Presenting your audience with an appropriate level of cognitive challenge seems like a basic component of a good speech or workshop. If you are “over their heads,” you have missed the mark and probably lost a portion of your participants.

As I’ve reflected on a recent presentation, I began to wonder if I might have been “over their hearts.” Is it possible to have too positive of a mood or too much of an affective challenge? The group members were largely individuals suffering from a disease and their caregivers. I was the closing keynote in a day primarily filled with medical education. The room felt somber to me when I entered.

Was it, perhaps, too much to ask these folks to consider the benefits of laughter and humour and to have them engage in a session of laughter yoga?

Certainly some groups are more responsive than others. Earlier in the week, I did the same session for half of an organization in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. The organizers and I shared the assessment that the two groups had different levels of engagement and energy. It happens.

Yet, I wonder if I might have better met the group where they were if I had talked more about the hardships they endure and then explored some coping strategies and more mild approaches to attitude adjustment. Yes, I’ve seen quite a range of liveliness in hundreds of sessions, but this one left me in an inquiry that had not previously seemed warranted. Although people laughed and seemed to get something out of it, I may have pitched too high. Your thoughts?

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