Training Tip 8: The Humor Paradox

Which of these statements is correct?

  1. Presenters should never tell a joke just to be telling a joke.
  2. Nearly every presentation can be improved by using humor.

Though the statements may appear inconsistent at first glance, they are both correct. Humor is a great way of connecting with an audience—but it is usually a mistake to include a joke just so you will have a joke.

Distinguishing between “canned” humor and “organic” humor is a key to resolving the apparent inconsistency.  Canned humor is something artificial grafted onto your substantive ideas.  Organic humor flows from your substantive ideas and helps advance them.

The difference is critical: If you tell a “joke,” and no one laughs, you look like a dummy, and worse, a dummy who just wasted everyone’s time.  By contrast, if your would-be “humorous” material advances the substantive point you want to make, it doesn’t matter if the joke falls flat.  You haven’t wasted anyone’s time.  You’ve still advanced the ball.

Of course, getting a laugh is even better, and one of the little-understood truths is that organic humor does not have to be very funny to get a laugh.  Look for chances to introduce humor that naturally arises from your substantive material.  It the humor advances the substantive point you are trying to make, so much the better.

Graphics are an easy way for even the humor-impaired to work in humor.  Show the audience a picture that relates to your topic.  Sometimes the picture itself will be the “punch line.”  More often, you will deliver the punch line orally.

One of my favorite examples was a slide show I did for a humor-impaired friend.  Though a bright and articulate fellow, he absolutely could not deliver a joke in front of an audience. 

I dug up a seventies-era photo of one of the subjects of his presentation.  My friend came up with a mildly sarcastic reference to the subject’s “leisure suit.”  It was a remarkably garish garment, even by the standards of the 70s.  Though his joke wasn’t exactly the peak of wit, my friend never failed to get a laugh.  Even better, knowing that his joke was a winner increased his confidence, making him more effective with the rest of the presentation. 

A beauty of the organic humor approach is that even if no one had laughed, it would not be a problem.  The speaker had not gone “off topic” in a time-wasting unsuccessful attempt to get a laugh.

Security Risks of 5G Cellphone Standard

Plenty of misunderstandings and oversimplified views of 5G cellphone security risks. Here’s the intro to Bruce Schneier’s analysis:

The security risks inherent in Chinese-made 5G networking equipment are easy to understand. Because the companies that make the equipment are subservient to the Chinese government, they could be forced to include backdoors in the hardware or software to give Beijing remote access. Eavesdropping is also a risk, although efforts to listen in would almost certainly be detectable. More insidious is the possibility that Beijing could use its access to degrade or disrupt communications services in the event of a larger geopolitical conflict. Since the internet, especially the “internet of things,” is expected to rely heavily on 5G infrastructure, potential Chinese infiltration is a serious national security threat.

But keeping untrusted companies like Huawei out of Western infrastructure isn’t enough to secure 5G. Neither is banning Chinese microchips, software, or programmers. Security vulnerabilities in the standards­ the protocols and software for 5G­ ensure that vulnerabilities will remain, regardless of who provides the hardware and software. These insecurities are a result of market forces that prioritize costs over security and of governments, including the United States, that want to preserve the option of surveillance in 5G networks. If the United States is serious about tackling the national security threats related to an insecure 5G network, it needs to rethink the extent to which it values corporate profits and government espionage over security.

Training Tip Number 7: Should You Have Handouts?

Should you give the audience handouts?

A simple question deserves a simple answer:

Yes, nearly always.

There are many reasons for this.  The simplest is that at least a few audience members, perhaps many, will consider the failure to provide some written accompaniment to be evidence of apathy and/or laziness.  Apathetic slacker is not the image most of us want to project.

However, handouts are not merely an appearance issue.  Well-done handouts enhance audience understanding and increase the chance they will retain your message.  They are also a basic courtesy for the audience, freeing them from the frantic scramble to write down every important thing you say.  (You will be saying important things, right?).

Excuses for Lack of Handouts

Excuse 1: I want the audience to be paying attention to me while I’m speaking, not a handout.

I call this the narcissist excuse.  Few presenters are capable of constructing such enthralling handouts, but even if you are one of this talented group, is it really so bad if people learn the material from your handout instead of your eloquent voice? 

In any event, if you think your handouts are really that extraordinary, why not distribute them after your talk, instead of at the beginning?  If you take this approach, be sure to let the audience know at the beginning of your remarks, so they won’t feel a need to take duplicative notes.

Excuse 2: Handouts will dilute the value of my jokes or other surprises. 

This excuse has a silver lining of sorts: At least the presenter is trying to keep the audience engaged and believes their material is good enough to deserve protection.

However, in this situation it is possible to have the best of both worlds:

Again, there’s no law against distributing your handouts at the end of your talk.  Be sure to alert the audience when you begin speaking that you will have handouts, so they don’t feel obligated to write down every word you say.

Another approach is to distribute an edited version of the material at the beginning. Good slideshow software facilitates preparing a redacted version of your remarks.  You can create a separate version of your slide show that omits the surprise-killing slides.  This still requires a little extra work, but it’s worth it if you have high quality jokes or other surprises.

Excuse 3: Distributing handouts will make the audience remember the presentation better, so I can’t use the same material next year.

Wow!  This is my absolute favorite excuse.  There’s so much wrong with it that I don’t know where to start. 

Isn’t helping the audience remember what you are saying the whole point?  This excuse tacitly admits that handouts increase audience retention of the material.  Isn’t that’s a good thing, instead of a bad thing?

Audiences receiving compliance-oriented training should not have to suffer the same canned presentations every year.  This approach is no more attractive by delivering the material in a quasi-stealth manner, withholding handouts that might help the audiences remember the material. 

A key objective of this series of Training Tips is to empower ethics trainers so that coming up with fresh, engaging material each year does not seem like an overwhelming challenge.  We will be distributing our ideas in future columns, and we solicit your suggestions in the Comments section below.

Don’t Write Me A Novel!

One CEO’s method of avoiding long emails she doesn’t have time to read:

“I also always say to my team: ‘Please don’t write me a novel, I won’t read it.’ I just don’t have the time. Instead, write in the subject line what it is that this is about. And tell me upfront–is a decision needed, or do you need me to look at something, or is it a ‘When you have time, take a look at this’?–so I can prioritize effectively and be responsive when I need to be.”

Source: Life Would Be Better If We Added This Line to Every Email

New Dennis Kennedy Book: Successful Innovation Outcomes In Law

Since having the pleasure of working with Dennis Kennedy for three years on The Internet Roundtable, an LLRX.com column about lawyer marketing on the Internet, I’m not surprised that The Artificial Lawyer has a favorable review of his new book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations. It’s now available from Amazon.

Dennis has well deserved reputation as an expert on legal technology He is also a dynamic speaker, worth considering the next time you are looking for a keynoter.

Kennedy Innovation Book
Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law

Quoting and Linking to Others’ Work on Your Lawblog

Kevin O’Keefe has some ideas about quoting and linking to others’ work:

Far too many people today blog based on their own knowledge as an expert on a subject without referencing anyone. It’s a breath of fresh air, as an authority and long time blogger in a niche, for someone to cite what I said and why. I remember those people as they stick out like shining stars. 

Couple ways to let the authority know that you referenced them. Share your post on Twitter and give them a hat tip, h/t @kevinokeefe. Alternatively, drop them an email saying “as a courtesy, I wanted to let you know that I referenced what you wrote/said in a recent blog post of mine etc, keep up the good work.”

Source: Quoting and Linking to Others’ Writings and Work On Your Law Blog | Real Lawyers Have Blogs