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How Comedian Dan Fraser uses Funny Business to Make Business Presentations Engaging

Dan Fraser is Here to Help You Make Your Presentations More Memorable Through Simple Humor and Engagement Techniques!

This episode is about the elements that can take your presentations from factual and satisfactory, to compelling and memorable, no matter who your audience is. Dan takes us through his

approach, which is packed with fun and practical tools for increased confidence and success. Our guest has jettisoned many innovative ideas from his time in standup comedy, and uses these to create real behavioral change, and true impact and memorability!

Dan Fraser is a presentation maven. He takes hard lessons from over 20 years of building and delivering dynamic presentations in government and the private sector – and hands them to you on a silver platter. In 2020 Dan retired from the Calgary Police Service in Alberta, Canada, where he helped to train thousands of officers and partner agencies. Dan uses his experience as a stand-up comedian to help instructors hone their ability to deliver unforgettable training. His book Kickass Presentations has just launched!

And in this episode, Dan unpacks his inspiring philosophy to transforming a normal presentation, into something that an audience will find unforgettable!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • How to use comedy to create more effective presentations for your audience!
  • The technical approach that Dan has used in the creation of charts and graphs.
  • Components of a kickass presentation; engagement, memorability, emotion, and storytelling.
  • The central importance of planning and preparation for any presentation.
  • A method for making messages stick, and the value of analogy.
  • Humor in meetings; simple strategies for introducing laughter.

People, Blogs, and Resources Mentioned

How to Connect with Dan Fraser:

Where Lea is Speaking Next:

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Thanks for Listening!

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Episode Transcript

LP: All right. Hello and welcome to the 77th episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show, the only podcast still at the intersection of presentation, data visualization, storytelling and analytics. This is the place to be, if you're ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights and ideas. Today's interview is loaded with super fun and practical tools for becoming a more confident and successful business presenter, using strategies from stand-up comedy. Be sure to stay tuned in.

Before we get rolling, I have just a few key updates for you. First, a big warm shout out to TheYankeesWin25 for leaving an awesome review for the show on Apple Podcasts. They say, “Audio podcast pulls it off. I started listening to this podcast while searching for Ann K. Emery’s content and initially had some doubts about an audio-only podcast on data viz, data management and presentation, but Lea definitely pulls it off. Admittedly, she likes to use analogies, which helps, but also never gets in the weeds when discussing a technical aspect of the field. I think by also sharing her and her guest's thought process on a topic or sub-topic, is tremendously helpful for the data-centric listener.”

Wow. So appreciative of that review, and thank you for the support. Be sure to leave a review on the show yourself in podcast or Spotify if you find this to be a useful resource, and I may read yours next.

As usual, I am super excited for today's guest. But in particular, this person has a deep passion for helping anyone become a more confident and well-received presenter, using some pretty creative strategies. Let's dive in.


[00:02:40] LP: Hello and welcome. Today's guest is a presentation maven. He takes hard lessons from over 20 years of building and delivering dynamic presentations in the government and private sector, and hands them to you on a silver platter. I love that. He retired from the Calgary Police Service in Alberta, Canada, where he helped to train thousands of officers and partner agencies. Now, he uses his experience as a stand-up comedian to help instructors hone their ability to deliver unforgettable training. He is the author of a new book, Kickass Presentations. I love that title so much. Please, help me welcome the latest guest on the show, Dan Fraser. Welcome.

[00:03:21] DF: Hey. Thanks, Lea. This is awesome.

[00:03:24] LP: It's so great to have you on. Especially someone who lives and eats and breathes the very topic that I'm most passionate about. Where we'll get started is first, everyone loves a great origin story. In so many words, what inspired you to take this journey along effective presentation.

[00:03:43] DF: Wow. Thanks. You know what? I think, I came to the space through a different route than many. I was a police officer. I was doing a lot of instructing, and then eventually became a full-time instructor in our academy. That means teaching all the physical skills of being a police officer, from fighting and driving and how to communicate effectively with people. I did that for six years.

During that time, I soaked in as much as I could from the resources out there, but I always wished that there was more. When I left that training area, there was one other instructor in particular who said, “Hey, would you put together a course on how to actually teach and come back and deliver that to the unit?” I thought, “Okay, there's an endorsement. Obviously, I'm doing something right.” That has led me on a journey for almost the past decade of, how do I impart actionable advice and actionable skills, as far as presenting? Because I think there's a lot of people like me, who I didn't join the police department to become an instructor, or to be a teacher. I joined to be a police officer.

