I spent most of my childhood and early career clowning around! The picture is from a show I did at the Edinburgh Festival in 1984, a farcical rendition of Send in the Clowns.
From Joker to Facilitator
As the youngest of four, being the joker was the best way to be heard, and this very much continued when I became a parent (greeted with a lot of eye rolling from my kids) and into my professional life as a facilitator.
We often say at the start of training days “and of course you need to have fun!”. For me, this is more than just lipservice and a veiled apology for taking people away from their task lists and inboxes for a dreaded day of training; I feel it’s essential for training to be effective. Laughter is an explosive release of joy and endorphins, making it very memorable. If you have fun learning something, you will most likely remember it; and if you remember it, you will use it – the holy grail of behavioural change.
Turning round a difficult ‘audience’
Laughter can also defuse a difficult situation. Many years ago when I first started out in training, I faced a roomful of people who absolutely didn’t want to be there. They had been compelled to attend—it felt like a punishment—and they hadn’t been properly introduced to what the course was trying to do. They didn’t like me before I arrived and one of them took great pains to avoid even shaking my hand. I was terrified.
I opened the session to hard-set faces and crossed arms and, within seconds, realised I had forgotten to lower the projector screen. I apologised and pressed the button, which initiated a loud electric whirring sound as the screen painfully slowly emerged form its housing. I stood facing the sea of discontents as this happened and there was a stony silence that I was finding very difficult. The only noise was the loud whirring of the electric motor lowering the screen that reminded me of those menacing sliding doors in the 1970s Bond films that the villain would close, trapping James to go to his grisly end. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I looked my delegates in the eye and dramatically said “Goodbye, Mr Bond!”. They all made the same connection and the room went from tight aggression to released laughter and relief. It changed everything. Suddenly, their minds were open and we had a candid discussion about why they were here and what would be useful to achieve.
So I’m still clowning around, hoping that the frequency of eye rolling is less than the joy of a group laughing together.
How can Sun and Moon bring some memorable laughter to your training? Drop us a line and let’s talk!
Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training
Picture © David Solomon