Comedy: It’s Not Just for Late-Night Anymore

By Lain Ehmann

You want to liven up the sales meeting, so you find a comedian on the Web or via a referral from a friend at another company. “You’ll love him,” you’re told. “He had our entire audience in stitches.” Unfortunately, the stand-up guy had quite a few folks seeing red – his tasteless sex jokes and discriminatory remarks offended many and left you with egg on your face.

While 20 years ago, this same situation may have been met merely with raised eyebrows and shakes of the head, these day you’re up against a lot more than a loss of face; you could be facing the loss of your job, says Adam Christing, president of Clean Comedians. As the meeting planner, it’s your job to ensure the entertainment you select is appropriate and that you use it effectively. Here are Christing’s suggestions.

Research. Check out what the comedian plans to say beforehand. Tapes of past shows are often available; request them and actually review them. One caveat: sometimes planners offer too many suggestions or provide too much direction. Look for a balance that provides firm guidelines about what’s acceptable and what’s not, but still gives the entertainer room to be creative.

Customization. Look for comedians or other entertainers who can customize their routine for your meeting. The more entertainers can connect with the audience, the more successful they’ll be, says Christing. Clean Comedians’ entertainers ask companies to fill out a customized comedy sheet on which they can indicate what topics are fair game, such as the new telecommunications system that everyone despises or a competitor the salespeople love to hate.

Timing. Comedy, in particular, can serve a variety of functions, including kicking off a meeting, giving a much-needed break at the halfway point or wrapping up the event and leaving things on a high note. Know what you’re trying to accomplish and communicate your goals to the entertainer. Christing warns against making programs too long – even Steve Martin would have trouble revving up an audience after four hours of speeches, announcements and awards.

Participation. Entertainers who pull in the audience can be successful. “There’s nothing people like better than to see their sales manager up on the stage,” says Christing.

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