Archive for the 'Presentation Skills' Category

Humor and Music

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Brass band multiplier.  A blend of music and humor.  This fun video clip was sent to me by my friend Loren Ekroth.  Slapstick, deadpan humor which I think you’ll enjoy.

Borrowing Humor

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Patricia Fripp had a fall earlier this year, landing on her face. Ouch. She split her lip and went to the emergency room for stitches. In typical Fripp The-Show-Must-Go-On style, she preseted a webinar a few days later. When there is a program on the calendar, the Pro shows up ready to perform.

If I had a mishap and it was still obvious that I had an accident (crutches, a sling, stitches) here’s an opening line that I might be tempted to use:

“To paraphrase Phyllis Diller…I have a public service announcement. In the book, 50 Shades of Gray, there is a typo on page 137…but it was worth it.”

Here are some thoughts on using an opening line from another source:
– The joke is borrowed from Phyllis Diller, via Gene Perret, multiple Emmy-Award-winning comedy writer.
– My edited joke gives Diller credit.
– The punch line is implied.
– It is adapted, Diller had a broken arm.
– It’s updated, forty-some years ago the joke referred to the book, The Joy of Sex.
– And it includes a topper.

– When would “borrowing” a joke be acceptable, and when might it get you in trouble? Sometimes we might be tempted to substitute “steal” for the word “borrow.” But for now we will just use the word BORROW.

– If someone were to borrow humor that you had written, how would you like for them to handle it? Then drop yourself into the process of borrowing someone else’s creative work.

– Using someone else’s creativity as inspiration for your presentation is a short-cut to humor. But the pro is more likely to write his or her own jokes.

– Updating or adapting a joke may seem to make the joke yours and to give you permission, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes that green light is an illusion.

– Repeating a joke to friends in a social situation is not likely to be a problem.

– Where you may get into trouble is when you put a borrowed joke into a platform presentation. Giving credit for a joke might be sufficient, especially for one-time use, relating the joke to something fresh that just happened. But it becomes questionable if it becomes a regular part of a professional talk. Making money from someone else’s intellectual property may be crossing the line.

– If you’ve adapted a joke, changed it to bring it up to date, it is still a good idea to give credit to the original source. The act of rewriting a joke doesn’t automatically make it YOUR joke.

– When using humor for gain, as a professional who is paid to speak, is when you start dancing on thin ice. Whether a joke is adapted, adopted, or source-cited, giving credit is likely the right thing to do. The safe thing to do. Maybe even the legal thing to do.

– If you stray into the gray areas, err on the side of caution.

– As with “fair use” considerations in the copyright world, the amount of humor you borrow affects the acceptability of your use of someone else’s material. Using a two-page humorous story comes close to borrowing a signature story, and credited or not most likely falls in the unacceptable category of use. On the other hand, a two or three line joke, with proper credit given, is likely to fall in the range of acceptable behavior.

– What if other people are borrowing YOUR humor? Allowing your
humor to be used by others, unchallenged by you, may place your
material into a free-for-all category. Humor which is freely and
frequently used by many people can become part of the common domain and available for all to use.

– If someone is using YOUR humor, resolve it first with the offending party. In most cases, the offending party will do what is right. A couple of examples from my experience. About twenty years ago, a professional humorist borrowed a humorous story from my newsletter and published it in his newsletter with no credit. It was about a half-page, word-for-word lifting of my writing. I decided to write him a letter commenting on another part of his newsletter, just to let him know that I was reading his material. The problem never appeared again. Another example, an entire article, word-for-word, was published on someone’s web site, specifically naming someone else as the author. I contacted the editor of the website. It turned out to be an honest mistake and he changed the credit line immediately. People usually want to and will do the right thing.

– If you need to or want to use someone else’s material, sometimes it’s as simple as asking permission. Permission may come free, just ask. Sometimes it comes with a small fee.

– It’s not likely you’ll run into a lawsuit for misuse of material. But if
you are on the offending side of the behavior, the issue could land on the desk of an ethics committee. It could give you bad word-of-mouth. It could affect your reputation. And if you’re on the receiving end of a lawsuit, it’s probably from someone who has deeper pockets than you. Not good.

– If you are the offended party, when you raised the issue with the
offending party, what did they say? That’s the first step. Don’t start
with a letter from your attorney, file a law suit, or make a complaint with an ethics committee. When you talk with the offending party, most of the time they will make it right.

– All things considered, if I had a recent mishap which was obvious to the audience, I would be comfortable using the adapted joke giving Phyllis Diller credit. But my first choice is not to have an accident.

– When appropriate, see an attorney. The opinions expressed in this article are based on my experience and are not a substitute for qualified legal advice.

Memorizing a Speech

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

I’m memorizing the flow of my current contest speech. I’m giving it tonight, and may use notes because of the major rewrite I just completed.  I mainly want to test the new material. I spent about five hours working on the speech last night and today. My technique is to set the whole speech in visual memory. That’s visually story-boarding the whole speech with a picture or image, opening each segment of the speech. The image shoud link to the previous image and also the next image.

