Comedy and CliffsNotes

For years in my presentation seminars, I’ve taught that business speakers must learn to use humor in their presentations to be successful. Our audiences of younger people who have grown up on “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company” often need a light approach in our content. Add to that today’s entertainment choices due to current technology, and keeping attention with humor is even more important.

However, there is now a new level to humor in presentations. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, reality-show producer Mark Burnett is teaming up with an independent movie company and AOL, Inc., to make comedic videos based on CliffsNotes. We all remember those from our high school days as a way to assimilate in two hours what we missed due to lack of attention or misbehavior during a semester of class.

Joseph Castelo, the president of Coalition Films, said, "The idea is to bring classic works of fiction to the online masses by using humorous, irreverent shorts that still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes to the viewer." The rationale, according to the article, is the desire to help youth remember key points and perhaps "…inspire them to actually read the books." 

As presenters, we need to keep this point in mind. We must have variety, including a little humor along the way, to keep the attention of our audiences and to motivate them to act on our ideas.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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