In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!
Funnily enough a great comedy performance is very similar to a great business presentation, both require confidence, creativity, planning, and a little bit of showmanship.
However, it still amazes me how many people think that comedians are making stuff up on the spot. A great comedian only appears to be making funny stuff up instantly.
Most comedians start out by performing a 5-minute slot and then depending on their talent or how frequently they perform they will move to a 10-minute slot after about a year! After 2 years of hard work they finally move up 20 minutes! They’ll probably stick with that 20 minute set for at least 6 months, honing their material and tweaking their delivery to ensure they maximise the laughs, peppering it with the occasional adlib or topical joke. This is why performing a 1 hour show in less than a year was sooooo darn hard!
I often coach executives who have to give a speech. I’ve found that it’s nearly always the same few mistakes that stop a speaker giving a great presentation.
1) Not writing from your audience’s perspective. Who are your audience? What’s your outcome? What do you want them to learn or remember?
Solution – Write down in a single paragraph the 5 to 7 most important things you need to tell your audience – an audience won’t remember any more than that anyway. Then look at how you can deliver that information in a way that they will understand and find interesting.
2) Padding for time. Conferences often want speakers to talk for an hour. This forces you to fill a presentation with information that may not be relevant or useful, rather than do a brilliant 30 minutes that everyone finds interesting
Solution – Challenge timings. If you only need 20 minutes, ask for 20 minutes and give your audience an extra coffee break!
3) Running out of time. Worse still is a speaker who has to rush their big ending / conclusion as they’re overrunning!
Solution – Write out your speech, 500 words is about 3 minutes of material. Record it and see if you are within your allotted time.
4) Not knowing your material. So many speakers don’t rehearse thoroughly enough, and end up reading their slides to remind them! Why bother being there? The audience can just as easily read your slides as you can. Slides should illustrate your point, not be a word for word reminder of your speech.
Solution – Rehearse! When did you last see Jack Dee get up on stage and read his notes before he told a joke? Why should an audience be bothered to listen to you if you can’t be bothered to learn your own presentation! If you need a crib sheet that’s ok. But it should be only one sheet with a maximum of 7 points. As I said before, the audience won’t remember much more than that anyway.
5) Pointless graphs and slides. Please don’t use graphs or slides that are so overloaded with information that no one can read them, let alone digest the information.
Solution – Edit, edit and edit again! Over the 11 months I was preparing for Edinburgh I dumped nearly another shows worth of material, as it didn’t fit or work with the rest of the show. It’s the same with slides; you must keep asking yourself, why am I showing the audience this? How can I make this more impactful?
6) Not learning from past mistakes. Every year you basically present the same information, all you do is change the dates on the slides or add in this quarter’s sales figures.
Solution – Record every presentation you make, and more importantly listen to the recordings, no matter how painful it is (trust me, it’s better that you find it painful, rather than your next audience!). What would you change to make it better? If you don’t know ask someone else’s advice – preferably a speaker who you’ve previously heard and enjoyed!
Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.