Steph Curry’s Daughter Steals Interview, Scores

According to the news, Tuesday night’s postgame interview where Riley Curry stole the spotlight from her MVP dad was either the most adorable thing ever, or a travesty of sports reporting. Some people take basketball really seriously!

The measure of success for any public speaking event, whether you’re presenting a pitch, conducting training, running a meeting, or being interviewed is always the same. Did you accomplish your goals? If so, congratulations.

So what are the objectives of a postgame interview? It really isn’t about conducting “serious” journalism. The reporters asking questions aren’t going to dig up important facts during the interview or discover that the Rockets actually won. These events are more like those press tours that actors do where they go around promoting a movie on every possible talk show. They’re designed to give fans more access to the players, showcase their personalities, build their brands and that of the team. Ultimately, they exist to sell tickets, shirts, and cable subscriptions.

Did Riley Curry help with that? Absolutely. She was all over the morning news programs and somehow managed to make her enormously likable dad seem even more charming. It certainly won’t hurt him when it comes to winning endorsements from sponsors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Riley is offered a few of her own. She already has her own custom version of her dad’s signature shoes.

Now, that doesn’t mean I want athletes to regularly start dragging their kids to interviews any more than I think it’s a good idea for anyone other than Maya Rudolph to sing impression-studded versions of the national anthem at commencement ceremonies. The charm of each event comes from being so unusual and unexpected.


Presentation Strategies: Start With a Shock

Writer Kelly Corrigan starts her TEDx talk with a couple of jokes and a shocking fact: 33 percent of high school graduates never read another book. Surprising people and making them laugh are both great strategies for engaging audiences whose attention spans are challenged by the idea of reading a book, sitting through a meeting, or even watching a nine-minute video like this one. Once their focus is on her, Corrigan can go on to explain in her charming way why it’s so important that we all read more.

But I’ll let her tell you….

Kelly Corrigan at TEDx Sonoma County

Visual Aids: Make An Emotional Connection

Arrest Development--Tobias

I love Netflix’s posters for the resurrected series Arrested Development because they do a great job of showing how you can convey a complicated idea–or in this case a character–with a simple image. Fans of the series will immediately recognize the posters for each of their favorite characters.

You may not be able to find an appropriate way to work a pair of Daisy Dukes into your presentations, but anchoring your ideas with clever images is an incredibly effective strategy. For one thing, images are much more memorable than words themselves. Audience members will remember a picture you show them much longer than they’ll remember any of your bullet points.

But images also allow you to connect with an audience’s emotions in a way that’s difficult to do with words alone. Arrested Development fans are likely to react to these posters in several ways. First, they’ll laugh. They’ll remember how much they love the show. Then they’ll enjoy feeling clever for understanding the references in the pictures.

If you can accomplish any of these things in your own presentations you’re doing great. Of course your images need to be relevant (and appropriate!) to your message. And they need to look good, which can be a lot of work. But the payoff can be huge. People love to be entertained, and they love the accomplishment they feel when they have to make a little effort to figure something out. Human beings are born problem solvers, and who doesn’t like to feel smart? Even better, a live audience will transfer their good feelings to you as the speaker and be more likely to be persuaded by your ideas.

Instead of just loving your images, they may love you.

Arrested Development Character Posters

Effectively Using Humor In Your Presentation

“As an icebreaker, let’s all share one interesting thing about ourselves. I’ll start.”

I once had a boss who was a terrible speaker. He would stammer, lose his train of thought and sweat profusely, even when he was only talking to a couple of people who were his employees. It was excruciating for everyone.

Then one day he adopted a new tactic. Someone must have suggested that telling a joke at the beginning of the meeting might help break the ice and make everyone more comfortable. The problem was that my boss seemed to pick the jokes randomly from a children’s book. They were jokes about giraffes walking into bars, conversations between electrons and neutrons, awful puns. Even worse, they didn’t help him relax at all. He was still so tightly-wound that he’d stumble over the punchlines and have to start over again, prolonging everyone’s suffering.

Some people just aren’t funny and shouldn’t try to be, but my boss wasn’t one of them. He was a warm, friendly guy who was pleasant to hang out and have a drink with. The mistake he made with his jokes was that they had absolutely nothing to do with what we were talking about at work. They were completely lacking in context and made him seem disconnected from what we were doing there. When it comes to humor in presentations, context is key.

Humor can accomplish a lot in your presentations. Making people laugh helps them relax and makes them more likely to agree with what you say. It entertains them so they don’t resent being there and helps them pay attention. Most importantly, humor helps you build a relationship with your audience that will endure long after your presentation itself is over. Getting an audience to laugh and like you can be critical to getting them to believe in what you have to say. But all of these things depend on telling the right kind of joke.

Humor is a really tricky thing. Saying something that other people find funny requires that you share common experiences, opinions, language. Think about how hard it can be to understand a joke that’s been translated from another language. A lot of the time it’s just futile. And humor doesn’t even have to be that “foreign” to fail. We all have cultural, economic, even regional differences that impact what we find funny. Do you laugh at redneck jokes? Kathy Griffin? A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Whatever you enjoy there’s someone out there who feels just the opposite.

Figuring out what kind of humor will work with an audience can be a huge challenge, but it’s worth the effort. When you can tell a joke that makes an audience laugh it immediately signals to them (whether they realize it or not) that you have something in common. And when they feel that you have something in common they are much more likely to be persuaded–which is the point of any presentation in the first place.

The more specific the kind of humor you can target at an audience the better. I’m always pleased and appalled by the geeky kind of jokes you hear at industry conferences, the stuff that no one else would ever understand but is hilarious to a small group of people. When I used to teach software like Microsoft Word it was the jokes about styles, fonts and “Jason tabs” (don’t worry if you don’t understand know what a “Jason tab” is, no one expects you to) that struck me as incredibly cliquey. But every group and industry has their own equivalent. Which is a good thing because being able to deploy them shows that you know your audience and are part of the same group. You’re one of them. If you’re looking for a joke to tell, start with what the specific group you’re addressing has in common. The geekier the connection the better.

Telling a funny story is even more effective than telling a joke. Stories are much more memorable and allow you to more fully develop an idea. If they’re based on your own experience they’re also much less likely to get screwed up since they don’t require a punchline. If you’ve chosen your story well your audience will easily be able to relate to you and what you’re telling them.

If you’re looking for a humorous story, one of the best things you can do is to describe a mistake you’ve made. One of the problems with jokes is that they’re usually at someone else’s expense and can sometimes seem mean. But telling a story about one of your own failings shows that you’re human and gives the audience something to relate to–chances are they’ve made mistakes of their own. And storytelling allows you to tell them something about yourself and make a personal connection in a way that isn’t self-aggrandizing. But the best thing about using a humorous story about making a mistake is that it comes with a built-in narrative that you should be able to remember easily because it happened to you. There’s no punchline to remember. Instead you can offer what you learned from your mistake, which is a much better takeaway for you audience than any joke you would tell them.

Humor can be a powerful weapon in your presentation arsenal, but don’t just tell a joke to tell a joke. Whatever you do, don’t go to the library and pick a random one from a book. Take advantage of the live format of your presentation to find your own humor that fits the context of your talk and works to create a relationship with your audience. Find an appropriate joke or tell you own story. But remember that it’s not just having a joke that’s important, it’s how your humor helps you relate to and persuade the people in the room.