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Tips and Tricks about Presentations


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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

Jon Stewart’s nightly news program on Comedy Central is where most 18–34 year olds get their news. The Daily Show, which has had Jon Stewart as its host since 1999, is a satirical, “fake” news program that Stewart insists has no political motivation other than satire and comedy. Critics and fans of the show have argued otherwise– that The Daily Show is as much a real news program as any on Fox News or MSNBC– because of its tendency to take fervent stands on critical, influential issues in American politics. Regardless of the show’s true intentions, Stewart is an extremely talented comedian and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to presentation.

In an interview with NPR from October 2010, Stewart discusses The Daily Show’s process in developing the 30-minute show. “You’d be surprised at how regimented our day is and how the infrastructure of the show is mechanized,” he says. “We have a very strict day that we have to adhere to. And by doing that it gives us freedom to improvise.” It looks like Stewart is having a good time on the show. It looks like he’s improvising and sometimes it seems like he’s almost flying by the seat of his pants. But underneath all that spontaneity is extreme preparation. This is important to remember with presentations. Cheerfulness, improvisation and spontaneity will come naturally when presenting if dedicated preparation has already been done. More preparation lends itself to more freedom and therefore, greater ease during the delivery.

Stewart refers to the importance of a presentation’s delivery in an 2005 interview with Oprah. “[The show] is about allowing people to sample knowledge because it’s baked in a delicious chocolate cake,” he says. The way information is presented determines whether it’s easy or difficult to understand and consume. The Daily Show offers a comedic stance on dense, cumbersome, sometimes infuriating political problems. Its audience (a demographic that is already less likely to be involved in news consumption) willingly and enthusiastically receives the information because it’s offered in a format that’s easy to swallow. Present information in a way the audience can digest easily. Keep presentations interesting and easy to follow. Think of creative ways to deliver complicated information, ways that will hook the audience’s attention and make it enjoyable for them to swallow.

Stewart goes on, perhaps unwittingly, to make a great point about the overall feel of a presentation. “This isn’t about moments; this isn’t about getting to the next place. It’s just about being good,” he says. A great presentation doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary and extraordinary each and every moment. It doesn’t need to be epic throughout. It just needs to be good, consistently. A presentation will be greatly effective if it’s simply good throughout. Don’t waste time aiming for perfection. Aim for goodness. That’s all that’s needed to effectively convey information. Forget the fireworks and extra fluff. Be good. That’s all that matters.

Lastly, the main draw of The Daily Show is the perpetual, all-encompassing narrative it embodies. It is a narrative that doesn’t quit and doesn’t change throughout the entire show. Jon Stewart is certainly less of a “character” than his counterpart and foil Stephen Colbert, but he does embody a certain narrative that remains steadfast throughout the entire show. A narrative that, importantly, knows what it is trying to say. In July 2009, Time asked in an online poll who America’s most trusted newscaster was, and Jon Stewart won with 44% of the vote. People believe in his character. People believe in his narrative, which is essential to effectively delivering information to a trusting audience. Ensure that people believe in yours. Make certain that they believe in who you are, and they will be much more likely to believe in the information you are offering.

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