What ever happened to …

… humour?

It was just a couple of weekends ago that a group of us from the Bring IT, Together Committee gathered together and online in this very small room in London to evaluate session proposals.  It was warm but to make it worse we decided to have a data projector on to put us over the top.  

As we were looking at session descriptors, we noted that a number were identified as being from certified, distinguished, experts.  Great.  Another vendor session.  They’ll be very serious.

I thought about some of the very best presentations I’ve attended.  One was Lily Tomlin at ISTE a few years ago.  She brought many of her characters to the stage with her.  At our Western RCAC Symposium one year, we had Charlie Farquharson.  It was indeed Charlie who spoke at the conference but it was clean cut Don Harron who showed up at the hotel the night before and at breakfast.  How he grew three days of beard before his lunch speech still amazes me.  With us, Don didn’t actually talk all that much but was sure listening.

When he stepped to the stage as Charlie, he zinged each and everyone of us.  You know how geeky and technical computer people can be.  That was foreign to Charlie’s world and he sure let us know! 

What was unique with Lily and Charlie was they didn’t have a computer and Powerpoint show to keep our attention.  It was just them.  Now, they did this for a living, so we didn’t feel too badly but there were a couple of powerful lessons from both of them – don’t take yourself too seriously and humour used effectively can be the best communicator.

So, back to the London meeting room.  While we couldn’t schedule the day because confirmations hadn’t been sent out yet, the conversation did turn to how to close the conference.  Various things have been tried – close with a keynote, close with door prizes, close with a band, close with your best sessions, close with new speakers, …  You want to make the entire day interesting enough for a traffic jam on the way home.

One of the members threw this out.  Remember when ECOO was at the Regal Constellation and one of the closing sessions was the “ECOO Silly Session”?  Annually, it was one of the best attended sessions ever.  It was the kiss of death to be scheduled opposite it.  We dug around in the back of our minds and collectively (those of us who could remember) and identified Bob McLean from OISE as the leader of the session.  I’m not too proud to confess to elbowing my way to get a seat in the big room for him and sitting on the floor if I wasn’t successful.  

It was always worth the effort and a reminder not to take ourselves or our technology too seriously.  This was in the early days of computing in Ontario and everything was serious!  

Undoubtedly, there will be presenters at this year’s event who will include a token cartoon within the first two slides of their presentation for a bit of humour before getting serious about their passion topic.  There will also be those who are very serious about allowing themselves and their students to fail.  That seems to be a popular topic now.  I wonder – are they willing to demonstrate their failures?

This week, we had a Bob McLean moment.  A number of proposal acceptances for Bring IT, Together were rejected by school board email because they were deemed as spam.  I can’t help but think that Bob would have had a moment as only he could with that.  

Humour is a wonderful thing and great for communication when done properly.  Now, I’m not advocating that we turn the conference into an open mic at Yuk Yuk’s event.  The best comedy appears to be off the cuff but great comedians will tell you that it’s the opposite.  It’s all in the planning, preparation, practice, timing, and delivery all the while knowing your audience.  And not everyone can pull it off.

If you’re presenting at Bring IT, Together, does humour have a place in your presentation?  Is there the next silly session waiting in the wings?

Your thoughts?

  • Can you remember the ECOO Silly Sessions?
  • Do you use humour in your presentations?  How?
  • Are you guilty of copy/pasting a cartoon in your presentation just for effect?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!


3 thoughts on “What ever happened to …

  1. I’m just beyond jealous that you got to see Lily Tomlin live (she’s amazing). Thanks for the thinking prompt. I like to think that I do share my failures along the way – and yes, they are sometimes extremely laughter-worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I try to include humour in my talks. In my introduction to my students I claim to be outstanding in my field. That is followed by my PowerPoint showing a picture of me standing in a field. It’s good for a laugh. I once had a student two years later ask if I still used that joke. I think people remember ideas shared with humour.

    BTW my US based spell checker wants to change humour to humor but I didn’t let it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I use humour when I present, because that’s what I enjoy to listen to myself. At times, it may appear that I’m not as knowledgeable about my topic because I do this, but I never pretend to be an “expert” on everything. I am more likely to try something new if I enjoyed learning it in the first place. I agree, not everyone can (or should) make a presentation funny, but showing the lighter side of our jobs, a shared connection, can be appropriate.


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