7 Tips on Using Humor in the Classroom
Are you naturally funny or part comedian? If not, don’t despair! You don’t need these traits to inject classroom humor into your training.
Using the following guidelines can help you to see humor in the everyday things that take place around us, and then apply them in the classroom. Just remember to be ‘CREATIF.’
- Action oriented
- It makes a relevant point
As a trainer, your reputation can make or break you. No matter what or who is in your audience, in order to deliver what you have been hired to do, gain respect, and be invited to do more training, your material needs to be clean. It doesn’t matter how much crude or crass language your audience may use; a professional trainer keeps their material clean. Racial jokes, gender bashing, swearing, or demeaning jokes do not enhance the quality of your training, and do not belong in the professional trainer’s toolkit. Keep your program clean or your pantry will be lean!
Just like other facets of training, humor must be practiced to be delivered effectively. You may be tempted to practice in front of your family or friends, but they may not know how to offer you proper constructive feedback. Don’t bother practicing in front of a mirror, because then we tend to focus on how we look more than the overall effect of our presentation. It’s hard to deliver your story when you look in the mirror and realize that one of your eyes is bigger than the other!
Practice your entire speech, story, or workshop out loud and standing up as if you are in front of a classroom or on a podium. That way you will become familiar with the impact of moving and using your body language to make a point. You are also much more able to address issues of timing and movements (or blocking). You can also use a coach, join a trainer’s group, work with a good toastmaster’s program, or join a mastermind group to really supercharge your ability levels. Failure to prepare adequately is an area where plenty of new trainers make mistakes. We can get so focused on great content that we forget to work in time for reflection, laughter, or even bathroom breaks!
A good anecdote or training game can really energize a group. Even if the story is something sad or serious, make sure that by the time that you complete the debriefing or wrap up, the group has recovered and is feeling energized by working with you. Some subjects, such as conflict resolution, managing change, or learning to negotiate, can be heavy. Make sure that as you wrap up your story or event, you also lift up the energy of the group.
As trainers, we need to find words and stories that motivate and inspire. Standing at the front of the room listing off a bunch of “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” is boring for your participants, and akin to reading directly off of PowerPoint slides. Your audience will snore. Instead, craft your stories and anecdotes with a call to action. Think of a phrase or jingle that will stick in their memories and remind them of what they are going to do. Start with a verb and keep it short and musical. Three to five words are very effective, especially if they rhyme. Think of some familiar jingles from the advertising community and play with the words. Make your training motivating! (There’s your call to action!)
Many situations in our lives make wonderful training stories if they are told with attention to pacing (the speed at which you deliver the story) and good articulation (so that no one misses a word or the point of your story). We also benefit from practice to work out the best gestures or props. Your story is much stronger when it is based on something real and relates somehow to the training that you are providing. Don’t slip in your favorite story just because it usually gets a laugh.
The more work experiences you have and training you do, the greater your own collection of stories will become. If you rely on adventures (or mishaps!) that have actually happened to you, your stories will be authentic and real to your audience because you will deliver it with all the emotion and impact that was there for the actual event.
It Makes a Relevant Point
Adult learners want the content to reflect the objectives of the training. If your favorite story does not fit, save it for another training day and use something that will work. Don’t try to work in humor to spice up your training unless it fits nicely with the objectives that you have established. At the same time, recognize that one story can be told from a different angle or with different emphasis and re-used.
When you are preparing your training session, make sure that it is really you talking. Don’t try to be someone else who you think is funny, and don’t try to copy someone else. If you do, people will recognize that you are trying to be someone you are not, which takes away from your credibility.
Have you ever been in a course or workshop where you felt your eyelids closing, and your head slowly dropping to your chest, then finding yourself jerk back to attention? Where the trainer was droning on incessantly – perhaps with very important content – but you couldn’t stay focused on what they were saying? People’s attention spans are short, and overwhelmed people have even shorter ones! Be sure to inject some lighter content, such as games, energizers, and icebreakers, to keep training fun and keep your participants engaged.