I was hired to be a funny speaker for the Upper Island Safety Conference this week where I am speaking about Humor, which seems appropriate for a motivational speaker who strives to inspire! The idea of taking potential workplace injuries lightly leaves some people baffled.
Of course, there is nothing funny about safety.What does a funny motivational speaker have to say about humor and levity and it's role in safety? Humor has to be used carefully, because if the audience believes the subject matter is no big deal, it will not be taken seriously.
There are many benefits, odd as it sounds, to using humor in reinforcing safe workplace practices. It aids retention and understanding, gives you perspective, builds collaboration, cooperation and more.
Benefits to Reinforce Safety with Humor:
1) Humor makes people pay attention. As a guest speaker I fly a lot and I have commonly noticed how most people tune out the safety remarks by flights attendants or the pilot. Some airlines like Southwest, WestJet, and more have started to use humor to jolt people into the here and now and make them sit up and listen. It works.
2) Humor helps people retain what they hear. Safe workplaces know repetition is key. Messages like, Are you wearing your safety glasses? are repeated over and over again, often to deaf ears. Our brains quit processing the obvious. Keep a message fresh and memorable by adding a play on words ( ie "Safety glasses: All in favor say 'Eye!'") or through exagerated cartoons and reminders showing what will happen if. People remember humorous messages far better than dull and repetitive ones.
3) Use humor to ease tension around stressful conversations about safety. When people laugh they are more ready to listen and remember. Laughter physically brings oxygen to the front part of the brain -and it brings focus with it. Humor also decreases muscle tension and gives us a boost of endorphins that increases energy levels. Opening with a humorous approach helps prepare people to hear the serious nature of your message.
Studies show scary, fearful messages are not as effective as humorous ones to aid in memory and change behaviours.
Ideas to Use Humor to Reinforce Safety:
- Use colorful posters with funny images to engage more learning styles. Put up posters, reminders and funny stickers everywhere that incidents may occur.
- Hire a funny motivational speaker to deliver a safety message
- Do humorous safety skits to illustrate what will happen when people forget the basics and do stupid things
- Craft a serious safety reminder in a funny way
- Create funny physical movements (think of the YMCA song)that staff can do at meetings to reinforce the message. The laughter it creates will aid memory and build comradre around the message
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS reinforce the seriousness of safety