What is it about those small moments in your favorite shows and movies that make you want to cry, jump for joy, or tighten your fist in determination? What makes a mundane speaking scene moving?
Odds are, it’s all in the actor’s presentation.
Since my first day as an intern at DECK, I have frequently caught myself analyzing these moments. Subconsciously dissecting media in terms of presentation, and seeing through the lens of a speaker.
It wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume that you don’t have the free time to scour your favorite shows or movies for presentation tips and tricks. Though you might not have previously realized it, there are many.
That’s why I’m here to do all of that for you. And then some.
So, without further ado, here are 4 moments in modern film that have helped me become a better presenter, and I hope will help you too:
1. Mad Men
Every creative director operates in the shadow of Don Draper. Just ask our founder, Mike Teixeira.
Although the miracle-man creative director and protagonist of the hit television show Mad Men is a blatant and often ridiculously exaggerated caricature of a 1960s ad man, there are many aspects of his presentation strategy that we ought to take notes on.
His stance on presentation? “I sell products, not advertising.” Sure, it’s a quote that sounds great and profound – but what does it mean, really?
Take a look at this short clip of his “Carousel” pitch from season 1:
Data? Statistics? Forget it. Let’s talk nostalgia. Let’s talk family. Here we see Don project pictures of his wife and children, of himself, of his own wedding, successfully eliciting an inevitably emotional response from his audience.
So what can we take from this?
If nothing else, when it comes to your presentations, it’s okay to get personal.
Try integrating a few of your own anecdotes. Bring a relatable experience of your own to the table. Remind your audience that you’re a person too.
A healthy amount of emotional assertion here and there is recipe for an unforgettable delivery.
In Jon Hamm we trust.
2. What Women Want
Here’s more of an obscure reference for you.
Remember when Mel Gibson was still a familiar face in blockbuster film? In the 2000 movie, “What Women Want“, Gibson plays a chauvinist advertising executive who gains the ability to read the minds of women, which allows him to reflect on his sexist tendencies, but, on a more related note, ultimately it helps him give a kick-ass pitch for a Nike campaign.
The message here? A powerful presentation focuses on the wants and opinions of the audience.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking: isn’t a bit of telepathy required?
Although you might not be so fortunate as to have the ability to read minds yourself, mind reading may not be as crucial to catering to your audience as you’d think!
What really matters here is that Gibson understands his audience. He is targeting the subconscious feelings that women have towards running.
In anthropomorphizing a key object – the road – he is humanizing the otherwise inanimate connotations to exercise and conceptual idea of sports. His target population (female athletes, in this case) can confide in the fact that this now person-like object does not and will not pass judgement on them in any way.
So, during your next public speaking venture, try to remember what your audience would want to hear, and not just what you would. The agenda of the presentation should always feel like it is overtly in the hands of the audience.
A consumer of spoken word wants to feel like they are being taken care of and understood by the speaker. A selfless and targeted presentation never fails.
From tragedy to presentation skills. Here’s an great example of an instance where efficient and concise presentation are dire.
HBO’s depiction of the events directly following the Soviet Union’s 1986 nuclear explosion is teeming with presentation scenes, most of which are performed by the inorganic chemist main character, Valery Legasov (played by Jared Harris).
In the below scene, Harris explains nuclear science to a Soviet jury:
To ensure that it isn’t a nuclear catastrophe, prepare a presentation that is easily digestible for your audience (or any audience, for that matter).
Condensing the information that he is presenting into a simple and color-coded format is one of the best things that Legasov does in effort to help his audience’s comprehension of the subject.
Nobody wants to hear all the minute details and specifics of a new or complex idea or concept, so don’t even try to touch on all of it at once. It just won’t fly.
The important part is that your audience has enough information to make their decision, and that they are sold on the authenticity and integrity of your presentation. Legasov turns heads here because he utilizes simplicity to capture the essence of what he is attempting to evoke.
Up, down. Hot, cold. Red, blue. Right, wrong. An audience doesn’t need to actively think all that much about these concepts, and that is precisely what gives them their own thinking room, making for a lasting presentation.
Considering the questions that might be asked in anticipation for your presentation can be the best way to maintain audience attention and prevent you from steering away from a safe and solid delivery.
( Insert explosion pun here ).
4. Game of Thrones
( Spoilers ahead! )
You didn’t think I’d overlook a fan favorite, did you?
GOT certainly seems like an unlikely example when it comes to good presentation, and I don’t blame you for the skepticism. After all, it is mostly sci-fi, sex, and swords. And dragons, of course.
But it’s not a stretch, I promise.
The necessity for both a pre and post-battle speech is a reoccurring theme in the show, and, upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the lengthy eight-season series is littered with powerful memorable speeches.
Here’s a good one from the series finale:
Despite Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) short-lived queenship, she is still a queen of public speaking in our hearts. That woman can give one HELL of a pep talk.
The maliciously fueled and vaguely insidious presentation she gives here works for many reasons, and is successful in that it is incredibly efficient in boosting audience energy and morale.
We can learn a lot as presenters from the way she elicits empathy from the crowd of her army. As a speaker, citing an experience or condition that is shared with or relatable to the audience can be a beneficial tactic in getting a point across.
In this case, Daenerys begins with complimenting her audience, then describes the harsh upbringing that they had experienced as slaves. She quickly translates the empathic and deeply charged energy into introducing her own endeavor – which, to put plainly, is conquering the world.
And that’s really the magic to it: using customized rhetoric and engaging with listeners on a personal level in order to propose an objective idea to your audience as fact.
Just a few presentation tips that we can only hope stay out of the hands of evil (and stay in the hands of George R. R. Martin).