Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee


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!

HuffPost:  Top Business Speakers to See in 2018

HuffPost: Top Business Speakers to See in 2018

Keynote Speakers

I’ve finally earned recognition as a subject matter expert in nonsense.

HuffPost published its list of Top Business Speakers To Hire And See In 2018.   If there’s one thing we can be certain of this year, the current global economic environment will drive the need for more laughter, especially at marketing conferences and corporate events.  Lucky number seven.

On the list is my buddy Andrew Davis who holds a top 20 spot on Meetings & Conventions Magazine‘s List of Favorite Speakers, ranking just below President Bill Clinton and Anderson Cooper (*recount pending).  And CEO of Marketing Insider Group Michael Brenner, who was named a top CMO Influencer by Forbes Magazine.

It’s going to be a fun year for comedy and marketing.

HuffPo logo

Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken


Tony Hale asked me to moderate his interview on Apple TV’s “Meet the Filmmaker.”   Here’s some of the wisdom he shared (not all of this made the final cut of the show.)

Gracious Leaders Inspire Creativity

Armando Iannucci, creator of HBO’s Veep, built a brilliant team of genuinely friendly and supportive people, which gives the cast a great deal of freedom.  The actors don’t need to be cautious to tiptoe around egos.  This fosters a fun, relaxed environment that encourages risk-taking.

I would imagine that kind-hearted actors are also required for the show, since much of the comedy comes from hilarious, caustic insults, certainly to be true to life inside the beltway.  One of the first audience questions was “What’s your favorite Jonah insult?”  Turns out it’s a barb from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, speaking to Matt Walsh about Timothy Simon’s character: “You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?” Critics agree — that berating ranked #3 on Hollywood.com’s list.  If you’re still considering your favorites, reference the research from the Chicago Tribune and Rolling Stone (headphones are suggested for this video).

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Early in his career, Tony was acting in plays and  TV commercials in NYC as he focused on his dream of working on a sitcom.   After he finally landed the role, he realized it didn’t offer the satisfaction he had anticipated, and later reflected that there was no way the experience could ever live up to the expectations he had imagined.  He had missed out on being in-the-moment and truly enjoying some of his earlier experiences.  This lesson of contentment inspired him to write a children’s book, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.

Follow the Fear

Tony shared insight into some of the scary moments in his life.  One was on the morning of the 2013 Emmy awards, when  Julia Louis-Dreyfus called him with an idea for a comedy bit to use in an acceptance speech.  A last minute, unrehearsed live routine in front of 18 million people — what’s scary about that?

The other fear that controls Tony’s life:  Claire Underwood.  BuzzFeed documented the brutal Twitter threat-down.


Watch our discussion on Apple TV or download via iTunes “Meet the Filmmaker” episode 25.  https://itun.es/i66n8RD

For more on the poultry theme, watch Tony as the mustachioed video store owner-turned detective and Andy Richter sidekick in one of the best ever TV comedy episodes in the history of the world.  Andy Barker P.I., produced by Conan O’Brien.  “Three Days of the Chicken, available on Hulu+, Amazon or iTunes.

Andy Barker P.I.

Catch Veep on HBO, Sundays at 10:30 PM ET.

UPDATE:  Tony Hale on The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable

, on being content where you are.



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.

On The Hill with Conan O’Brien

The last time I was inside the Beltway with Conan O’Brien was during the Judge Alito confirmation hearings.

But we were both in Washington D.C. Saturday night, although he had a slightly bigger gig. I was emceeing an event for 750 Christian Wall Street bankers (not an oxymoron) at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel where the first inaugural ball of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was held in 1933.  The hotel has made a few updates since then.  Conan was one mile away at the Hilton, hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner.

A highlight was the “House of Cards” mock video, which gave NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg the funniest line.

I’m looking forward to heading back next week to emcee Whats Next DC event, and speak about using humor and storytelling in corporate social media.

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.

The Inklings

While sitting at this table 70 years ago at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England, C.S. Lewis encouraged a reluctant young writer to publish the work he shared with the small group of friends, The Inklings.  

That young writer was J.R.R. Tolkien and the unfinished story he shared was “Lord of the Rings.”   I’m guessing Lewis had no idea the film trilogy would go on to earn 30 Oscar nominations and $2.9 billion worldwide at the box office — he probably just thought it was a neat story.

We’re studying The Inklings at Wedgwood Circle,  a group committed advancing the good, true and beautiful in arts and entertainment.  I emceed our conference at Shutters in Santa Monica, where we got a peak into some behind-the-scenes stories:  Sean Astin on making Tolkien’s film (and The Goonies), Michael Flaherty of Walden Media on the Chronicles of Narnia, and Kiel Murray & Phil Lorin on Cars and their short film Kilo.


It inspired me to work harder to try to create more of the good, true, beautiful and ridiculous.