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Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Comedians

April 02, 2014
I haven't gone to a comedy club in at least five years, but that changed this past weekend. I went to the Acme Comedy Club in the North Loop and over the course of 90 minutes watched four different comedians perform. 

As I was thinking about what I should write about for this blog post, it came to me: What can entrepreneurs learn from comedians? As one of the comedians noted, most people's greatest fear is public speaking—and what do comedians do for a living? They speak in front of a group of strangers, and even worse, they try to make them laugh. Some would rather walk barefoot on hot burning coal, eat a live millipede, or sky dive before they would speak in front of a group of strangers. So, there must be something we (entrepreneurs) can learn from comedians…right?

Here are a few lessons entrepreneurs can learn from comedians:

1. Be bold. Comedians must go big or go home. They must own their jokes and deliver them without hesitation. Entrepreneurs must be the same way about their businesses. Live and breathe your business. If you don't believe and put everything you have into your business, no one else will.

2. Practice your pitch. Comedians practice their jokes several times over. They practice delivering them in front of friends, other comedians, and audiences until they have perfected the timing, tone, and delivery of the joke. It's important for entrepreneurs to perfect their pitch as well. Deliver your story in a simple and confident manner. Know the ins and outs of your company and be prepared to answer any question.

3. If something doesn't go over well, acknowledge it and move on. If a joke doesn't go over well, comedians acknowledge that fact to the crowd (avoiding the awkward silence in the room) and move on to another joke. Similarly, if a product or service isn't received well in the market, identify the issue and fix it. There's no benefit to you or your investors denying its existence. 

4. When something does go well, milk it for all its worth. You may not think that catheters are a humorous topic, but one comedian I saw last weekend literally spent over ten minutes on catheter jokes. The first couple of catheter jokes were a hit with the audience and he just kept going, until he ran out of catheter-related jokes. As an entrepreneur, if your product or service takes off, figure out how you can capitalize on that success.

5. Be thankful. After performing, comedians always thank the audience. Similarly, entrepreneurs must value their customers. If you don't have customers, you don't have a business. Listen to and appreciate the people that keep your business alive.

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