I was talking about using humor in the workplace (e.g., presentations, public speaking, storytelling, training, recruiting, and sales) to one of my students after class (I teach public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland). I shared with her that it is absolutely acceptable. You just have to be careful about what you say, how you say it, and of course, where you say it. I gave her some examples. I thought that was the end of the conversation. A few days later, she shared the TEDx video from Paul Osincup, Leading with Laughter: The Power of Humor in Leadership.
Paul Osincup shares an insightful and self-deprecating funny story about his experience while at a conference. The story as all great business stories do, has a powerful message, your Better Tomorrow Message TM (BTM) of sharing your personal side. Paul Osincup BTM is Let Out the Spark. And his overall TEDx has a nice balance of humor and seriousness. Osincup also teaches us some interesting things about laughter and humor.
When you StoryThink as we like to call it, reframe experiences into stories that address workplace issues. For example, “Let Out the Spark” could be used as a training story for building stronger teams, a culture story for DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion), a story for HR recruiting and retention, a customer service story, and so forth.
This is the transcript from Paul Osincup and his Leading with Laughter presentation. Fast forward to 00:42
Please note. Public speaking from a stage is difficult. During every live presentation, new and experienced speakers alike, will have some grammar missteps, use a few filler words, and have a run-on sentence here and there. To account for these, I have edited Osincup’s story just a little.
Let Out the Spark, a Paul Osincup Story
I’ve always loved joking around. Not necessarily always at my own expense. I mean, like anyone else, I was a silly, goofy kid and eventually knew it was time to grow up and get serious and get a job. And I did. I got my master’s degree and went on to get a great job appointed in the administration of a large university.
I’ll never forget my first day walking into my very own office, and my very own administrative assistant had placed a cup of coffee next to the computer and the newspaper on my desk for me. Clearly, in my own head, at this point, I’m a pretty big deal. Don’t let me kid you though. The job itself was interim, which means it’s your job now, and if you suck, we’re going to replace you. I knew I had to make an impact right away.
Early on in that role, I had the opportunity to go to a conference out of state to Wisconsin with seven other colleagues. I thought, “this is a great opportunity for me to get to know these people. They’ll come back from the conference and tell my bosses how great I am. I’m sure to keep this job for a long time.”
I Needed a Restroom
On the last day of the conference, we had time to kill before our flight left. The eight of us went to an outlet mall. Everybody split off and went to the department store they wanted to shop at. Except me. I wasn’t feeling very well. Maybe I ate a few too many fried cheese curds the night before. We were in Wisconsin after all. I went to the department store I was sure had a restroom.
A little bit later, as I was about to leave the stall when I stopped. Why? Because I heard a weird sound. It was like clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop. I said to myself, “that’s a weird sound to hear in a men’s restroom. That sounds like high heels. Then, I hear a voice from outside go, “okey-dokey Barbara. We’ll just wait right out here for you.” I was like, “Oh man! Is she gonna feel dumb when she realizes she’s in the wrong bathroom.”
I’m Gonna Get Arrested
Then, I think back to my hurried entrance into the restroom. I don’t recall seeing any urinals on my way in. I begin to sweat a little bit. Kind of freak out. I actually thought to earlier that morning when I was sitting in the lobby with all my new colleagues I’m trying to impress. No joke, there was a news story on a guy who had been arrested in a Florida airport for going into people’s bathroom stalls. I’m freaking out. “I’m gonna get arrested here.”
Meanwhile, a line has formed in the bathroom, and there are only two stalls. There’s the one I’m in and the one that I guess Barbara is in next to me. I said to myself, “What are my options?” One was to just wait until the line had dissipated and I get out. What happens, though, if somebody knocks on the door and says, “Hey, is everything okay in there?”
Do I go (switching to a woman’s voice), “Just a second.” Or do I own it? And be like (a little deeper with his voice), “Hold on a minute. I’m busy.” And in response, a woman’s voice says, “Oh my gosh. I hope she’s okay.”
“Not Arrested,” I Replied
I knew I had to take my time and wait till the line clears. It did. I ran out of there as fast as I could undetected. As I’m running out, there’s a little boy walking up to the restrooms. He looks at me and I look at him. I said, “You have to make your own decisions kid.” I just run out and meet up with my colleagues. They’re all excited about the clothes they got. They’re like, “Oh, I got this cute little tank top and these capris. Paul, what did you get?” I quickly replied, “Not arrested.”
I didn’t have to tell them what happened. I did. They didn’t have to laugh at me all the whole way home. They did. And they should. I don’t think it cost me any professional credibility or respect. In a weird way, it brought us closer together.
Let Out Your Spark
(Note: I summarized some of Paul Osincup’s key points and turned them into the following narrative to conclude his excellent story).
I’ve always been interested in the role that humor and not taking ourselves too seriously plays in our interactions with other people.
We live in a world right now where interacting with other people is becoming optional.
People are pining for leaders and mentors who are relatable and imperfect and a little silly. Forbes a few years wrote that humor increases and productivity and sparks creativity and trust. One solid minute of laughter could have the same benefits as ten minutes on a rowing machine.
We all have a child-like spark inside of us. So, let out your spark.
MORE EXCELLENT BUSINESS STORIES TO READ
- Think Like a Juggler (read)
- Ride Space Mountain. It Won’t Kill You (read)
- Bring Back Child-Like Wonder (read/watch)
- All story examples (go now)
FURTHER READING ON BUSINESS STORYTELLING
- Turn Your Everyday Experiences into Engaging, Powerful Stories (read)
- “Pause” with Purpose in Speaking, Training, and Storytelling (read)
- In Storytelling, Balance Emotion and Benefit (read)
- Add Suspense to Your Story with “Near-Impossible Goals” (read)
- Anaphora – Increase Impact with this Type of Word Repetition (read)
- All Business Storytelling Articles & Posts (go now)
Photography Source: Screen capture from Paul Osincup Leading with Laughter video. Design © Copyright 2020, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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