push her out of the way. She hates it and calls me retarded, but I think it’s hilarious. Another thing I like to do is if we are at the mall, which I also hate going to, I’ll casually walk through a store with her and the kids and kick the back of one of my heels with the other foot and throw myself forward to simulate tripping. The kids and I laugh every time, she just rolls her eyes. While working at my first job (burger joint) I took home an empty bottle of industrial floor cleaner, cleaned it out well, and then filled it with water and food coloring to match the color of cleaner. Then, before my next shift I took the bottle back and placed in the storage area (the bottle was marked). That night, I made sure to have a “bad night” and after a huge rush, looked at the girl I was setting up for the joke, told her I couldn’t take this job or life anymore, and went to the storage area to grab the bottle. I went back into the kitchen and leaned over the huge sink. I opened the bottle, tipped it up and started to chug my “cleaner” and shake. She starting screaming, called the owner, who was also in on the joke, to which he replied, ‘better bring down that help wanted sign then’. I eventually calmed her down. It was probably a mean joke, but she now jokes about it.
Again, thanks for the great session!”
What a great guy. What a great note! I love my job!