Should You Tell Jokes at Marketing Seminars?

financial advisor marketingShould you tell jokes during your marketing seminars? This can be a risky venture. You want to be LIKED and TRUSTED by your seminar attendees so they will take the leap and schedule a first meeting.

If your jokes aren’t funny you risk being liked. If your jokes are deemed offensive, you definitely won’t be liked. You might ask, “How hard can it be to come up with some funny jokes about retirement planning, living trusts, or wills and joint tenancy?”

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” — Steve Martin

I spoke today about telling jokes with a member of one of my local networking groups. Irv sells Aflac insurance policies and once took a stand-up comedy course in Southern California. He said that you need to write 100 jokes to get 10 worth trying out. Out of the 10 jokes you might get 1 which would be worth repeating. That’s one in a hundred.

Irv told me that comedians usually tell 3 jokes per minute.  So a 5-minute comedy routine would include 15 jokes from 1500 jokes written up! Now you know why comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman have a team of joke writers to come up with enough funny jokes for each night’s monologue.

Irv told me in the old days, a vaudeville comedian could come up with 20 funny jokes. These jokes would work for decades as the vaudeville troupe traveled from town to town. Not any more in these days of YouTube and Facebook. Funny comedy routines go viral and are everywhere.

Thankfully, your seminars won’t be recorded and your audiences will be different every time. You won’t need fresh jokes for every seminar. Find ones which work and use them over and over again.

I know one estate planning attorney who has told the same jokes for more than 20 years! He tells every audience that he has “never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer” and he gets laughs every time. He tells it more like a story anyways so audience doesn’t really need to “get it” and laugh on cue. No one gets offended. No one gets embarrassed. And he gets attendees to like him and sign up for a first meeting.

My general recommendation is to tell stories not jokes. Don’t poke fun at anyone but yourself. And never tire of telling the same stories over and over. Your goal is to get new clients and not get a job as a stand-up comic. A funny joke which bores you is way better than a fresh one-liner which offends someone in your audience. And that’s no laughing matter!

Richard Emmons