For example, there is a section where I use a plumber as a methaphor for a doctor’s visit. So I when I get to that part of the speech I jog my memory with a visualization of a toilet. The next part of the speech refers to the year 1817. So I visualize the toilet again, this time I picture the year 1817 coming out of the toilet. Yes, it’s an odd picture. But for memorization, crazy is good. When I practice a speech, sometimes I just run thru the visual pictures. It’s quick to do and locks the flow of the speech together.

This is similar to a technique of using parts of your home as a
memorization jog. You first set up the flow of the house.
1. Living rom
2. Kitchen
3. Dining room
4. Hallway
5. Bathroom
6. Bedroom
7. Garage
Then you create a picture for each part of your speech. If the first part of your speech is about your father, you create the image of your father and put that image in the living room.

Your next story might be about a magic show. Link your picture of a magic show to the Dining Room. Then when you’re giving the speech, to get started you know you need to visit the Living Room to begin your talk: “Living room–oh, yes I was going to start by introducing my Dad.” After you tell the Dad story, you know you next must visit the Dining Room:”Oh yeah, my next part of the speech is about my Dad’s magic show.” You have just visited the Dining Room where your Dad was performing a magic show.

I’ve been working on my flow by creating linkable pictures to keep my sequence of stories on track. I’m not linking them to the geography of a house. I link one picture to the next, to the next, to the next. That works well for me, and when I’ve done it right, I can drop myself into a speech and know exactly where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

Manuscripting a speech word for word, is normally a bad technique. You force yourself to remember the sequence of words. You become a slave to the words. When you miss a word or a line, it can throw you totally off track.

Normally when I’m reaching the end of one of my speech segments or the end of one of my stories, I can see the picture coming into view leading me into the next part of the speech. The pictures keep pulling my speech forward by dropping one visual image after another into my mind.

Sometimes I create an idea outline, listing the order of my stories. I
don’t normally intend for this to be a memorization tool, but sometimes it turns out that I can see a mental picture of this idea outline. And it becomes a memorization tool without the intent. Sometimes your memorization technique just falls into place without design.

So that was my chore for today, to shapen my pictures, and nail down the structure of my talk.

Risk and Reward in Performance

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Memorable moments are often a result of preparation, confidence, and taking a risk. In this video clip, Johnny Carson takes a chance by bringing audience member David Tolley on stage to play the piano. Having had a cancellation of a scheduled pianist, The Tonight Show decided to bring up an audience volunteer who said he played the piano. And play he did. Carson introduced him saying, “You know this is not set up, because obviously David would not dress this way if he knew he was going to be on a big television show in front of a national audience.” David was wearing a Nike t-shirt, blue jeans with holes, and sandals. He was a hit. The audience enjoys and appreciates taking a risk, especially when it is successful. David was later scheduled for a repeat engagement on the show.  Prepare for opportunity, have confidence, take a risk.

The Other Miss Universe Winner

Monday, December 21st, 2015

A Recipe For Confusion

You may have heard that Steve Harvey announced the wrong person as winner of the Miss Universe contest last night.  He had been a great emcee, and then mis-read the results card, crowning the wrong contestant.  Harvey is a seasoned performer.  I’m a big fan.  If it happened to him, it could certainly happen to you or me.   As Cavett Robert told us, “Learn from Other People’s Experience (OPE).”

Here is what unfolded:

Harvey while setting the stage for announcing the winner:  “One of you is about to become our new Miss Universe.  If for any reason she is unable to perform her duties, the First Runner Up will take her place.  Good luck to both of you.” Referring to Miss Columbia and Miss Philippines.

“Miss Universe 2015 is … Columbia.”  (The winner was actually Philippines.)

Less than two minutes later Harvey walks back on stage, realizing that he has an error to correct.

“OK folks…ah…there’s… I have to apologize.”

The audience cheers and laughs as if they were expecting a joke.

“The 1st runner up is Columbia.”

“Miss Universe 2015 is … Philippines.”

“Miss Philippines, take your first walk as Miss Universe.”

“Listen folks, let me just take control of this.  This is exactly what’s on the card.  I will take responsibility for this.  It was my mistake.  It was on the card.  Horrible mistake.  But the right thing.  I can show it to you right here…the First Runner Up is Columbia.  It was my mistake.  Still a great night.  Please don’t hold it against the ladies.”

A Recipe For Confusion:

1. Announcing the wrong winner started the confusion snowball rolling downhill. Nobody was confused yet, with the exception of the head judge and ballot counter who knew that the wrong person was crowned the winner.

2. Harvey was probably informed of the mistake by a messenger bearing bad news.

3. Steve Harvey had been an excellent emcee for the event. But to err is human…and it could have just as easily been you or me getting that panicky feeling accompanied with the thought: “Now what am I going to do?” The cliché tells us there are two kinds of emcees.  Those who have made mistakes in the performing of their duties, and those who will make mistakes in the future.

