In these ‘virtual times’ a lot of my work is for corporate companies wanting to give their employees the edge when it comes to pitching and presentations online. At the core of everything I do is humour (keep an eye out for the Humourology podcast coming soon).
Whilst all comedians will tell you that it is difficult to deliver comedy without a tight-packed audience in front of you, there are still things that you can do to get humour across in this current virtual world.
Be animated – as human beings we react off the body language and facial expressions of others. So, when you are doing a virtual presentation, make sure you are giving people the best visual cues possible. Imagine that you’re speaking to a live audience who are loving your performance!
Connect with the camera – all too often, people avoid looking ‘down the bottle‘ (lens) and end up looking slightly shifty to the viewers. You could put a photo of someone special behind the camera to give you someone to focus on and talk to.
Vary your tonality – this can be difficult without real audience feedback, yet if you want to excite people you have to sound enthusiastic and excited yourself. How many times have you heard someone speak in a monotone voice and ended up thinking, ‘kill me now!’
Most of my online sessions are restricted to the specific businesses with who I am working, however, I have a session for The Best You Expo in Los Angeles, which is open to all comers. Tune in next Monday at 7:00 pm (London time) and see if I live up to my own advice.
If you don’t learn something and laugh at least once… you can have your money back!
Around the world, people are coming together on different evenings to clap for our wonderful carers. In London, it’s at 8 o’clock every Thursday night. In New York, it’s every evening at 7 pm. The world has woken up to how valuable our health care workers are and I sincerely hope that, going forward, our governments will give them the financial support, status and respect they so richly deserve.
However, there are a forgotten few who also spread healing and happiness across our challenging landscape. These people are the dedicated, generous and frankly saintly satirists and humourists. They selflessly share their memes, gags and videos to try to engender change in the state of our collective psyche. I feel fortunate to have an extraordinarily eclectic range of friends (in low places) who distribute their – sometimes annoying and occasionally inspiring – humour. Early on in this crisis, I realised that I had a calling. So, I became an unofficial Covid curator of comedy. For the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing ‘appropriate’ gags to people across the various tribes of my acquaintance.
Everyone needs the power of humour to help them through this difficult time. Humour heals. As Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” Do I occasionally get it wrong and send something slightly too near the knuckle to a group of nice earnest people? Oh, yes. But that is the purpose of comedy – to push the boundaries. I consider it my civic duty to push through possible pique and pass these novelty nuggets on – whether they induce guffaws or groans. During the lockdown, I am using the little down time I have to write my new book. It’s called Humourology – The Serious Business of Comedy. The book is a practical study of how an injection of humour can positively influence every aspect of business life.
I’ve researched humour, improvisation, handling hecklers and more to figure out why it is that people with ‘good humour’ seem to do so much better in business and in life.
Perhaps we should dedicate just one day where – for 37 seconds – the whole world stands to attention in front of their selected screen and gives these purveyors of puns and captains of quips, the clap that they so richly deserve. And of course, do send me you favourite meme that has positively helped you laugh through lockdown.
Be honest, has the wall-to-wall news about Covid 19 disrupted your internal equilibrium and made you worry more? Psychologically it is predictable, in times of stress, for people to go into fight or flight mode and mentally hunker down.
I must admit that, at the start of this Covid pandemic, my first instinct was to solely look after my family and friends. However, when I started to open my mind, I took some time to consider that we are all interconnected and our attitude at times of crisis is a powerful way to change the way we cope with even the most difficult situations.
Whilst I still have some clients that I continue to executive coach and train via Zoom, there are obviously no conferences booking speakers, no companies inviting me in to their offices to train their teams and therefore, I have some spare capacity to offer pro bono help.
So far, I have signed up and offered my services to three local Covid 19 support groups, a food bank and the NHS GoodSAM volunteer service.
Whilst I could claim that this is all altruism on my part, I am very much doing this for my own mental health. Let me explain. I think that the best antidote I know for worry is work. As Gordon Hinckley famously put it, “The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
It’s obvious when you think about it – if you want to feel occupied, utilised, useful, worthwhile, valuable, do something that is valuable for others. We need that social feedback to know that we belong, that we are safe, and that together we can handle anything that comes our way.
I now also wish to offer my support to you – my friends and colleagues on this mailing list. If you are reading this mail and feel that you or a vulnerable person who you know might benefit from a conversation via Zoom/Skype/telephone, get in touch.
Hopefully, some of my professional coaching expertise which I would normally use with executives in business can give you some new skills, fresh perspective or just raise a smile and help to lighten the load. If I can help you get through this difficult time the pleasure and the reward will be mine.
Want to help yourself feel better? Help others.
Think about your personal skill sets. What special ability do you have that you could offer to someone in need? Do it for others and notice how much you gain for yourself.
If you can be of help to someone else, I guarantee that you will start to feel better now.
Stay calm. Stay strong. Stay safe.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Over my career, I haven’t been featured on too many magazine covers but it always comes as a nice surprise.
However, this most recent one sent my mind spinning back to the first time when I was 18 and did Photo Love magazine to earn a bit of extra pocket money.
They didn’t have Photoshop back then but I suspect that there may be just a tad of airbrushing on this latest one! So, what lessons have I learnt in the intervening years that might be of some help or interest to you?
Love what you do and never lose the childlike wonder when something good happens.
Always show gratitude. (Thank you so much to Mirela Sula and the amazing Global Man team. I really appreciate the interview and the special honour of being on the cover.)
Avoid complaining; Just work harder. Never give up. Good things will come to those with the right attitude and patience. And most importantly…
Be prepared to laugh at yourself. When I was 18, eight of my friends found and bought copies of Photo Love magazine in a shop in Brighton. That night, they all came up to our local pub brandishing a copy and fully intent on embarrassing the hell out of me in front of a packed pub full of Saturday night revellers. They succeeded. However, the more I accepted that I had put myself up to be shot down and laughed along with them, the more we came together and bonded. We are all ridiculous at times. Accept it. It merely humanises us.
PS. I am hoping that this current magazine trajectory will mean that, within the next five years, I will be on the cover of Vogue. When that happens, please feel free to keep royally taking the piss.