Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

Archive for October, 2008

Serious Message? Then Lighten Up!

Posted by Presentation Skills on October 18, 2008


Should a serious message—a life saving message—be entertaining? Only if you want it to work!


When VirginBlue first started operating, it had a reputation for being a fun airline on which to travel. The most obvious thing that the flight crew did to help keep the flight less boring was to have some fun with the ever dull safety demonstration before take off. They would have lines such as, ‘Don’t smoke in the toilets as there are smoke detectors and cameras watching you’ and ‘life jackets have a light to read by and a whistle for attracting sharks’.


Whilst these elements of humour were never going to get the crew invited to appear at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, they did get the passengers attention. Passengers paid attention if only to hear the odd line out.


On a recent flight I asked the flight attendant why they no longer used humour in the safety announcements. She said that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) had directed them to stop adding humour as the safety demonstration was a very important task that everyone needed to be taken seriously.


So what has been the effect of removing the humour? We ignore the demonstration and safety message. We know we should listen, but simply could not be bothered. This puts us and all the other passengers at risk ‘in the unlikely event of an emergency’. The safety message is less effective and does not convey the necessary information we need to hear.


Advertising companies know this very well. That’s why they spend lots of money trying to come up with funny ads! It helps to grab our attention so we listen to the message.


How are you using humour in your presentations? You don’t have to have them rolling in the isle and you certainly should not use jokes. Aim to entertain your audience so they are paying attention long enough to hear what you have to say.




Darren Fleming

Australia’s public Speaking Coach


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