Have you seen the study about laughter and learning? Researchers ran an experiment with two classrooms full of people. One class saw a video of a professor doing a funny presentation. The other class received the same content, with the same professor, but the information was presented in a very dry, matter-of-fact way. Not surprisingly, it turned out that the students in the funny classroom remembered significantly more.

Now, I’ve been a speaker for many years, and I’ve come to know that there are a whole bunch of factors involved in whether or not an audience feels like laughing: the temperature of the room, the height of the ceiling, whether the audience can see each others’ faces, whether they all like each other…and the list goes on. So, it’s not surprising to me that the same story in one place will get a few chuckles, and in another will have people rolling in the aisles.

I’m an educational speaker who has a sense of humor, and my talks always generate a few laughs. Awhile back, though, I had a presentation where it seemed like every story had a punchline, and every gesture I made got a laugh. The stars had aligned, I guess. Suddenly, I was a stand-up comic. The audience’s laughter was so infectious, even I had to put down the microphone and hold my stomach at one point. Anyway, afterward, a woman came up to me to thank me and to tell me she thought I was “so wise.” I smiled and thought to myself, “same professor, same content…”

It’s my job as a speaker to evoke emotions in my audience, not as proof that what I’ve said is entertaining but because I know that information coupled with emotion is remembered longer. It makes more of an impact. It facilitates change.


Beth Proudfoot, LMFT