Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee


corporate comedy
Shakespeare’s First Job in  Corporate Communications

Shakespeare’s First Job in Corporate Communications

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.


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!

Ex-SNL Writer Reveals How to Improve Storytelling

Ex-SNL Writer Reveals How to Improve Storytelling

Juxtaposition is a simple technique that comedy writers employ when they’re wrestling with the blank page.   I had a fun visit with Marcia Riefer Johnston at the Content Marketing Institute about how marketers can use this approach to quickly generate a bunch of ideas.

comedy hacks to improve storytelling

Improv Exercise

We did a fun improv exercise at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego during my creative writing session.  I asked the audience for two suggestions, and they offered “circus” and “bacon.”  Together we applied the juxtaposition technique to inspire new ideas.  We discovered a few new patterns that led to a video concept, and a completed script.   And only seven minutes earlier, we had nothing but a blank page.

It’s not only the folks in corporate communications and marketing that are tasked with sharpening their storytelling chops.  Being able to communicate and persuade through story has become more of a critical skill set for all career paths.   By spending five minutes a day with this exercise, anyone can become much more creative and sharpen their writing skills.  If you don’t have access to an audience of 200 people to offer suggestions, try a random word generator.

Read the article here.

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

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


CMI:  Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

CMI: Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

Figures don’t lie.  Statics maybe, but not figures. 

Part of producing a corporate comedy video for YouTube, Facebook, etc, is the approval process.  I’ll often face the objection, supported by research, from a committee member arguing that not everyone will appreciate the humor.  Possibly a small business owner in Burma.  ‘Our content needs to be global.’

So, I’ve conducted my own research as a rebuttal.  See figure 1.

I shared a bit more about the process of using comedy principles with the Content Marketing Institute.  Read the article here, and join us at CMWorld in Cleveland this September.

The Work Talk Show:  Humor at Work and Being Unqualified

The Work Talk Show: Humor at Work and Being Unqualified

As with most worthwhile projects I stumble into, when DJ Waldow and Nick Westergaard invited me to be on The Work Talk Show, I felt unqualified.  But I said yes anyway.   To avoid sounding unqualified, I scrambled to come up with anything that sounded like a step or a process or an iPad app that I use to get work done, but we never really got around to those bullet points.  Like a good improv show, we started out with a little structure, and found ourselves on a much more fascinating path.

The Work Talk Show

I confessed to the hosts that I have no idea how I get work done, and it seems like most of the time I am not getting work done.  My projects usually start with a request like, “Hey, can you produce a funny YouTube video to amplify our marketing message for the upcoming product launch?”  I’ll say yes, then block off the next 4 -5 hours to feel unqualified.  Day 2 in the project schedule is usually dedicated to self-loathing, and by EOD, I’ve concluded I shouldn’t even be in corporate comedy and should apply for a lateral move into Accounts Payable or Procurement. The following morning I’ll stop at a coffee shop and write the script in seven minutes on a napkin and ATM receipts.  And the video comes out okay.

But instead of discussing work process on this show, we discussed how more comedy and humor in the workplace can improve creativity, productivity, and make us all taller.  And, as with all business podcasts, we covered Del Close and  The Harold.

I’m only just not coming to peace with this way of working.  And I was comforted after listening to the first Work Talk Show episode of this year.   Seth Godin proclaimed that the industrial economy has been replaced by the Connection Economy, which rewards surprise, grit, delight and ridiculousness.   What we get paid for now is by standing for something, and by overcoming the fear of being remarkable and ridiculous.

Being ridiculous?  Now that is something I’m qualified for.

WhatsNextDC: 4 Concepts for Producing Award-Winning Video on a Grad Student Budget

As part of the WhatsNextDC keynote this week, I shared a few simple and inexpensive approaches on how to produce corporate videos for YouTube:  Humor, cinematography, information and history/documentary.   Here’s the slide deck (with a bunch of extra text added).  It includes a few examples from an IBM smarter planet animation that was part of the PRSA Silver Anvil award-winning campaign, a comedy voted “Staff Favorite” in Comedy Central’s “Test Pilots” contest, and a 2013 Webby Honoree.

I’ll update this later today with a few photos, tweets.  It was a blast to emcee.  Thank you, Tod Plotkin and all the folks at Green Buzz Agency for producing an outstanding social media conference.

ROI on Humor in Social Marketing



I’m often asked what is the value of using humor in social media and marketing efforts.  While I can’t always make the case that a :60 YouTube comedy is going to inspire an impulsive purchase of a $100,000 piece of hardware, comedy helps corporate videos stand out and be remembered among the clutter.  NBC News reports that 72 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, so it is becoming more and more difficult to get noticed.

Today, at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference at the New York Times Center, Michael Brenner, Forbes blogger and SAP vice president of marketing, included our valentines video as a case study.