The next thing you know, I find myself in this position where I'm teaching full-time. They have a couple of resources and some very basic stuff to get you going. Other than that, you're off to the races, as far as building entire presentations, building entire courses, sometimes from scratch, and sometimes inheriting presentations from other people. That can be a tough thing, too, because you're going, “Oh, how do I improve on this? Or, how do I make this better? How do I make it my own?”

This really started me on this journey, and I started with a workshop, and then eventually, that's grown into the book, also by the same title, Kickass Presentations. My goal with that is to give people resources and some how-tos.

We were talking before the podcast, Lea, about your book as well and giving people some actionable stuff and they want examples, because I just think there's so much – there's a lot of resources out there that look good on the surface, but it's a lot of advice like, you know what you got to do? Be dynamic. You got to engage.

[00:05:54] LP: Be passionate.

[00:05:55] DF: You be passionate. Engage your audience and all these things. People go, “Oh, wow. This is so good.” They don't tell you actually how to do it and how to get there. That's what I'm really passionate about is, okay, what are the steps that people can actually take? That's what led me into this space. Then I retired two years ago. Perfect timing, by the way, with the start of the pandemic, if you’re going to be a presenter, but that’s okay. It's really allowed me to take focus on my book and take a deep dive into presentations.

[00:06:25] LP: Yeah, absolutely. What I find so fascinating about this origin story is – especially for me, too, I definitely didn't go into the world of digital and marketing analytics to become a professional speaker. I think, sometimes when you have a knack for explaining things and combining with that passion and you're finding yourself wishing you had been taught things a certain way about what it is you're passionate about, that's where that is really born from. It's so it's so great to see when passion infuses with ability to explain and just improves a whole area.

[00:07:04] DF: For sure. Yeah. If I can make somebody else's life easier and give them the steps. I guess, Roy Vaden, that says that we are most powerfully positioned to help the person that we once were. Probably, like you, you come from a world where there's maybe not a lot of resources, and so you either come up with your own, or you have to search far and wide and like me, collect little gems of wisdom all over and then package them up for other people so they can be effective in delivering whatever their message is.

[00:07:36] LP: 100%. I actually created my data storytelling methodology. It's called the PICA Protocol. Because when I was in this period of 10 years of self-study, there were so many different disciplines and books and opinions and very abstract, like you said, pie in the sky, what does your audience care about? And that's it. Or, you should make sure it ties to objectives and that's great. Also, and then what? I completely understand. I think, that as great as these aspirational, philosophical mindset shifts are to get people, it's like, that's getting them revved up for the race, but then, how do you actually let them out on the track and start running? Appreciate that a lot. For you, what sets apart a normal, run of the mill, especially business presentation, because that's the core focus for this audience from a kickass one?

[00:08:37] DF: For me, one of the biggest things is that people not only are engaged, meaning they're paying attention and they're not scrolling on their phones under the table, or that kind of thing. Really, you're teaching has to be memorable. Because you can give the most amazing presentation, it can be accurate, it can be all these things. People can go, “You know what? I just saw Lea. She was amazing.” “Oh, really? What did she talk about?” “Huh. I do not recall.”

[00:09:05] LP: No idea. It’s like the kiss of death.

[00:09:10] DF: Oh. Well, that's fine for keynotes, if you're a motivational type speaker and that kind of thing, that's fine. When we look at more what the average person does, who's a professional, they need people to be able to act on their information later. If people can't remember the information, then what good was it?

Really, it needs to be two things. It needs to be engaging at the time, but also the stuff needs to be memorable, so that people can take action and actually change their behavior when they leave the presentation.

[00:09:43] LP: That's a really interesting point, because I always think of a successful presentation as memorable, so that there's some transformation that happens that leaves a person better than when they found it. That's my rule for life, but that's my credo as a presenter. Leave them better than when I found them. It's interesting around the motivational speaker aspect. It is true that the power is that moment, they're creating a powerful moment where it's just totally about presence. I 100% agree, the most of the presentations will give, especially in a business context – it's great to create that moment, but it's critical what you've left them with in terms of motivating to actually do something about your information, or else, what was really the point? What's the intention?

[00:10:34] DF: Yeah. I often ask this with presentations that I give. I'll ask the audience, what's the goal of training? Often, it's all kinds of good stuff. To learn something new, to all kinds of different reasons. Rarely do people come down to change behavior. If we're not doing that, then maybe we are just entertaining people. Or in a lot of cases not even entertaining them during the presentation.

