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Starting With A Joke

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Widely reported, Bloomberg just hosted a London conference for ‘over 200 commodity investors and analysts’. It believes we’re all going to hell in a driverless cart.

One such view came from Thomas Thygesen, head of economics at SEB; “The crash will come, but it would be nice if it came two years from now”.

Commodity traders vie to be the next banksters. With just as little sympathy heading their way from the general public.

Still, Thomas displayed cracking sales acumen. Listen to his presentation’s opening.

“They tell you should start your presentations with a joke, but making jokes at a commodities seminar is hardly appropriate these days.”

Disarmingly instant rapport.

I was reminded of a Sidney Lumet film. 1986’s star-studded Power.

There’s perhaps enough sales coaching from spin doctor extraordinaire Richard Gere to fill its own blog post. Here I recall a scene where, to quote uber-critic Roger Ebert, “a hapless, idealistic college professor with no chance of success”, standing nervously behind lectern, begins his anti-Establishment opening debate statement;

“I’m the only one here for who this job means a pay raise”

Cue raucous applause. Even from one of his opponents.

Another cracking start.

Kicking-off with a joke is not for everyone. We’re not all hardened standups. Nor are our audiences rollabout-in-the-aisle smilers. Sometimes, business must be serious.

In which case, release yourself from any pressure to land the oneliner. Remove the sitcom set-up.

Perhaps my favourite alternative opening to a gag is the “mystery”.

Set a poser. Tease with a puzzle.

What is the question you (jointly – along with your audience) seek to solve?

Remember. “There’s no stupid questions. Only stupid answers”.

And then the room power should flow to you.

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