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3 posts categorized "Presenting Smartly"

May 08, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part three

Here’s another lesson about delivering standout presentations from stand-up comics as first seen in HBO’s TALKING FUNNY television show.

Highly successful presenters, like highly successful comics, deeply understand how to affect an audience. The more successful a presenter becomes, they more they know how to say the right things in the right ways to make a connection with their audience.

I’ve seen some very polished presenters make a connection with their audience but the presenter isn’t connected to their own material. In other words, the presenter doesn’t believe in their material but because they understand how to tell a story on-stage, the audience is still affected in a positive way.

These polished presenters make a fabulous living. Give them a topic. Give them stage time. Give them an audience. And, watch them go. They are highly skilled and highly compensated communicators. But have they lost something?

Ricky Gervais touched upon this issue in TALKING FUNNY when he shared, “It’s not just being funny. It’s being proud of your stuff and doing things that other people couldn’t do.


For presenters, it’s important to be proud of your material. It’s also important to craft your presentation point-of-view that is distinctly you. But it’s most important for you, as a presenter, to speak on topics you are uniquely qualified to talk about.

If you aren’t uniquely qualified to talk about a topic, I urge you to refer someone you know who is qualified to talk about that topic.

From time to time I get asked to give a presentation on an issue/subject I’m not passionate about. These are topics that aren’t important to me but they are important to someone else. Thus, I refer someone who is proud of their unique point-of-view on a topic and who can deliver a killer presentation.

You might be able to positively affect an audience talking about something that isn’t important to you. However, I’m certain someone else you know would be better suited to give that presentation. Consider spreading some love and refer someone you know who could deliver a standout presentation on a topic you aren’t passionate about.

May 02, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part two

We continue sharing presentation lessons from comedians. These lessons were discussed during HBO’s TALKING FUNNY roundtable conversation between master comics Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.


To develop his comedy act, Louis CK would, “Take my closing bit and open with it. Because then I had to follow my strongest bit.”

That’s smart advice for anyone presenting anything. If you’re giving a presentation, lead with your best material. If you’re pitching a client, lead with your best work and best rationale. If you’re debating someone, lead with your best argument.

By leading with your best material, you will challenge yourself to make sure the rest of your presentation can compare to your strong opening. If the rest of your material can’t compare to your opening bit, then you need to rework and rethink your presentation points.

I can relate to this advice. For my Bigness of Smallness presentation, I lead with my best stuff. Early on, I struggled to make sure everything else that followed my opener was strong enough to keep the audience’s attention. After a few years and continuous honing, my follow-up material has become strong enough to work alongside my opening bit.

Back to conversation from TALKING FUNNY... when Louis C.K. told the others he developed his act by moving his strong close to the opener in order to challenge himself, Jerry Seinfeld said, “You see, that’s how he got good.”

You wanna get good at presenting just like Louis C.K. got good at stand-up comedy?

Try opening with your strongest material and then challenge yourself to develop material worthy of following your great opening bit.

April 26, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part one

Presenters can learn a lot from comedians on developing a better act. The process in how a presenter crafts, develops, and delivers a presentation is much the same in how a comedian puts together their act.

Presenters and comedians have much in common.

Presenters, like comedians, must share a unique point-of-view. Presenters must also share their unique point-of-view in a smart way, just as comedians must do. Good presenters and good comedians utilize the power of timing and pauses in their delivery. The very best presenters and comedians go the extra mile by managing to give the illusion of their on-stage performance being a dialogue and not a monologue.

Last fall I delivered a presentation sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned from comedians to hone my act. I put the slides up (without narration but with stand-up clips) as an online video. You can watch it here or click play below.

I’m always on the lookout for more lessons from comedians to help me improve as a presenter. HBO recently aired a program called, TALKING FUNNY. It’s a roundtable discussion between master comics Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.

It’s brilliant. It’s a must watch for anyone in the presentation game.

These comics address so many issues presenters deal with in developing an act, relating to the audience, and finding the funny. Or in our case, finding the pithy, poignant takeaways for attendees to be influenced and inspired by.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some of the many smart comedy lessons discussed in TALKING FUNNY. I’ll help to translate the comedy lessons into practical presentation lessons.

For example, there’s a discussion between these master comics about how long should a comedian keep the same material in their act. We presenters face the same issue... how long should we continue using the same slides with the same takeaways?

Chris Rock and Louis C.K. throw away their act every year. Meaning, they start from scratch every year and develop an entirely new act.

Jerry Seinfeld takes a different approach. He evolves his act over a long period of time. Jerry knows the first month he starts telling a joke it’s not going to go over as well as it will six months later, when he’s practiced and refined the bit.

In explaining his approach to crafting his act, Jerry relates it to a people management philosophy from legendary ceo Jack Welch: “I like to keep evolving … like how Jack Welch ran GE. Every year he would fire the bottom 10-percent. That’s the way I do it.


Yes, you read that right.

Jerry Seinfeld applies the Jack Welch 20/70/10 rule to his comedy act. Makes complete sense. Keep the great jokes (the 20%). Continue working on the average stuff (70%) until they become great jokes. And dump the bad jokes (10%) that have no potential to become great jokes.

Turns out, I’ve been using the 20/70/10 rule with crafting my presentations. 20% of my act is proven evergreen material. 70% of my presentations use newer examples with less practiced material. Some of that will become proven, evergreen material and some of it will be destined for the dumpster. And yes, 10% of my presentation material should be put in the dumpster today.

The point is, like Jerry, I cycle through my material. All of us presenters should cycle through our material. Some of us will be more like Chris Rock and Louis C.K. and start from scratch after cycling through all our material within a year. Others of us will be more like Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais and cycle through all our presentation material after a few years.

Expect more “Presently Smartly” lessons on the Brand Autopsy blog from HBO’s TALKING FUNNY roundtable discussion with master comics.