I was recently a motivational speaker for an insurance conference, where the other guest speaker offended the audience with lame jokes about insurance.
When in doubt, leave it out. This is the general theory about using edgy content in a motivational speech to a professional crowd.
To say, Oh Just Kidding, may make matters worse. All humor is rooted in truth, there is some truth, prejudice or reality to the humor or the offender wouldn't find it funny in the first place.
True, some people have a tell it like it is attitude as core to their personality, but my thought is if it offends others, keep it to yourself- especially in a motivational speech(trust me, it's hard to motivate people that you offend).
All humor involves risk. A joke in it's nature must be unexpected otherwise the listener groans and says, I've heard that one before. Anything risky( ie- off color, sterotypes) is naturally unexpected and potentially misinterpreted. When you rub people the wrong way they no longer trust you and feel safe around you.
Unfortunatly no matter how great your motivational speech is, what sticks in audiences minds forever is the offensive remark.
As a motivational speaker, you need the audience to trust you and feel safe or you will lose them.
Strategies for a Guest Speaker to Avoid Offending the Audience:
- When in Doubt, Leave it Out
- Try your potentially offensive material out with a safe crowd like friends and family. Than try it with a conservative crowd.
- Remember some material may be ok for some groups and offensive to others. For instance, a motivational speaker for a healthcare conference may get away with a lot more black humor ( ie - involving body parts) because of the nature of the work, many healthcare groups love this humor.
- Avoid all stereotype material. Chances are you will offend someone, or an audience member may recite it at home and offend their spouse. Nobody wins.
The motivational speaker for the insurance conference would be better to hold his thoughts in his head versus offending this professional group.
Also remember in the workplace, what you permit you promote so don't let others slight of tongue go unnoticed, especially if it offends others.