“Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says: ‘Why the long face?’”
Humor Helps Moderators Build Rapport Rapidly During Virtual Meetings
Whether you reacted to the old jest above with a smile or a groan, you most likely did react. The concise bit did its job; the joke caught your attention. Possibly even created a connection between us. Me the writer, and you the reader. Between you the reader and the content to come in this post.
Because that’s what humor – when conscientiously considered – can do for us in many types of interaction. Humor quickly establishes rapport, defined simply as the ability to create an “especially harmonious” connection between people.
We’ve discussed the importance of developing rapport in past posts, because it makes business communication of all types more efficient and more effective by acting as a platform for discussion. Building rapport is a skill vital for moderators of meetings of all kinds – from networking gatherings to high-level strategy sessions. And, arguably, during a business age when the workforce is becoming increasingly mobile and about a quarter of workers often operate from home offices, creating rapport rapidly is particularly useful for virtual meetings.
So, when planning a meeting by phone, via video conference, across the internet or some mix of all three modes, wise moderators consider including humor in their agenda.
Humor Lends Emotional – and Intellectual– Appeal to Discussions and Presentations
Neuroscientists may debate the psychological and physiological reasons, but most agree that humans respond to stories with emotional appeal. As Fast Company contributor Valeria Maltoni explains on her Conversation Agent blog:
“We respond to emotion because we relate to it from the intimate confines of the human experience. Weaved (sic) into a story, emotion makes it resonate... and stick.”
Humor draws from this same well. Jokes, after all, essentially are brief stories, with beginnings, middles and ends. But humor’s appeal isn’t limited to our emotional experiences. Jokes, whether quips or sight gags, stimulate our brains by engaging our language centers with word play or our visual cortex with interesting imagery.
A moderator that instills meeting content with a touch of humor is forming rapport with participants through intertwining intellectual and emotional means. All made possible by just a short one-liner or quick video clip.
Successfully Using Humor in Meetings Requires Planning and Preparation
Many readers may be cringing now. Because, like me, they have experienced their share of situations when would-be comedic moderators delivered clunkers, instead of gut-busters, in meetings. But, as Sarah Whitman reminds us in a post to Robert Half’s tcg blog , the power of humor gives moderators strong incentive to overcome their concerns. In addition to building rapport, humor can bring these benefits to business interactions:
- Humor has mass appeal – High IQ or EQ. Introvert or extrovert. Virtually everyone has some sense of humor because laughter is quintessentially human. Team members with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience can find common ground in humor.
- Humor offers perspective – Because humor is unique to humans (babies around the world begin laughing around four months old) humor can remind meeting participants that we are people first and colleagues second, which can be useful in many sessions, especially those crossing international or departmental boundaries.
- Humor diffuses tension – A well-timed joke can relax teammates facing challenges from aggressive deadlines to sweeping digital transformation.
But like most business disciplines, practicing humor as a meeting moderator requires planning and preparation to generate positive impact.
How to Infuse Virtual Meetings with Humor Using Moderator Tools
Moderation tools can make the process of using humor in virtual meetings easier and more effective. Here’s how:
- Do your homework
- Take time to practice your delivery because, with humor, timing is everything.
- From time to time in business interactions, poll teammates about favorite tv shows, movies, comedians, etc.
- Rely on experts (i.e., use proven material)
- Share cartoons from the public domain in slide presentations.
- Share video clips from only vetted sources.
- Quip occasionally
- Zoom into visual gags to assist timing.
- Annotate cartoons with your organization’s spin on a popular one-liner.
- Chat your quips to the group, but keep in mind exclusion is the antithesis of true humor.