from Stephen Colbert, the best presentation tip you'll ever have

From Stephen Colbert – the best presentation tip you’ll ever have

If you’ve ever watched the Colbert Report, you’ll know that the eponymous Stephen Colbert is an incredibly funny man. Honed over years of improv, he has the type of razor-sharp wit and wordplay that would make any presenter green with envy.  So why does he need PowerPoint? What can you learn from him?  The answer lies in part of his show called the Wørd *.

Wikiality featured as "The Wørd" on ...

Learn from The Wørd – Image via Wikipedia

In case you live under a rock, let me quickly explain the Wørd. In the segment, definitions of words like truthinesswikiality, backsies and copycat are playfully brought to life. But it’s not really Stephen that’s funny. It’s the bullet point next to him. In a parody of Bill O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” the Wørd features Colbert asserting a political point of view with a screen graphic – similar to a PowerPoint – to his left.

When mortals use PowerPoint, we would do well to learn from Stephen. Colbert lets his bullet point be funny. He can play the straight man. It’s the opposite of O’Reilly and other anchors who use the screen graphic to bludgeon you over the head with the point they’re trying to make. We can use PowerPoint to do what we don’t do naturally as presenters. If you worry about remembering the sequence and structure of the pitch – let PowerPoint do the remembering. If you are an engaging storyteller, but perhaps are sometimes all over the map – let PowerPoint be the map. If you are a little clinical and dry, let PowerPoint be funny.

I’ll go more into Presenter Types in another post.  But the bottom line is this – instead of flying solo as the perfect presenter, remember that you and PowerPoint are a team. He’s the Abbot to your Costello, the Astaire to your Rogers, the Penn to your Teller, the Pinky to your Brain, the Jay to your Silent Bob, the… well, you get the idea. Get PowerPoint to do the work you worry about, or don’t do well. That small skill will be the biggest difference you can ever make to the way you present.

* Full disclosure – I am a huge Colbert fan, and have been to the taping of his show. Although I hope, I doubt he uses PowerPoint.

Gavin_Animated-GifGavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

More at Google+Facebook and Pinterest. Comments are welcome, links are appreciated. If you’re interested in writing guest posts for this blog, please contact me.


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  3. chippwalters | April 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm


    Very nice blog and content, though I think political bias isn’t necessay and tends to dilute your message. I did enjoy your 6 types of presenters– very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.

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