How to Add Humor to your Staff Meeting

Funny keynote speaker

Staff meetings are often misguided - a litany of bad things happening to good people. One by one, employees report on recent wrong-doings, lousy news, to-do lists, safety updates, cutbacks, or new red tape or government compliance regulations lurking at the back door.

When you stack your agenda with too much content, it can dampen the mood. Attention spans have dwindled to only seconds at a time, so you need to keep meetings uplifting and fun.

Below are some ways to liven up your staff meeting and revitalize the fun at work

Start by looking beyond generic attempts to get a laugh and consider humor in the workplace for its ability to revitalize or change the culture of an organization.

If time flies when you're having fun- why not encourage levity to make the meeting more engaging?

Educate people about fun at work. Make sure people know the positive virtues of humor in the workplace (decreases stress, sparks inspiration, increases productivity and innovation, etc.) to use it to engage others effectively.

Engage the Humorous Few- There are always people who have a natural ability to make people laugh and add humor in the workplace.

Humor "circles" arise, especially during stress. Use these natural forces to transcend the mood throughout organically. Encourage these off-handed quips and humorous banter and funnel it to a greater good.

The Best Humor's not rehearsed. It has to be spontaneous and unexpected, so canned humor doesn't tend to work. Savvy leadership continually encourages instinctive upbeat behavior. As a funny keynote speaker, people like to tell me lame jokes. Some people love to tell jokes, and if you do, here is a resource.

Someone told me a story at a hospital retreat. During their staff meeting, they duck taped a teammate ( the person who couldn't keep his mouth shut) to a chair. They have gone as far as using whoopie cushions and other goofy pranks. 

These may be fun for a while but will quickly lose steam in a professional environment. Also, cheap humor gags are a bit of a diversion from any meeting's real purpose.

From time to time, add some levity to your session. Here are ways to inject fun at your next staff meeting:

  • Start a meeting with positive news to set the tone
  • Fun is physical. Encourage interaction; it brings natural humor
  • Use props like beach balls, clown noses, balloons
  • Plan easy and quick meeting ice breakers
  • Make a fun agenda
  • Hire a funny keynote speaker or a comedian
  • Use humor to reinforce your points. Try this, whenever someone forgets to incorporate a particular word or concept you are focusing on- you throw foam darts at them 
  • Set up miniature golf, bowling
  • Have someone deliver a box to your meeting every 10 minutes. At the end of the session, distribute the boxes to people. Have fun things in them to bring home to their kids, family or dogs
  • Meet at fun or unusual location
  • Bring a unique item (a can of paint, windshield washer fluid, etc.) and place it in the middle of the table. Don't reveal what it is for ( nothing but elicit curiosity)
  • Speak through a hand puppet
  • Empty medications from a pill bottle and fill it with candy. Place it prominently in front of you. Throughout the meeting, keep taking several pills at a time with water
  • Ask people if they can change seats with you throughout the session until you have done a round of musical chairs around the room.

If you are planning an extended staff meeting that will annoy and frustrate others, consider these tips to engage and inspire your staff, instead. Meetings are often the best way to communicate and refocus energy and inspiration- but only when done right. 

Here are some ideas to enliven your well-run staff meeting:


Every session should start with some uplifting news: Targets reached, customer kudos, disasters averted, or problems fixed.

Help people remember the positive things, and the challenging stuff goes down a bit smoother. People routinely get noticed when they do something wrong. Meetings are an opportunity to enliven people with recognition, the very thing we crave most at work (Robert Half International, Recognition, the Key to Satisfaction report). 


Start your meeting by reminding your staff about the contributions they make when they show up for work. What value do we provide? What unites us all? 


People often get sidetracked as they focus on endless to-do lists. Adding humor to a meeting is not an obscure mission building activity, and it does not have to take a long time. It should be a quick, relevant, and timely report of happenings, procedures, or news that binds people to your organization's purpose. 


You don't have to be a motivational speaker to give a motivational speech. Every speech should have the motivation to do something. Be clear on your call to action.


Every meeting should have a purpose, an agenda, and a specific group of people who need to attend. Don't invite people who don't need to be present.  Everyone asked should be expected to participate by presenting updates, ideas, or progress actively. 


Leave time for Creativity. Challenge the routines and methods your department operates under by encouraging innovative thought. Expect people to think outside the box, so work routines don't become stale and monotonous. 


Set time aside for employees to present ideas that could revolutionize their work. Make it mandatory for people to bring at least one design (big or small) that will spark conversation on how you can alter routines and workflow to be more productive.  


Recognize Creativity and discuss Conflict. Conflict usually gets pushed under the carpet, where it festers while morale plunges. Meetings need to be a safe forum to discuss issues that arise when people don't see eye to eye. Unless the conflict is resolved, it will take its toll on your staff's morale. 


Ask for Help. If people are swamped with work, and the madness needs to stop, or they will drop the ball. Create a segment of time where staff can report the most pressing issues and rally the group for some support.  Make it safe to ask for help from the team. 


Laugh at the Tough Stuff. The point is to laugh at stress and release negative emotions, which will create a more balanced perspective. Laughter isn't meant as a goofy activity or a time-waster.  


Spend time planning good stuff, too. Lift people's spirits by involving them in planning events that they can enthusiastically anticipate.

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