Monday, August 10, 2009

What can CEOs learn from stand-up comedians?

Sometimes good things really do come in small packages.

The adage holds true for Roger Edward Jones' lates book, "What Can Chief Executives Learn from Stand-Up Comedians? Fifty essential skills top performers perfect and you can learn," (2009, BookSurge Publishing, $10.99, 64 pp.)

The slim book, which was runner-up at the 2009 San Francisco Book Festival (business category), is perfect for the time-challenged: It can be read in just a few minutes in one sitting. It's the kind of book an executive - or really anyone who has to speak in front of people - could benefit from paging through while writing a speech or for referring back to from time to time. Jones presents 50 thought-provoking tips for those who could be speaking to a crowd/looking to influence a group.

The format is simple. Jones points out a behavior/characteristic of a stand-up comedian and then poses a question that might cause you to reflect on how that relates to you/your work/your presentation skills. A few that spoke to me were:

"When you watch most comics they look as if they're enjoying themselves rather than as if they are standing in front of their audience as some sort of punishment. Do you look as if you enjoy your job when you interact with your customers, staff and shareholders?"

This one made me chuckle a little, as I'm sooooooo uncomfortable speaking to groups. Once in a while some poor soul will ask me to address his or her business organization as a representative of the paper or as a writer/editor. I make polite excuses and bow out every time. It feels a lot like punishment to me to speak in front of a group of people, for any reason at all. Yet, I know that lacking that skill/experience/comfort level is holding me back personally and professionally. I'll just keep Jones' little book handy for ideas for future situations when a presentation might be needed...

"Good stand-up comedians' performances appear totally spontaneous, almost as if they have just walked into the venue and are talking 'off-the-cuff.' The reality is quite different. They spend hours and hours honing their material and practicing their routines. Do you spend a sufficient amount of time preparing for your conference speeches and client meetings?"

Good speakers do have an ease about them. And preparation certainly helps those of us who aren't blessed with this natural ease.

And, No. 42 SILENCE
"As good comics tell their stories you can often hear a pin drop as they use the power of silence to create a sense of intrigue and suspense. Could you use the power of silence a little more when negotiating?"

Um, yes. Yes I could.

As you can see, Jones took a simple concept and came up with 50 inspiring, practical and quite usable little tips. Simple as they are, I can see how these insights could help a CEO, anyone in a leadership or management role, or just a regular Joe who has to give a speech.

A trained geologist, UK native Jones is currently an executive coach for major companies including Accenture, Cisco, Eon, IBM, Shell International and Siemens. He is also the author of "The Key Account Manager's Pocketbook."

Learn more about Jones and his book on his website,

No comments: