Presenting your swagger and jokes

Have you ever been to a presentation and thought this is awesome content but the speaker is so boring or monotone I can’t pay attention. So you end up looking up the subject of the presentation on your phone, tablet or laptop and researching it, then ask the SME questions when they finish their spiel?

As bad as I feel about it I will admit it happens to me more often than it should. Partly because I have a very small attention span, and partly because I prefer things to move fast (East Coast kid). Recently I sat through a very cool presentation, at least the subject was cool but it got me thinking what makes a good presentation? So let’s tackle a super subjective subject.


Yeah this is really my dad and I

When I did my first presentation a long time ago, I was counseled that presentations are all about the presenter, their style and the audience to which they are presenting. I thought sure that makes sense, my dad was a Chief in the Navy and he told me the Chief philosophy of presenting which goes like this:

Step 1 tell them what you are going to tell them

Step 2 tell them

Step 3 tell them what you told them

While this process works it’s more of a framework than a delivery style. You still need to bring your own flavor to make the presentation a success. I have been through a couple of speaker trainings as well and each say the same thing:

Be concise

Speak Clearly

Use body language to your advantage

Don’t read the slides talk to them

Tell a story

It’s the last point that is really the most important, when you present you need to build a story, your presentation needs to have a beginning, middle and for your audiences sake an end. That end most likely needs a “call to action”, which is marketing speak for telling your audience what they should do next based on the information you just provided them.

The infamous Fred Nix tells all EMC new hires to “transfer their enthusiasm into other”. Which means you have to be enthusiastic about the subject that you are presenting. How do you do that if you really don’t care about what you are about to present? The answer is, think of a story from your life that relates to the subject and then built that story into your presentation.

Once you are comfortable with telling the story, and wrapping that around the subject you are presenting on you can really start to have fun with it. Come up with themes, maybe it’s your favorite movie or a random meme, and build the deck around that and then connect with the subject through creative ways. This will increase your connection even further and will draw the audience in even more.

Lastly let’s address knowing your audience; I have spoken in front of some very serious individuals. In my less experienced years I would curtail my style to be more business like and eliminate my sarcastic and joking nature. The result was uncomfortable presentations with awkward pauses as I regrouped to answer questions. Now I have realized a universal truth, which is everyone likes to laugh, and I deal with stress through jokes. I would say making jokes or self-deprecating humor are key strengths for me while presenting. That may not be everyone’s forte, so figure out what works for you through trial and error. If you do choose to go the joke route, be sure that you don’t go too far. Remember office humor can be funny but don’t be the one who gets escorted out of the Christmas party funny, and make fun of yourself but not to the point where you lose credibility.

Presenting is just talking and it it can be a lot of fun. I hope this helps someone who has been struggling find their voice and style. Good luck and I would love to hear how you present and what your style is?