Earlier this year, speakers capable of broadcasting laugh tracks were added to all of our meeting rooms. Implemented as part of our work-laugh program, it was anticipated that the laugh tracks would enhance meetings in the same well intended but misguided line of thinking that brought us clip art.
In theory, a proprietary algorithm analyzes the tone, pitch and cadence of the presenter and automatically selects an appropriate laugh track. In practice, the results have skewed more “WTF” than “LOL.”
Consider the case of Peter Stirewalt, a Customer Relations Manager. He had to fight to get through to his morning staff meeting last Thursday, struggling to be heard over the raucous canned laughs being pumped into the room. “We need some new paradigms, or our key demos are going to drop the dime, and call the ‘we don’t care’ police.” Peter looked around the table and let this sink in as the wave of faux-laughter crested and wild (pre-recorded) applause washed over the room.
The program has enjoyed limited success. At last week’s sexual harassment training, most everyone gathered agreed it was well timed when the laugh track kicked in at the precise moment a bullet point labeled “unsolicited erections” appeared on screen.