Shift Perspectives

Event poster featuring Pax dressed as a jester, promoting a themed performance

No Laughing Matter

Feb 8, 2019

  • By Moe Poirier and

Facilitation can be serious business. Sometimes, too serious.

Scientific research has proven that having fun increases learning effectiveness and memory retention. Yet, our research shows that, of The Five Personas™ of facilitation — Sensei, Superhero, Confidant, Drill Sergeant and Jester — the one that shows up least in facilitators is the Jester.

50% of facilitators that have completed The Five Personas Benchmark™ tool have scored lowest on the Jester.

Let’s explore the importance of the Jester, the reasons for the Jester’s under-representation and what can be done to coax your inner Jester out.

Simply put, the Jester is the persona that brings the fun. In medieval times, not merely an entertainer, the jester had the power to challenge those in authority with impunity.

A facilitator with a high Jester score injects humour, spontaneity and playfulness into every learning environment. And, when appropriate, challenges accepted norms and practices.

The Jester takes risks by going off script or experimenting with novel approaches to teaching content and leading activities. By example, the Jester encourages participants to let their guard down and not take themselves too seriously.

So, why is it that so few people are scoring high as a Jester?

In our workshops, facilitators consistently identify three key areas of concern preventing them from harnessing their inner Jester:

  1.   Loss of Credibility
    The most common concern expressed is that, by injecting humour into a learning session, the facilitator may be viewed as immature or unprofessional.
  2.   Distraction from Objectives
    Many facilitators worry that spontaneity or going off script will waste time, cause the lesson to go off track, or risk not meeting the learning objectives.
  3.   Fear
    Finally, there are facilitators who are just downright scared to bring out the Jester. They’re afraid they might come across as disrespectful, offensive, or just plain unfunny. Some admit that they’re inclined to be serious, and don’t believe they have a strong sense of humour.

What can be done to inject a little Jester without looking the fool?

The essence of the Jester is playfulness; it’s not about being intrinsically funny or telling jokes.

Ideally, everyone would take a course in improvisation skills and master the art of spontaneity. But, realistically, there are smaller, more easily achievable steps that can be taken to channel the Jester.

  • Let your guard down a little
  • Tell a humbling story about yourself
  • Plan where you can encourage participants to play

And if you still have concerns about the way you’ll come across, run your material by someone you trust in advance of the session.

Experiment with something new.

  • Mix up groups
  • Add a new twist to an activity
  • Make some room for a little spontaneity

Don’t abandon the script altogether; you can still ensure learning objectives are met.

Tapping into your inner Jester, using humour to engage and challenge, is essential to masterful facilitation. Seriously!

About The Authors:
  • Moe Poirier is the Founding Partner of Shift Facilitation. For over 15 years, he has honed his craft as a facilitator and a designer of training. He is on a mission to have corporate trainers reinvent themselves as change agents and value creators for the people and organizations they serve.