[00:11:04] LP: No, I agree. I actually I'm delivering for the first time next week. I'm super excited and so nervous. Brand-new keynote called Lights Camera in Action, which is the secrets that Hollywood uses to tell stories that we're not using in presentations.

[00:11:21] DF: Wow. That's awesome.

[00:11:22] LP: Yeah. We'll see. It's not super heavy on data. It's more about the mechanics of what Hollywood and cinematic techniques are, and how can they be incorporated. Because the key to being memorable, I mean, most of the movies I remember were effective at using those techniques. Maybe I didn't change my behavior because of it, but it left this indelible mark on me that Hollywood lives and dies by.

[00:11:49] DF: Yeah, absolutely. I think, more people could learn from that. With social media, they’re always talking about our attention spans are so low and you really –

[00:12:02] LP: Right. The goldfish.

[00:12:04] DF: A goldfish has a memory of, or an attention span of 9 seconds and people, it's even less. I talked about this a bit in the book where yeah, that's fine for scrolling, if you're scrolling on TikTok, or Instagram, or some social media. You do need to grab people right away. What about movies? We have people sitting for 2 hours and going, “Wow, I wish that was longer.” They're using certain techniques, and a lot of that is using emotion and using storytelling to be able to get their point across. If you could do that and make all your data in there, in an entertaining and memorable way, then –

[00:12:42] LP: The Trojan Horse.

[00:12:43] DF: Oh, yeah. That's even better.

[00:12:45] LP: That's a really interesting point is how many business presentations actually leave us wanting more the way we are left wanting more at the end of a really gripping TV series. I want to be realistic. I'll get the argument a lot that, “Oh, but the data is boring and it's — ” I'm like, “That's just a mindset.” If you remember that your data is created by people, humans generally, unless you're studying tree growth, they're generally – especially marketing data, is created by people and there's some struggle, conflict, character, wall that you can help them scale using whatever product you have.

What is standing in the way between your customer and their hero story? It can be a little more dramatic than it's thought of. I just think that people think that data is just data when it's actually just a digitized story.

[00:13:48] DF: Yeah. I think, you hit something on an important point there, where people go, data is boring. Well, it's the same as starting out your presentation. I've been in a 100 of these, where people go, “You know what, guys? This is going to be really dry. I'm sorry. We've got to get through it.” It's just this slog.

[00:14:08] LP: You've been warned.

[00:14:09] DF: Yeah. Well, how does that help? You're not setting a good expectation for what people are going to be experiencing. If the presentation is dry, you're the presenter. Yeah, this is on me now. It's interesting, because I work part time in the financial industry. My wife is a financial broker, and so I experience a lot of these financial – It's very, very data heavy presentations. Sometimes they're meant for the public, and sometimes they're meant for brokers and that thing. Still, nobody's really at the granular level that these people that work in finance are all the time. I find that they have a really hard time, in most cases, making that engaging, or even having a little story behind it. It's a lot of explaining graphs and it's rough. It’s rough out there.

[00:15:12] LP: No, this is a really good point. It's like, how can we challenge ourselves to have fun with this? People don't have enough fun with this data storytelling process, where one of the analysts I was coaching quite a long time ago, you started a presentation, and the very first thing he said was, “Okay, guys. Here's the bad news.” Just laid this unfortunate thing no one wanted to hear. I was like, “No. Don't say it like that.”

It's so funny, because every story has bad news in it somewhere. There is no story without the bad news, or else, the hero, or the character wouldn't be a hero. They would just be a person, or an animal or whatever.

[00:15:58] DF: Nothing to struggle against.

[00:15:59] LP: Right. It’s stasis. Stories are born out of a break from stasis and in some way, bad news has to be a part of that. When you reframe it as, “Hey, guys. There's good news here. We found an opportunity, or we found a problem and we think we have a way to solve this. Let's take you on a journey.”

[00:16:20] DF: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. If you're looking at it as the, “Hey, this is bad news,” and you want to present it, then how can the audience – The audience isn't going to make that leap on their own, right? You have to hold them by the hand and take them there. Yeah.

[00:16:33] LP: 100%. Wow. So aligned. One of your chapters is called Fail to Plan. Plan to Fail. That's one of my favorite other credos. I'd love for you to elaborate on what that means to you.

