Quit Laughing, We’re Trying To Learn Here! Does Entertainment Belong In Training?

Sunday school is not supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be training. You aren’t supposed to like it. That’s what a family member said to me recently. And it left me scratching my head wondering who else feels that way? I’m not talking about faith– I’m talking about educating – and whether entertainment has a place in it.

As a motivational speaker, I often find clients picking between training and entertainment. We want half entertainment, and half training, they say. Again – I scratch my head. I guess because I know that you can deliver both at the same time. And not only that you can – but that you should. You can wrap content in entertainment. A good teacher will deliver the content in an entertaining way. There should be no distinction.

After all, what is entertainment? It’s simply the ability to entertain your audience – to connect, to engage, to keep their attention – to deliver an experience they will remember. In my opinion, that should be a key component to training. What good is your information if you can’t compel them to listen?

Yes, sometimes entertainment is delivered as just that – entertainment – with no other motive than to give folks a good time. And if your motive is to teach your audience something, then you are not going to look in the phone book under “clowns.” And, yes, chances are good that the magician you hired at your kid’s birthday party is not going to teach them to conjugate verbs at the same time. So sometimes entertainment exists without training. But training can not exist without entertainment. Especially in today’s world, where your audience is desperate for a connection, has a short attention span, and craves for your truth to be relevant to them.

There are some who say the world we live in is ruining people – forcing them to do several things at once – teaching them to receive information in short colorful and loud bursts of energy. Some could say it has made it much harder to teach people who can’t sit still for more than four minutes. Those people may be right – and they have a choice – to deliver their content the way they did fifty years ago and complain when people check out in the first thirty seconds – they can stand rigid in their desire to deliver forty-five minutes of information typed out on a PowerPoint and by golly, you will like it! – or adjust to fit the new needs of a new audience. The choice of how to deliver content is yours – how they receive it is theirs.

So, yeah, Sunday school training is serious business. That’s why I want my son to enjoy it – because it so important that he learn this. And if it’s fun then he’s engaged, he’s connected, he wants to stay, and he remembers what he has learned. Some people may see that as a problem. I see that as a reality.

So to answer my question – yes, entertainment belongs in training. If the truth is received and accepted, then I have no problem laughing to get there.


Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. Well, neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that any experience we have that is accompanied by strong emotions will be locked in to our memories forever! And when we are sitting in a room hearing information that is delivered in a boring, sleep-inducing manner, there is not much emotion to be had – except boredom maybe. No wonder I can’t remember that science table that has all the elements and their symbols. Heck, I can’t even remember the NAME of the danged thing.
    Give me Mr. Murphy’s class in 10oth grade Social Science class!!! Yes, funny, innovative Mr. Murphy who would whip out his guitar and play a song when he thought he was losing people. And did it work? Well, I don’t think there’s any mystery that I went on to get an undergraduate degree in Social Work.
    Good stuff, Kelly!

  2. So true Linda! The teachers that I remember and learned from the most, were the ones that did more than just relay information. I remember one teacher that made learning an absolute blast. But they let her go – apparently she was putting something extra in her coffee cup. Bummer. I liked her.

    And since you are just about the most entertaining motivational speaker I know – I am not surprised you agree that entertainment and training must exist in tandem.

    Thanks for posting!

  3. Although my mother taught first grade in inner-city Chicago, she truly was a motivational speaker who understood the value of making her lessons interactive and entertaining. Long before rap became hip, my mother had her classroom rapping the vowel sounds to music and beats. The students would jump to their feet when their letter showed up to sing, chant, rap the sounds to their own funky beat. Sure she won awards for her talent, but that’s not why she worked so hard to develop her curriculum. Mom’s true goal was to get those students to retain the information for their life success. She taught me a great lesson, and I do my best to bring it with me to the platform every time I’m given the opportunity to engage with my audiences.

  4. Thanks for the post Colette! As I sit here drinking my coffee, I am toasting all those teachers out there – that the world may never know – who work tirelessly to raise up the next generation. I have met sooooo many motivational speakers whose lives were changed because of a teacher.

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