I'm so excited to bring this to you. I came across this video just the other day when Olivia Mitchell tweeted a video of Tim Washer avoiding a presentation disaster through the use of improv humor. That's a great video as well.
I'll set the scene and give my thoughts after the jump. This video features John Coleman, an MBA/MPA student at the Harvard Business School who is tasked with delivering a 7-minute venture capitalist presentation as part of the school's first annual "B.S. Contest" (Yes, that stands for bull shitake) sponsored by the Harvard Business School's Public Speaking club. The trick, though, is that he's NEVER seen the PowerPoint. He doesn't even know the "product" he is pitching until AFTER his introduction (which is unfortuantely cut off). In his case, his product is Robot Vending Machines - whatever that means. I like it better than the 2nd place presenter's product - Removable Mustaches. The class presentations are part of the Harvard Business School's Public Speaking club. The lessons are plentiful.
John is absoultely amazing considering he's accompanied by a comical PowerPoint that he's never seen for a product that doesn't exist. The 2nd place contestant wasn't even in the same ballpark as John. He is obviously extremely bright, fearless, and able to think quickly. He really blew me away. I mean, how do you present to VC's with a picture of a monkey looking up a toddler's dress and actually apply it to your product?
Let's be fair though - John is no amateur. Aside from the whole "Harvard thing," since that's so easy, he's also a published author on effective communication and persuasion with his book entitled How to Argue Like Jesus and was named the U.S. National College Speech Champion in 2004.
John does a bunch of stuff right, but also proves a few points about presenting as well:
- Be Passionate
John’s passion seeps out of him. As a viewer I was completely engaged. John is able to suspend disbelief and put his whole being into this presentation as if he’d labored over the construction of the Robotic Vending Machine in his own basement for years.
Lesson: Don't be afraid to let your passion shine - it's contagious.
- Be Funny
John took the task seriously, but interjected humor where appropriate. The entire audience understood what was going on, and that makes for a funny exercise and a bit easier for John to coax a laugh out of them. Taking it too seriously may have seemed disingenuous and could have acted against him. He even handed out some sort of bribe at the end to the venture capitalists judging him.
Lesson: Humor is also engaging, but as always, be CAREFUL. Make sure it's appropriate and never force it. But don't shy away from it, especially when things go wrong.
- Be Confident (Don’t Read)
You should be so confident in your knowledge of the content and the preparation you’ve done for it that you don’t HAVE to stare at the slide for more than a split second. John peers back at the slides every-so-often, but only because they’re completely foreign to him. Once he has a good grasp of what he’s looking at, ALL his focus returns to the audience. John doesn’t even know what he’s talking about and he’s not reading his slides, yet I see subject matter experts presenting at conferences who read directly off their slide. Really? You really can’t disseminate knowledge without reading it? And they’re paying you how much? And I paid how much to see you speak? John is presenting about robot vending machines and he doesn’t need read bullet points.
Lesson: Using bullet points because you haven't mastered your content is no excuse. Practice, practice, practice, and speak from the heart. Use your slides only as a visual backdrop.
TJ Walker commented below and I thought he grasped my point exactly, only expressed it better, clearer, and more succinctly, so I thought I'd share: "This does show that being a good presenter isn't just about practice. There are set principles involved that can help any presenter anytime."
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. I haven't been able to watch many more of the videos, so if you find any others that are great, let me know in the comments.
I'm off to submit a patent for robotic vending machines wearing removable mustaches.