I’m always looking for ways to engage our clients’ audiences with music and humor. Each is great on its own but combining the two is not only more fun, it’s yet another way to connect with the audience, particularly when it’s customized to the tastes and purposes of a particular group.
For example, if you’ve ever presented a panel discussion, you know there’s often several seconds of chair movement and panelists settling in. This can be deadly—or an opportunity to relate to your audience. In this case, I sometimes use game show music to cover the adjustments on stage. Retro TV themes are often funny and ironic, such as those from The Dating Game or Hollywood Squares. Whether it’s in your subconscious or not, people of all ages appreciate the irony and like it when you let them in on the joke.
Legendary musical entertainer Victor Borge said “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” So, when it’s time to introduce the CFO, for instance, we’ll choose a song about money (you can already think of a few, I’m sure). Or if it’s the head of sales or an equally upbeat speaker, James Brown’s “I Feel Good” always gets a rise out of people.
I particularly like to use an unusual or less-known recording of a popular song when possible. It’s one thing to use the original “hit” recording by the original artist to get that appreciative nod of recognition from your audience; yet to really make them smile, try using a somewhat bizarre version of that same hit song. Instead of Sinatra’s famed recording of “My Way”, use Elvis Presley’s (or if you have a really progressive audience: The Sex Pistols’ recording!). Instead of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, use Leon Russell’s or Aretha Franklin’s recording of that song. Audiences will be surprised and amused by this choice, causing them to pay attention and wonder what other surprises you might have for them in the course of the day. They will subliminally get that you took the time to think through what you’re presenting; that they’re being treated like insiders of sorts.
As I said previously, demographics play a role in this, too. What’s funny to one group may fall flat with another. So, I’m always careful to consider who the audience is as well as the tone going into the meeting or event.