As anyone who has worked in the field knows, ‘presentation skills’ is one of the most popular courses on the training calendar. I spent the best part of fifteen years as a training manager and sat through countless presentations of varying quality. Like all training managers I developed a way of giving gentle but constructive feedback. One phrase I often used was ‘don’t try to be funny unless you are’. This followed the delivery of a laboured joke by the presenter. My message here was that you should only try to use humour in a speech if you can make you colleagues laugh over the lunch table or in the pub. If you can’t do it there it won’t work in a more formal occasion.
The Labour Party today leaks like a sieve with warring factions briefing and counter-briefing friendly journalists. Amusing but damaging accounts of this year’s Staff Christmas drinks appeared throughout the press. The Times said that competing groups sat at different tables and avoided any communication, let alone fraternisation. The Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn arrived and his remarks included a joke about Enver Hoxha, the Albanian dictator who is believed to have imprisoned, tortured or executed at least 100,000 Albanians during his reign. Corbyn quoted Hoxha’s phrase that “this year will be tougher than last year”. According to the New Statesman “One staffer said that he was trying his best to speak to a room of people who he will never like or trust and who will never like or trust him. The remark is believed to have been in jest.”
I was a member of the North Islington Labour Party from 1972 to 1987. Jeremy Corbyn was selected as the Parliamentary candidate there in 1981 so I saw a great deal of him in action. He had no sense of humour and, as far as I could see, precious little hinterland. At his worst he came across across as a bit like Sofia Helin’s compelling portrayal of the obsessive detective Saga Norén in the brilliant Swedish TV thriller the Bridge: sincere, thorough and determined but totally lacking in empathy. Neither of them should try to tell jokes.