And it’s reminded me of something I’ve long felt true about business.
The more fun you have with people, the stronger the relationship you build with them.
I’m with a group of entrepreneurs in Italy.
Some I’m meeting for the first time, others have become close friends over the years.
We arrived at a vineyard a few nights ago with little understanding of what lay ahead.
On a long table was 25 piles of flour with an egg in the middle.
After being given a short demonstration of how to make pasta from flour, egg, wine and olive oil, what followed next was anarchy.
Some of us diligently mixed, kneaded and rolled the dough, while others started throwing flour.
The woman who had demonstrated the correct methods attacked each of us by slapping us around the face with flour – a ghostly – or ghastly – experience.
The result was laughter. Shrieks. Yelps. Screams.
If some of us arrived as strangers, we all left as friends.
We know that laughter and exercise release endorphins – the body’s natural ‘happy drug’.
It gives us a healthy ‘high’.
In business, I’ve taken part in and observed many an ice-breaker, designed with just that goal in mind. Whether building straws into Eiffel Towers or demonstrating Origami skills, I’ve seen some have the desired effect and others cause fights.
But I’m convinced that letting our guard down helps us connect better with people and therefore communicate better.
I remember one Media Training course I ran when I was unable to squeeze out ‘Thank You’ at the end of an interview for laughing.
The interviewee had tied himself in knots so much with his argument that he could feel the noose tightening with every word. He had the good grace to laugh along with me at the end.
But it highlighted another truism:
So we have to be careful to be part of the ridiculousness of the situation if we want to laugh at as well as with others.
Which is why the pasta fight was fun. We were all in it together. And those who worried about getting flour in their good clothes had surrendered their inhibitions an hour later.
Having a laugh is rated highly on feedback forms when clients tell us what they think of our courses.
We need humour in business like we need olive oil in pasta. It makes us stick together. It lubricates relationships.
Most times we’ve suggested humour to clients to help presentations, they worry about getting it wrong for the audience – and it’s important to assess that.
But injecting humour – especially when directed against ourselves – can bring a presentation or interview to life in an instant – and create a relationship with the audience for life.
On some media training or presentation skills courses, we invite participants to hoot a horn every time a speaker breaks one of our Golden Rules.
Fear of making mistakes turns to laughter – and so more endorphins.
You’ll have more fun getting the message across – and you’ll build better relationships along the way.
Bill McFarlan is managing director of media training and presentation skills training firm Pink Elephant Communications.
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