How and Where to Use Humor

Even in cases where the information is the main thrust, humor can be used to get the message across. Chris Pirillo's is a great example — it's a tech newsletter and Web site that dispenses technical, computer information with a humorous bent. Whether he's telling you about a step-by-step instruction that's “so simple, even Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers could use it” or ending the latest newsletter information with his usual “Yours Digitally” close, you know that the time spent reading what Pirillo told you helped you learn something new and offered a good time in the process.

Only limit your message when your purpose is to direct its meaning. For example, the anecdote example earlier in this chapter (about the young girl rushing to order the mop for her mother within the five-minute dead-line imposed by the announcer) could be told as part of the introduction to an advertising promotion planning meeting. After sharing the anecdote, it could be followed by a transition like “that story illustrates both the good news and the bad news of one television advertising campaign,” followed by: “An effective infomercial advertisement is one that reaches the target audience and convinces those within that audience to act, and to act now. The good news is that somebody who heard the message was motivated to act. The bad news is that five-year-olds are not the target audience.”

The pun story about “putting our heads together” could be used as part of the introduction to a team-building exercise.

As long as you keep your audience in mind and target your humor so that it's in good taste and appropriate for the occasion, humor can be an effective way to get (and keep) that audience's attention.

Appropriate humor doesn't only mean that which is suitable for a business setting. Racial slurs or derogatory language aren't appreciated by any audience.

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