“So, how about we just make fun of everyone and everything and give them something to laugh and talk about at the same time?”

Little did I know the reaction that line would garner from the gathered meeting room of decision-makers and rather dour thinkers.

In between being at the helm of 6 broadcast television networks, 2 radio networks and a good smattering of digital content platforms, I’ve had the great opportunity to bring my company’s production skills to corporate events, meetings and conventions of every size. Working with on-site audio/visual professionals and sometimes all on our own, I’ve seen just about everything in what makes a successful event.

One day, I had that brainstorm moment. Sitting in a meeting with several very well respected event planning professionals and representatives from the client, we were knocking heads about how to promote the event, and what the entertainment needed to be.

With the roundtable conversation beginning to flash bright red on the Drone-Meter, I went into full “Daydream Mode”. The playback machine in my head clicked over to the magnificent Donald O’Connor and his legendary “Make ‘em Laugh” performance from the classic film, “Singing in the Rain”. 

Go ahead. Watch the bit. I’ll wait. 

Keep that playing in the background as we continue.

Me being something of a “wiseacre”, (how I love those old monikers my Granny handed down), in the midst of yet another lull in the conversation, I popped the question that led off this article. 

Know that phrase, “A hush settled over the room”?

This was one of those pin-drop moments. 

The next words uttered might have struck fear in some hearts, but having been in front of more than my fair share of audiences over the years, I was ready for it. 

“Explain yourself”, said the main client representative in something other than reverent tones. 

I stood up, headed for the ubiquitous “BIG WHITE BOARD” at the end of the “BIG CONFERENCE TABLE”, grabbed a marker and dove in from the highest point on the tower. 

“Let me give you FIVE GOOD REASONS why”, I said, with my brain already on fire, pinging away at a series of ideas I may not have prepared for public consumption, but knew inside and out.

Heck, I still don’t know what prompted me to zone on the number 5.

1. Make ‘Em Laugh: Instead of just sending out email blasts or the same static flyers inviting people to attend the event, get a professional comedian to write a short, (perhaps no more than 90 seconds), promotional gig on video that will make people laugh and raise interest in attending something other than just another run-of-the-mill conference.

2. Make it Familiar: Professional comedians have a wealth of great material, but let’s give them background about the event, the company, the people involved, and let them weave that into their material to create a performance that tunes familiar to those we’re inviting.

3. Make it Special: Now that we’ve got people hooked, deliver the goods at the event itself. We’ll get the comic to write a 5-8 minute bit that also uses that familiar material about the event, the company, the people, the location, anything and everything that will make people laugh. Let’s consider turning the comic loose if we’re also honoring someone at the event and make it a “roast”. We’ll tell the comic how far they can go, what the boundaries are, and let them fly. You’ll have the house in stitches and no one will be sitting on their hands. Also, by keeping it short and sweet, little chance of eyeballs glossing over.

4. Make it Easy: We’re going to have everything on video, all pre-produced and ready to play. The “sign-up” videos are delivered via newsletter, email, social media, easy for people to see and gaining the greatest traction. We control when and where they go. Then for the “headliner” event, it’s also on video, completely produced with the ease of doing nothing more than hitting “PLAY”. We control when it plays, we don’t have to fly the performer into town and put them in a hotel room or feed them, (and trust me, put a free buffet in front of hungry entertainers and watch the goods disappear), and the entire performance comes loaded with every production graphic and element. It’s EASY.

5. Make it Memorable: We’ve already got the main performance produced on video. When the conference is over, post that video on every form of social media with new graphics thanking everyone for attending and reminding “SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!”. Everyone gets a memorable take home, we get great vibes and people positively thinking about the company, and they will forever be laughing and fondly remembering our event.

Cue the proverbial pin drop.

I didn’t flinch. I just stood there and smiled, knowing I was either about to be feted for a series of excellent ideas, or would be banished to that part of the committee charged with folding napkins into perfect little triangles.

That main client rep leaned in ever so slightly, tapped her pen on her writing pad a few times, looked at me, and I swear flashed the most eloquent of grins.

“Do it!”, she proclaimed. Put down her pen and walked out of the room. 

Cue a smattering of applause.

From what poured forth in a moment of creativity to the first time it was ever tried, and we nailed it. The event had record pre-event ticket sales and confirmations, the comedian tapped into a great performance on both the pre-event and the headlining gig, and everyone enjoyed what we like to call “Memories that Laugh a Lifetime”. 

The best part? People had fun. They were laughing and having a great time instead of just sitting around and taking part in meetings. There was a BUZZ around the place.

As Donald O’Connor sang, “Don’t you know everyone wants to laugh?”

Start laughing.