The spot, while completely absurd and ridiculous, helped us amplify an important marketing message during a product launch over three years ago.  It earned press coverage in The New York Times, NetworkWorld and other trade magazines; and David Meerman Scott referenced it as a best practice example in his bestselling book Real-Time Marketing & PR.

And here we are, more than three years later, and it’s being presented to a group of B2B marketers and influencers, and the social buzz continues from some of B2B’s top influencers, including Ann Handley, Margaret Molloy and Marissa Pick.

I don’t think Michael Brenner sold any routers for us today, although if he did, I’m sure he’ll DM me about his commission check.






Marketing Over Coffee

John Wall and Christopher Penn produce a brilliant podcast called Marketing Over Coffee, and I joined for the Thanksgiving holiday special.  Their series is one of the best ways to stay current on the wonderful world of social media marketing and tools.  It’s loaded with excellent tips that can improve your success in social business, although not this week.   We talked more about producing content and some approaches to using comedy in B2B social; as well as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and upcoming BlogWorld in Las Vegas.


Subscribe in iTunes, or listen here.

Portlandia — The Social Media Explore Tour

Cancel your plans for Nov 14-15 and catch the Greyhound to Portlandia.   Jason Falls and the Social Media Explorer crew make their next tour stop in the City of Roses.  I learned so much from the event in Orange County last week, and met some great folks, including OakMonster, who cracked me up with this image:


This doctrine has defined my success as a communicator.

Falls’ event also taught me a few things about what to look for when choosing a conference speakers who have deep domain expertise in marketing and social media, and are also entertaining and inspirational.  Here are a few presenter characteristics:

1) Numbers guy. Larry Rosin clearly has a passion for standard deviations, and he combed through the pie charts in an entertaining fashion.  He told us that political campaign yard signs have a surprising influence on voters.  Uh-oh.  Larry also revealed that the stories we hear about the death of Facebook come from traditional media — there are no data to support this claim.  As I’ve often said, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.   I’d recommend looking through the Social Habit Report.

2) Vulnerability. While most of the presentations will change how I conduct my business, Courtney Seiter’s opening will change how I conduct my life.  She opened with quotes about a friend who passed away recently.  At the memorial service, everyone was reflecting what a good, guine listener her friend had been, and how he asked questions.  “It’s amazing to see the effect that someone paying attention to other people can have.”   It was a moving way to begin her presentation, The art of being interested.   She went on to walk us through a vast array of tools, demonstrating how we can show our interest in people on social media.

The art of being interested
Courtney Seiter

3) Knowledge of Market Trends.  Tim Hayden‘s presentation, “All of Your Marketing is Mobile, You Just Don’t Know It” was full of actionable ideas that I’ve already started implemented.

4) Good Teacher. What is truly remarkable about Marcus Sheridan was simplicity in which he lays out an inbound marketing / social media plan that anyone can implement.  In short, quit talking about yourself and become a good teacher.  Use your blog to answer the questions your prospective customers have.  His free e-book shares all the detail.

With this caliber of speakers, keynote Scott Stratten, fun locals like Babcock Jenkins’ Carmen Hill and Voodoo Doughnuts, you can’t miss Portland.  Register here.

Comedy at the B2B Forum

Edgar Rolando Diaz Emes was the first to reply when I was looking for help to film a telecom exec in Latin America. He works for Telefonica Moviles in Guatemala, so I figured he’d have some tips. He responded even faster than my former college roommate, maybe because I don’t owe him for a semester’s worth of cable bills.


Edgar helped me as if we were longtime buddies, although I had only talked with him briefly at a MarketingProfs event. But that’s the kind of immediate camaraderie you fall into with this group. Possibly because it’s helmed by Ann Handley, known in the industry as the “Brad Pitt of B2B Social Media.” She and her crew share a contagious spirit of fun and encouragement, along with a profound knowledge of social business.

The presentations are some of the most practical and useful I’ve seen at any conference. Think of it as SXSW without the tacos. It’s clear from the speakers that their intent is to authentically share “here’s what worked, here’s what failed, and here’s what we’ll try next time.” As part of a case study panel,  Elbert Lin discussed Boeing’s Design Your Own Dreamliner app,  Michael Brenner gave the backstory on SAP’s Business Innovation blog,  I talked about how we produced a B2B documentary on a shoestring budget; and offered a few ideas on how to find a storyline and produce it inexpensively. And then we had a little more fun in the closing session. [see video]

If your life involves creating content or storytelling in B2B or even B2C, you should join us in Boston, Oct 3-5, for the B2B Forum. It will be a fun and inspirational time — the opening keynote is Baratunde Thurston, former director of digital at The Onion. You’ll leave with a list of brilliant yet simple ideas you can start to implement the following week, and a dozen new friends who will support your social marketing projects and reply to you faster than your jaded college roommate.