Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee

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Shakespeare’s First Job in  Corporate Communications

Shakespeare’s First Job in Corporate Communications


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Like all famous playwrights, except for the Book of Mormon guys, William Shakespeare got his start working in corporate communications penning the employee newsletter. The corporate world offered an unique lack of substance, which inspired him to invent 1,700 new words since there was nothing notable to say. He coined gems such as “vulnerable,” “zany,” and “subject matter expert.” And two hours before his annual performance review, he coined the term “writer’s block.”

When I get stuck trying to come up with a concept for a video, I lean on one of the Bard’s favorite tools — anachronism. One of his more famous examples is found in Act 2, Scene 1 of his play Julius Caesar:

Brutus: “Peace! Count the clock.”
Cassius: “The clock has stricken three”

The story is set in 44 B.C., yet the mechanical clock wasn’t invented until 723 A.D. making the clock joke well ahead of its time. And ahead of impeachment.

Assassination of Julius Caesar, Vincenzo Camuccini, 1805

I love employing anachronism for humorous business concepts, especially when explaining the benefit of a new technology. For a product launch event, we created a video illustrating how the new tool could have changed the course of history.

The main challenge facing new product announcements is skepticism. The audience is wondering if it will perform as promised, or if this is just more vaporware. When a brand kicks off an event with humor, it demonstrates that it doesn’t have to take itself seriously all the time, and that builds trust with the audience. Laughter helps us put down our defenses so we can be present and listen to the story. Anachronism creates an absurd and clever connection to a story that we already know. All of these benefits of humor combine to dramatically improve retention and create a positive feeling that we connect with the event experience.

Homework:

Think about the customer problem that your company’s product/service solves. Then drop your product way back in time into a myth, fable, children’s story, and imagine how it can save the protagonists from their plight. I’d love to hear what you come up with, and I’ll share a few of the best ideas in an upcoming keynote speech and video.

To build your expertise in borrowing comedy writing techniques to capture your audience’s attention and build trust, join us at the Content Marketing Conference in Boston, April 16th – 19th. I’ll be emceeing and keynoting, and would love to see you there. For a 20% discount, use this code TIMW20 when you register: https://bit.ly/2SyhF57 

Beware the Ides!

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017


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Links for Content Marketing World 2017 presentation:

Why Van Damme’s ‘Epic Split’ Was the Perfect Storm for One NYC Creative Director http://adweek.it/2wv9hZ7

Meaning > messaging.  Don’t change how people talk; change how they think

Improv rule #1:  Support your partner

Documentary:  Phone company in a box https://youtu.be/OaZWkpOVtlY

Improv rule #2:  There is order in chaos

RT @BrianCurtisNBC5: Convoy of @HEB disaster relief trucks staged near Goliad, TX today. #Harvey http://ow.ly/MUXA30eZnhk

For juxtaposition exercise for inspiring creativity, try https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Juxtaposition: How Circuses and Bacon Can Boost Your Creative http://ow.ly/O1ro30eZqjx via @CMIContent  @MarciaRJohnston   #cmworld

Improv rule #4:  There are no mistakes, only gifts

Haunted Stanley Hotel: The Ghost Behind Stephen King’s The Shining, Room 217 https://youtu.be/XqvaL5d37Gc

Improv rule #5:  “Follow the Fear” – Del Close

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One https://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM

Filibuster Cablevision iO TV commercial  https://youtu.be/scTFsGQ78qs

More nonsense:

Mockumentary:  Mystery Solved: The Rescue of Helen of Troy http://ow.ly/5Psj30eZoAt

Movie Trailer:  Improv with the CIO https://youtu.be/cL5bjJCpJIY

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day… from Cisco https://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk

#CMWorld

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit


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Let’s hope there is a lot of laughter pouring out of General Assembly Hall today.  As the UN Climate Summit begins this week, what would be possible if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and team consider what John Cleese preaches about the power of laughter:

“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else. I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was ‘so serious’.”

Not only does laughter open your mind, it opens the minds of those on the other side of the debate.  We usually tune out to an argument that we have already concluded is wrong.  But laughter is a powerful interrupter.  If we’re being entertained, we’re more likely to pay attention, and be less defensive.

John Oliver, Bill Nye, and the Last Week Tonight team produced what The Guardian dubbed “the best climate debate you’ll ever see.”  [Note:  use headphones for the first 1:08 if you’re at the office]

Much of the sketch’s brilliance is the stunt that would qualify it for  Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” Hall of Fame.  Combined with Bill Nye (who received a rockstar ovation from the crowd when he walked on stage, and was genius improviser during rehearsal) and brilliant comedic writing (“Are there hats?”), the comedy sketch makes for an attention-grabbing, concise, persuasive argument.   As The New York Times best-selling author Chris Mooney said:

“I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I’ve been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words”

At the summit today the UN will honor Leonardo DiCaprio with the title Messenger of Peace, although his name tag for the luncheon reads “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Leo’s presence will certainly bring more exposure to the conference.  But if John Cleese had booked the event talent, the opening keynote speaker would have been John Oliver.

