Peter McGraw

Speech Topics

Humor is a powerful and effective tool for leaders. Of course, the world’s best leaders may not be comedians, but they regularly use jokes, witticisms, and amusing anecdotes as tools to inspire, innovate, and live a more enjoyable life.

In his keynote presentations, PETER MCGRAW, draws on case studies and cutting-edge behavioral research, to discuss how effective leaders use humor to gather feedback, communicate ideas, deflect criticism, foster creativity, lead change, build brands, and strengthen workplace culture.

Work does not have to be the opposite of play. Drawing on case studies and cutting-edge behavioral research, Dr. McGraw discusses how you don’t have to be a comedian to use humor to benefit your professional endeavors. Discover the various ways that humor strengthens workplace culture, improves sales and branding, enhances leadership, and fosters innovation and problem solving. You will also learn the common mistakes of using humor in a business setting.


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Peter McGraw is not your typical professor. Though he possesses the pedigree of a serious academic, he has an adventurous side that is evident in his approach to scholarship and life.  Dr. McGraw, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is an expert in the interdisciplinary fields of emotion and behavioral economics. His research examines the interrelationship of judgment, emotion, and choice, with a focus on consumer behavior and public policy — ranging from how the government is botching anti-terror policy to why couples overspend on their nuptials.

And now, with his attention directed towards the question of what makes things funny, he is becoming a leading force in moving the study of humor from the niche to the mainstream. The advantage that McGraw has over his predecessors is his ability to conduct state-of-the-art experiments with the help of the team he directs at the Humor Research Lab (HuRL), a laboratory dedicated to the experimental study of humor, its antecedents and consequences.

McGraw holds appointments in marketing at the Leeds School of Business and in social psychology in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He received a B.A. in psychology and M.Ed. in educational psychology from Rutgers University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from The Ohio State University. His post-doctoral training was conducted at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He teaches courses in decision making, consumer behavior, and advertising.

McGraw is willing to leave the ivory tower to delve more deeply into research questions – whether trying his hand at stand-up at a dive bar, attending a funeral director convention, posing as a shopper at a gun show, or singing hymns at a Fundamentalist Baptist church. He blogs regularly about the policy and consumer implications of judgment, emotion, and choice research. His work has been covered by NPR, the BBC, Nightline, Scientific American, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Financial Times.

With journalist Joel Warner, he has co-authored The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.


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