Inspiration/entertainment – the Billy Connelly effect?

I spoke to SQH candidates on Friday afternoon.  The theme was Leading and Managing Learning and Teaching. 

I’ve been leading this particular theme for the last three years and the feedback has always been very generous. Some recurring comments are that people often describe my session as “inspirational” and “entertaining”.  I know I should be very flattered by such praise but I can’t help thinking back to something that John Connell told me recently about one of Billy Connelly’s concerts. 

Billy Connelly was telling the audience – in his own inimitable fashion – that they would leave the theatre that night and go home.  The next day someone would ask them if they had enjoyed the night – to which they would reply that they hade been laughing continuously for 2 hours. The questioner would then ask them what Billy had been saying – to which they replied that they couldn’t remember. In other words they had enjoyed the experience but it hadn’t left anything behind.

I sometimes worry that my presentation style, enthusiasm and passion for my work actually combine to interfere and compromise my central message of the necessity for cultural change.

Perhaps we only really take information seriously when it is delivered in a “serious” manner?

6 thoughts on “Inspiration/entertainment – the Billy Connelly effect?

  1. I’m not sure that people forget as much of Connolly’s routines as he imagines – even although he specialises in the kind of broken, non-linear narrative that would challenge the memory.

    If Professor V. S. Ramachandram was correct when he suggested in his 2003 Reith Lecture “The Emerging Mind” (
    Paragraphs 33-35) that laughter evolved as a way of reassuring our peers that, regardless of appearances, everything is alright, then I’d suggest that the presence of humour is a good thing in all but the most inappropriate situations – grief, danger, admonishment etc.

    Clive James in Visions Before Midnight goes so far as to suggest that the only discussion in which it is worth trying to be funny are serious ones.

    There is a tendency is many professions, especially education, for things to be overly earnest. This always comes across to me as a kind of insecurity. The inclusion of humour suggests to me that a speaker is confident about not only his/her grasp of the subject matter, but also of its worth.

  2. I think this message came across clearly in your presentation. Also unlike Billy Connolly you provided the group with a substantial handout to re-enforce your beliefs and a URL to your learning long. After a quick look at these resources I don’t think anyone would question your message. The buzz in the bar was very positive towards both yourself and your work.

  3. I was fortunate to listen to you on Friday afternoon and I did find it “entertaining” however here I am on Sunday afternoon after a very intense three days seeking more information about the initiatives etc that you were speaking about.

    (I had been on your learning log prior to our course and now realise the photograph that I saw was indeed Sir Lawrence Olivierand I thought it was you. I did wonder where you were when Dee said that you had just arrived and you were sitting up the back!)
    I have recently moved to Midlothian Council so I am interested in finding out what our neighbours are uo to.

  4. I was at Don’s talk and looked carefully beyond the humour for substance and then checked with colleagues too…yes much was taken in-faith in teachers was one comment another was yes, we must consider effective dialogue and action to ensure all teachers deserve that faith.

  5. Hello Don,

    I was there too, and resolved this problem by resolutely refusing to be entertained…

    Seriously, people will always retain and regurgitate presented content in different ways. It would be unusual for someone to be able to re-perform the whole of Billy’s routine, and similarly no one will be able to remember everything you covered without referring to notes.

    But ask anyone at Billy’s show to name their one favourite joke or routine and they’ll manage, though it won’t be the same as their friend’s. Ask anyone to name their favourite bit of your presentation and the result will be the same; everyone will have taken something away, chosen for its personal interest or relevance. Me, for starters, I have created a learning log 🙂

  6. Pingback: Don’s Learning Log » Blog Archive » Personality got in the way

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