 

Happy Father’s Day


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When I was 7 years old, I borrowed my dad’s wristwatch to monitor the neighborhood football time trials.  I returned home that afternoon and realized I must have forgotten his watch on the field in the excitement of competition.  When I confessed  to him that I lost it, he shrugged and said, “It will turn up.”  A few days later it did.

The lessons my father has shared have mostly been about grace, peace and helping others, and he never needs to rely on words.
IMG_1399
 

Superstorm Sandy: A Lesson in Gratitude


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Update:  Watching my family and friends struggle through Hurricane Harvey in Houston reminded me of our storm experience a few years back. 

Last night, we got back on the grid after Frankenstorm Sandy.  It feels a little strange, but we’re grateful for six days without power, not just because we escaped pundit noise about the election. It’s wonderful to see how a community pulls together — all the invites we had for warm meals, hot showers and places to do laundry. No injuries to our family or home. An experience like this can give you great compassion for people only an hour away who had a much worse struggle, and for those in the world who don’t have shelter, electricity or clean water. It’s a good reminder to me to become more involved.

This tree fell about 100 yards from our home, and took down a power line and snapped the pole in half.

Two doors down. #sandy

We spent more time around the fireplace as a family.  My daughter wrote a pirate play, one act comedy, that we all performed together.  Fortunately she didn’t have much time to audition actors outside of our home, so I was able to book a key role.

We survived on a steady diet of grilled waffles and Starbucks Via.  The coffee helped fuel our cleanup efforts … another reason that I don’t drink decaf.

waffles

Halloween was canceled for the second consecutive year.  Last year Snowstorm Alfred last robbed us of Trick-or-treating and of power for a full week. This year, we did have the halloween walk in town. I tried to grab an extra Snickers from Linda McMahon, and she put me in a sleeper hold.

Linda McMahon on Halloween

Now, every time I flip on the light switch, I hear George Frederick Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in my head.

The Colbert Bump, Off of Letterman


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I was scheduled to play the presidential debate moderator in a sketch with David Letterman tonight.  But the show ran over the scheduled 46 minutes thanks to an extended funny segment by Stephen Colbert who was promoting his new book “America Again” (tune into his interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross on NPR) , so the sketch was bumped.  The good news is that I picked up a few fashion tips for the Cirque guys, and plan to update more of my after-six wardrobe with sequins.   I had a blast at the Ed Sullivan Theater getting to work with the team.  Everyone I’ve met there is incredibly friendly.   I rode the elevator with Paul Shaffer and had the chance to congratulate him on the 30 year anniversary of the hit he co-wrote, “It’s Raining Men,” which the show was celebrating that evening.

Letterman

Inc. Magazine: How to Use Humor in Advertising


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IncMag_HumorCover

Lou Dubois and I first crossed paths and the IMS10 and again at BrandsConf, and continued our discussion about corporate comedy in social media for his Inc. Magazine article.   Check it out.

WebProNews: Adding Humor to Social Media Marketing


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Mike McDonald of WebProNews asked a few questions at the Inbound Marketing Summit about our approach of using humor in social media.  I also shared a few examples of a recent travel series we did.

webpronews

RIP Greg Giraldo


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greg_giraldo

I first met Greg Giraldo when I was just starting out in stand-up, and was so impressed by how gracious and encouraging he was.  He’s been one of my favorite comedians, and I had always planned to reverse engineer his first Comedy Central Presents show — it was technically perfect.  Oh, and hilarious.  (and not as angry as his more recent work.)

What I also loved about this guy is that even though he nailed a near perfect score on the LSAT and a cush job with a swanky NYC law firm, after his first stand-up performance, he quit his job the following day to pursue what he loved.  RIP brother.

Greg Giraldo – Homeless Guy
comedians.comedycentral.com

VisibleGains B2B Video Roundtable


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Ames Pond Cisco office, Tewksbury, MA

I spent some time this week at our Tewksbury, MA office  meeting our mobile networking team, headed up by Ash Dahod, recently profiled in the Boston Globe. What a fun group.  I filmed an into for a video travel blog we’ll be producing when one of my colleagues Angela Singhal-Whiteford treks to Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai and Delhi to visit with customers.

David Meerman Scott invited me to speak Friday afternoon at the VisibleGains B2B video roundtable, along with Steve Garfield and others.   I shared a funny video and talked about some of the interesting things we’re doing with video, including the upcoming Doobie Brothers Cisco TelePresence event.

Update:  Here’s a comprehensive review of the Doobie Brothers concert from Howard Lichtman.