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The Humor Appeal: 3 Tips On Using Humor To Engage Learners

Jit Hin
October 25, 2021

| The Use of Humor in Learning

Humor has a powerful effect on people and is undoubtedly a great way to engage audiences, no matter the subject. There is just something incredibly sticky about things that are amusing, comical, and unexpected! In the realm of education, humor has proven to be an effective tool for instructors to grab attention, explain concepts, and help learners retain information for longer periods. One awesome example to illustrate the effective use of humor in learning experiences comes from the unlikeliest of sources - in-flight safety videos!

If you think about it, we can draw parallels between the ritual of going through safety instructions onboard and the classic classroom experience we are all too familiar with. In both cases, the audiences are confined to seats, asked to behave, and instructed to pay good attention to ‘must-know’ knowledge. And at the end of it, we see a similar result - a few nodding approvingly, the rest nodding off.

However, in recent years, the genre of in-flight safety videos has gone through a successful revitalization! Airlines have chosen to imbue humor into the delivery of their safety instructions, and this has thoroughly transformed their passengers’ learning experience. Here's how different safety videos have gotten:

Gone are the days when passengers had to be put through corporate-style instructional videos that were as exciting as the wait for luggage at the wrong baggage carousel. Now, airline companies are getting increasingly creative and are making humorous safety videos to delight, engage, and entertain! Check out some of my favorites here:

| Why Humor Works

When we examine the evolution of in-flight safety videos, it is easy to see why the modern ones took off - the use of humor has helped to humanize a serious topic and breathe life into a traditionally dull/dry experience. More importantly, by being entertained, the audience is able to associate positive emotions with the learning experience which naturally leads to increased interest and attention. That said, we highly encourage you to draw inspiration from how airlines are jazzing up their safety videos and think about how you can leverage the power of humor in your work.

Ultimately, the use of humor in your Gnowbe program doesn’t require you to develop a whole stand-up routine out of your course materials. Instead, the idea is to carefully weave amusing and light-hearted moments within the learning experience to delight and engage. Do this well, and your learners will love you for it!

| Three Tips on Using Humor to Engage

1. Use a conversational tone

Write as if you are speaking to your learners. Use a style that echos natural speech to appear more personable and remind learners that there are people, not robots, behind the design of their programs. Using a conversational tone also allows you to infuse your personality into your writing, and this makes it more natural for you to work in quips or jokes to engage learners. If you are grappling with writer’s block and fighting to come up with something witty, know that it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a pun(ch) or two!

Example of using a conversational tone.

2. Employ different mediums to deliver humor

Find opportunities to include interesting stories/anecdotes, witty quotes, or funny videos as a means of injecting humor into your program. After all, it is much easier to be funny over a story/video than, say, over instructions on how to calculate the mass of the nearest black hole. However, keep in mind to share humor that is relevant to the subject matter. Irrelevant humor will only serve to make learners feel like they have wasted their time.

Example of using different mediums to deliver humor.

3. Use animated GIFs

GIFs are vivid, eye-catching visual assets that can help bring life to your content. Consider adding funny GIFs to your program to add a pop of humor and provide that bit of comic relief to the learning experience. Sites like GIPHY, Tenor, and Imgur are the perfect hunting grounds for funny GIFs, so take some time to explore these resources and have fun picking out GIFs for your next program!

Examples of using GIFs in a program.

Humor is indeed the secret sauce to creating enjoyable and engaging programs. Although it is a powerful tool in a curator’s arsenal, use it wisely and sparingly, lest it becomes a weapon of mass distraction. Remember also to use humor that is positive, appropriate, and relevant - keep these in mind and you’re good to go!

So here's my challenge to you: Soak in the tips we have shared today and try injecting that dash of light-heartedness in your next Gnowbe programs. Have fun!

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