What do IÂ love about this clip? I love Ali’s facial intensity.Â Notice the animation.Â Â He’s not just reciting some speech.Â He’s trying to get you to understand it with his face. You can’t avoid paying attention to him because of the intensity that comes through in his eyes, and eyebrows, and smile.Â
That’s what the best speakers do. They show how they feel with their face. It’s a lesson we could all learn from Ali.
â€œI like to break the ice at the beginning of my speeches with a joke.â€
I hear that all the time. I don’t get it. How does a joke break the ice?Â Usually jokes thickenÂ the ice by wasting the audience’s time. The audience thinks, “Not another lame joke to start a presentation. Ugh.”
I have a pretty strict policy against using jokes to begin a presentation.Â But if you must use a joke, make sure it passes a three-prong test. The joke needs to be:
- Funny. This prong eliminates 95 percent of opening jokes.
- Relevant.Â Â Most opening jokes are “throwaways” that have nothing to do with the Â topic of the presentation and merely make the listeners wait an extra minute before you begin.
- Tasteful.Â Â The joke must not have a chance of offending a single person in the audience. Since nearly all the best jokes are offensive, few survive this prong.
I worked with an engineer who asked me if he could open with the following: â€œIâ€™m going to start by telling you what Elizabeth Taylor tells her husbands: â€œI wonâ€™t keep you long.â€â€ Â Â Â Â
Did the joke meet the three-prong test? No.
It’s not funny. I’ve tried it out several times and I’ve never gotten a laugh. Relevant? Not close. In the presentation, the engineer wanted to persuade the management of a major office building to reengineer the buildingâ€™s HVAC, and lighting system. Â
The joke is also marginally offensive. Â Divorce isn’t funny to a lot of people. And there might be some Elizabeth Taylor fans in the audience. Why risk offending anyone in your audience for an irrelevant, stupid joke?
At the start of your presentation, just get to the point. Skip the joke.
I searched YouTube for a good hour for a joke that wasn’t offensive and used no foul language. Here’s the best I could find.
I was conducting a presentation skills workshop for a large marketing agency recently when an accountÂ representative asked me the following question.Â
â€œWhen we’re getting ready for new business pitches, we often just don’t have time to rehearse. What can we do if we just don’t have time to practice?”Â
Now I understand that in business we’re all extremely busy. And I understand that finding time to rehearse a new business pitch is hard.Â
But here is what I told him.Â â€œI really donâ€™t have much sympathy for people who wonâ€™t rehearse for a new business pitch. If you don’t have time to rehearse, don’t expect to win.”
What if the Atlanta Falcons Quarterback said â€˜”We just don’t have time to prepare for next week’s game?”Â What if Jerry Seinfeld said, “I just didn’t have time to prepare for tonight’s performance?” What if your attorney told you that “I just just didn’t have time to prepare for today’s open argument?”
If you don’t have time to rehearse, I guess I understand. But know this. One of your competitors probably wants to win enough to practice really hard. And with that in mind, theyâ€™re probably going to win.
Because teams that rehearse more win more. It’s that simple.Â
I talk to decision makers all the time aboutÂ the new business pitches that they hear. They always tell me the same thing.Â â€œOne team came in and blew everyone else away. They were just so much smoother and better prepared than everyone else.â€Â
Rehearsal is something that is extremely apparent to people who watch presentations. And itâ€™s a simple way to separate yourself from your competition.Â If you don’t have time to practice, then you’re just not going to do that well.Â Sorry.
Tiger Woods always found time to practice.
One way to add impact to your next presentation is to dump PowerPoint and use a Flip-Chart.Â Flip-Charts allow for spontaneity, letting you to draw pictures that illustrate ideas on the fly.Â They also require that you simplify your ideas, which is always a good thing in a presentation.
A great example of how to use a flip-chart is actually the UPS Whiteboard Guy, the star of those cool UPS Whiteboard advertisements.Â While UPS Whiteboard Guy uses a whiteboard and not a flip-chart, itâ€™s the same idea.Â He starts with a few drawings and then fills in the rest of the diagram as he tells a story.Â The effect is to keep the audience engaged as they follow the visual story. Thatâ€™s exactly what the best flip-charters do.
Seven Keys to Using Flip-Charts Well
- Create your flip-charts in advance.Â Donâ€™t expect to be able to write cleanly and clearly on the spot.
- If you use drawings, do the drawings up to a point. Draw the rest of the charts in light pencil so that you can use the lines as a guide when youâ€™re live.
- Leave blank pages between prepared sheets. This allows you to add ideas as you go. Similarly, leave room for more ideas at the bottom of each page.
- Have a conclusion page to summarize ideas.
- Write big. Letters and numbers should be at least three inches high.
- Hand out a summary of all notes made on flip-charts.
- Practice your presentation using your flip-charts.Â