4. It took almost two minutes for Harvey to walk back on stage with the mission to correct the mistaken winner announcement. He needed to fix the announcement of First Runner Up and of the Winner.  But if we think of those announcements as punch lines, they need set-ups to give them context to make them understandable.  The opening line of, “OK folks…ah…there’s…I have to apologize,” tells the audience that something is to follow, but does not make it clear that a serious correction is coming.  He was trying to say, “we made a mistake,” but he doesn’t get the words out.  Therefore, when the corrections were made without proper context (set-up), they were a bolt out of the blue, totally unexpected.  The reaction of the audience following the word apologize, was laughter and applause which seemed to indicate that they were expecting a joke.  The correct 1st Runner-Up and winner were announced, but didn’t immediately sink in with the audience or the contestants.

5. When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

6. Part of the problem was that Harvey was not “on a script.”  The card he was reading simply had the names and place annotations for 2nd runner up, 1st runner up, and the 2015 Miss Universe winner.  He announced the Second Runner up, which was on the top of the card, Miss USA.  The card did not specify what to do next:

– Announce the 1st runner up, in which case the winner is implied and never heard over the cheers of the audience.

– Announce the winner and let the 1st runner up be implied.

– So it becomes an improvised choice on the part of the emcee.

7. The card also didn’t give instructions to say the words “in the event that she’s unable to perform her duties…” So Harvey was improvising, using standard pageant phraseology.  As important as the results of a contest are, avoiding improvisation, and working with a prepared script is a good idea.

8. If this was a recipe for confusion, who could have been confused:

– The emcee, in this case Steve Harvey, but it could have been you or me.

– The audience.  It took them a minute or two to understand what was happening.

– The winner, who was told to take her “first walk,” and who was standing next to the 1st Runner Up who was wearing the crown and sash of the winner.

– The 1st Runner Up.  Was she supposed to take the crown and sash and give them to the winner?

Lessons Learned for Future Emcees.

– Work from a complete script.  Improvisation does not have a place when the accuracy of results is important.

– Practice getting a completed results card from the Head Judge or Ballot Counter.  Read it out loud to ensue it’s clear and understandable.

– When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

– Ensure that the results card is printed or typed and a font size which is easy to read.

– When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

– If you are the emcee, bring your glasses if you need them.

– If you question what is on the results card, get clarification before you make the announcement.

Professional Speaker Event

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Become a Professional Speaker. Achieve your Accredited Speaker Designation. This full-day program, the day before the Toastmasters International Convention in Las Vegas, will be held at the convention venue, Caesar’s Palace Hotel, on August 11, 2015. This program will be presented by your Toastmasters Accredited Speakers.  For more information.

Hot Events Coming Up

Friday, January 30th, 2015

How to Put Sizzle in Your Presentation! Terry Wall’s free webinar on Thursday, February 5, 2015, at 1:30 pm EST. You’ll recognize Terry’s name. He is a frequent participant in our monthly joke contests and is the First-Place winner of our January 2015 contest. Terry is an experienced presentation skills coach.   Check out his Webinar.

Special Event in Las Vegas: Lady and The Champs. February 28 – March 1, 2015. Featuring Patricia Fripp, Darren LaCroix, Ed Tate, Robert Fripp and Tim Gard. Details.

The Toastmasters International convention is in Las Vegas this year,
August 12-15, 2015.



The Many Vehicles of Pippin

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Last night, I attended the performance of Pippin at The Smith Center in Las Vegas. The subtitle for the musical could have been Son of Charlemagne meets Cirque du Soleil. I attended with my occasional show buddy, Patricia Fripp. Enjoying the show with a friend gave us the opportunity to share our feelings of, “What was that all about?”  We talked about the show “over coffee,” or more accurately, over a seafood dinner.

As the curtain dropped, it left the audience to explore hidden meanings. It was the sort of musical which is perfect for a theater-appreciation class. Was it about the meaning of life, coming of age, breaking the rules, happiness, or other philosophical questions left disguised as the lights went out?

What impressed me about Pippin was the variety of vehicles that were used to carry the message and entertainment:

– Acting
– Dancing
– Singing
– Humor
– Gymnastics
– Acrobatics
– Juggling
– Magic
– Metaphors

Especially impressive were the talents of the lead actor playing Pippin, Kyle Dean Massey. A gifted actor, singer, dancer, and athlete with a Chippendale body.

If the production comes touring in your city, enjoy the show. And discuss it with friends over coffee after the performance.

Speaker Workshop in Las Vegas

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Transform your speaking.  Give your presentations a professional touch.
  – Crafting a keynote speech
  – Using humor
  – Powerful story telling
  – Mini-coaching
  – and Much More

Pesented by Patricia Fripp, Darren LaCroix, Craig Valentine, and Ed Tate.  At the Palms hotel in Las Vegas.  The weekend of February 22-23, 2014. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the best.  Visit their website for more information.

Physical Comedy

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Here is a link to a great comedy routine sent to me by my cousin Beth in Florida.  The peformers don’t say a word.  The act is totally physical comedy featuring Di Maiers: Yogi Mohr and Sabine Maier from Berlin, Germany.  Their background and training is in Circus comedy.  What makes this comedy-trapeze act funny is their development of strong characters thru the use of costumes and their facial expressions.  Also watch their timing and subtle use of the pause to drive home the laughs.  Click here to watch the video.