I recently finished running a half-day “Speaking to Influence” training for a client’s leadership team and received an unusual question during the debrief at the end:
“Have you ever seen the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?”
If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. Set in the 1950s in New York, the show is about a woman – Mrs. Miriam “Midge” Maisel, played by Rachel Brosnahan – who initially is supporting her husband’s hobby of doing standup comedy before it becomes clear that she is the one with both the comedic brains and talent.
(My husband and I agree that it’s one of the sharpest and funniest shows on television – and we almost never agree on anything TV-related so it has to be true!)
“Love it!” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“You have a very Maisel-like quality about you.”
I laughed as others in the group expressed their agreement but what I took to heart was that the comment was intended as high praise: beyond helping them sharpen their communication skills, they actually had fun in the process.
One of the most frequent misconceptions I hear from clients is the fear that “fun” and “work” don’t mix. That if they allow their personality and sense of humor to come through during a presentation, webinar, podcast, meeting, conference talk or quarterly roundtable – especially in industries like asset management or cybersecurity, for example – that the audience will think they aren’t serious about their work.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting you turn your weekly team meeting into a silly free-for-all, make inappropriate jokes about a security breach, or that you try to force jokes into your presentation. (Especially if you don’t consider yourself to be naturally funny. Just… don’t.)
But a well-placed anecdote, activity, comment, personal share, icebreaker, demonstration or other momentary experience that makes the audience smile, laugh or otherwise experience some form of joy gives them a quick shot of “happy hormones” like dopamine and serotonin that helps them internalize and remember (i.e. learn) what you’ve shared.
Knowing how to intersperse and combine those moments of pleasure along with the consistent gravitas underlying the content I’m delivering over the course of the minutes, hours or days in which I present information (by now I’m sure you know how seriously I take my work) elevates my audience’s experience, and I am always striving to take that to yet another level.
As I see it, a big part of my brand is making sure that my audience learns as much as possible because they are enjoying the experience.
In other words, a big part of my job is ensuring that people have fun.
Think about it: What if your full-time job was helping more people have more fun every day?
This week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Kathy Govier, chief marketing officer of Geppi Family Enterprises, knows something about that.
Geppi Family Enterprises is a leading distributor, licensor and creator of pop culture products worldwide, from comics to games, toys and collectibles.
For example, have you ever played Pokemon, or Dungeons and Dragons? Or read a Spiderman, Hulk, or Avengers comic book? If so, thank Geppi Family Enterprises.
But Kathy’s work isn’t all fun and games. Along with catering to the interests of new and expanding fan demographics, and the resurgence of interest in board games and the like since the start of the pandemic, there are hard conversations to be had, too.
What if someone isn’t meeting quality control standards in their tasks? What if a client is unhappy?
And for that matter, what if someone else needs to present some unhappy feedback to you? Particularly considering relative power differentials and positions on the org chart, have you created the culture of trust among your people that everyone feels safe enough to give and receive this kind of input?
Kathy shares some great examples of how she created the relationships and the protocols among her team members so this kind of necessary-but-not-easy conversation can be had, knowing that everyone involved has the best interest of the individuals and the company at heart.
Here are a few other things you’ll learn during this conversation:
- How Kathy varies her messaging between hardcore and new collectors
- The importance of acknowledging input from every team member
- How to understand and communicate your own thought process with your team, and why it's essential
But whether you work in an amusement park or an insurance brokerage, and whether you manufacture airplanes or bake cookies, I offer you the same challenge: every day, even if it’s only for ten seconds, do something that adds a smile to someone’s face.
(Hint: try adding a smile to your OWN face first; it’s contagious!)
Make it official: one “duty” in your job description should be that you help others have more fun!