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3 Presentational Skills to Learn From Conan O’Brien

“Starbucks says they are going to start putting religious quotes on cups. The very first one will say, ‘Jesus! This cup is expensive!'” –Conan O’Brien


The world is full of people that can stand in front of an audience, or sit behind a desk, and talk for an hour, and in so doing call themselves talk show hosts. What separates Conan from the rest of those “unworthies” is his flawless technique as a presentation expert. Conan’s jokes, one-liners, and funny anecdotes always seem to bring out a steady stream of laughter and applause in every venue.

As one of America’s favorite television hosts, comedians, writers, producers, and voice actors, Conan is known for his “awkward and self-depreciating humor.”

While every presenter has their own style, here are three tips from Conan’s spectacular swag, that as presenters we should study and practice:

1)     Good-natured fun always has a place in a presentation. Whether talking about terrorism, the Queen of England, fast food restaurants, or 100-year-old sea turtles, Conan finds a way to put a humorous spin on any subject. For example, when referencing former President George Bush Sr. at the commencement speech at Dartmouth University, “Behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, have been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.”

Humor has a way with people. It can actually help simplify the most complex issues so they can be understood by children. I shouldn’t have to tell you (but I will anyway) that jokes and humor are all good fun until someone loses an eye (or so the expression goes). While not many eyes have been lost by investor presentations, emotions can be poked at, and people can get offended. Just use good judgment.

2)     Use rhetorical devices. Conan fills his monologues with metaphors, comparisons, statistics, and sarcasm. He uses these devices to convey his overarching themes and messages. In the aforementioned commencement speech, Conan exemplifies this idea by saying “I went from being in the center of the grid, to not only off the grid, but underneath the coffee table that the grid sits on, lost in the shag carpeting that is underneath the coffee table supporting the grid.  It was the making of a career disaster, and a terrible analogy.” Analogies, even those as off-color as this one, can make you more relatable to your audience, and add a human aspect to your presentation.

3)     Your body may be a temple, but Conan’s body is a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. At 6”4, Conan’s long-limbed body caps off with his world-famous fiery red hair. Needless to say he can be easily seen from every angle by his audience. Even so, O’Brien makes an effort to shake or bob his head, dance around, transform his face, or even ride around in his imaginary canoe every couple minutes. He screams, he shouts, he seems like he’s the entertainment at a six-year-olds birthday party, but he does it beautifully and tactically. He keeps the audience’s eyes on him at all times. This is a great skill for any presenter. 

In sum, while you may not be a ridiculously tall, red-headed Harvard graduate with his own talk show, you can definitely apply something from these tips to your next corporate presentation.

Finally, this goes out to you Conan. Stay awesome!

About Rick Enrico

Rick Enrico is the CEO & Founder of SlideGenius, Inc., a San Diego based marketing & software agency. Rick currently oversees an experienced team of talented designers, software developers and marketing professionals that specialize in creating custom corporate presentations and cloud publishing applications.Mr. Enrico and our team of PowerPoint design experts contribute to this blog frequently. If you have any questions or just want to drop us a line please forward them to admin (@) slidegenius.com

About SlideGenius

SlideGenius.com is your PowerPoint presentation specialist for business. Based in San Diego, California, SlideGenius has helped enhance the presentations of more than 1000+ clients all over the world, including J.P. Morgan, Harley-Davidson, Pfizer, Verizon, and Reebok, among others. Let us help you with your presentation needs!