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What Nick Offerman Can Teach Us About Manipulating Meaning with Inflection

NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman,who plays Ron Swanson, the staunchly libertarian director of the Parks and Rec Department, is the epitome of manliness. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, whiskey tasting, fleeing from his ex wives and consuming mass quantities of meat. the seasoned actor started a series on The Conan O’Brien Show called “Nick Offerman From Parks And Recreation Reads Tweets From Young Female Celebrities.” It’s delightfully funny, chiefly because Offerman is the exact antithesis of the ultra-rich celebrity divas who’s tweets.

See for yourself: Nick Offerman Reads Tweets

This is a testament to the dynamic effect inflection can have on how we’re interpreted. Offerman doesn’t change a single syllable of what these young celebrities tweet, but he makes them funny by reading them with a gruff, no-nonsense demeanor contrary to their whimsical, overly girly nature. Just by changing the way these statements are read, he gives their meaning a complete overhaul.

We can apply this to our own presentations by deciding what kind of impact we want our words to make. When you’re giving a great powerpoint presentation on a crucial piece of information to investors, whether it be a standout statistic or your brilliant mission statement, you can’t expect to be able to read it in a flat voice and have its significance reach your audience. You have to sell it. Show the energy through your voice and through your movements. Think about the emotions each statement you’re making should elicit then focus on selling that when presenting.

So when designing your next powerpoint presentation, keep in mind not just what you’re saying, but how you say it. This can make all the difference in your next corporate presentation.

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!