[00:16:46] DF: Yeah. I think, people don't prepare enough. Again, aligning what you're going to teach at first with your objectives. When we start planning a presentation, what do you want your audience to get out of this? Because it's for them. If we're not clear on where we're going, how can we end up there? Certainly, our audience isn't going to end up there magically on their own. I think, I'm a big advocate of spending more time in preparation than people think. I'm certainly guilty of this. Sitting down. You go, “Okay, I got a presentation about whatever.” All right, open up PowerPoint and start building slides, and with no real clear objectives.

If people can spend a little bit more time understanding what objectives are and then building those out, man, there is a guidebook all the way along. Then once you've got that part down, then you've got the other part, which is the rehearsal part of it. I think, people fall down on this as well, where we confuse practice with rehearsal, where you scroll through your slide deck for example, and go, “Yeah. I think, I got this.” we can we confuse familiarity with mastery.

We really need to have a death grip on our material and know it better than anyone in the audience. It's fine to use your – say, your slide deck as a bit of a handrail to keep you on track. But if you don't know what to say and you need that next slide exactly to go, “Oh,” then we're not prepared. I actually tell the story in the books. I go to a lot of conferences and I was at one where this woman, she'd come to Canada from the US. She was representing a company and she said right at the start, “Hey, guys. This isn't my presentation. This isn't my slide deck. I don't normally present this.” Then just proceeded to click through the slides. Every slide that came up was like, “Oh, okay. What do I know about this and what can I speak about it?”

[00:18:51] LP: I think this is here, because –

[00:18:52] DF: Yeah. It was just like, wow, you just missed a huge opportunity to make a big impact, because you got this audience, an international audience sitting there, and it speaks to credibility. She talked at one point about, “Well, when I was on the aircraft on the way here, I read a magazine and the article said, whatever.” All I could think was, “You shouldn't have been reading a magazine.”

[00:19:15] LP: Why did you read a magazine?

[00:19:18] DF: You should be you should be knowing your presentation inside and out. Then it gets down to the rehearsal of actually setting up whether it's a projector, or a screen and standing there and going through your entire presentation. I always find little stuff where I go, “Oh, I didn't realize the slides come up where this little animation, or I'm getting tripped up in this little part here. I better figure out what I need to say.”

[00:19:44] LP: Got to smooth that out.

[00:19:46] DF: Yeah, and just smooth it out. Especially the opening and closing of the presentation, which is often done. Just there's no thought given to it.

[00:19:54] LP: Off the cuff.

[00:19:55] DF: Yeah. Again, if you're not planning this stuff out, it's not going to magically go amazing for you.

[00:20:03] LP: I hope everyone is listening, because this is so crucial. I see this a lot. Actually, I spoke at my first in-person conference a few weeks ago after COVID. It was unreal. They had several vendors do a showcase. I thought to myself, “Wow, this hasn't changed in a few years,” where it was clearly the first time that they had seen the deck. They were getting caught by surprise.

Look, for me, I really love presenter view. I often rely on it so I can see my next slide and have smoother transitions. When I don't have that, it is more challenging, but I'm not surprised by any of the slides. I created them all. I know the purpose of all of them are there. For vendors in the space, for service providers in the space, it's especially critical, because they're investing in these conferences as startups to help their business survive.

When it comes across, and especially when you declare almost as if you're trying to gain people's forgiveness for not being prepared, to me, unfortunately, what that communicates to me as an audience member is that I just didn't care enough to make sure that this was a moment we create together, where I could be in service to you.

[00:21:25] DF: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:21:26] LP: For me, this is a service opportunity for the audience. If I haven't made good on that promise, then I don't know why I'm there to begin with.

[00:21:35] DF: Right. You've got this opportunity to bring value to people and again, it's such a missed opportunity. If you're for whatever brand, or company you’re representing, even if you're like myself, it's the Dan show. I'm the face of the company right now. If I'm not doing well, that certainly speaks to, again, my level of preparation and how much I actually care about bringing value to the people in the audience.

[00:22:03] LP: Right. Of course. 100%. Something you talk about is your fast method of making messages stick. I know where that idea comes from. You describe it as feelings, analogies, surprise, stories and tangible. I'm wondering if you could give an overview of those steps, but I want to zero in on the analogy one especially, because that one's very near and dear to my heart.

[00:22:28] DF: Yeah, for sure. When you tell people, you should have a message that people can remember and stuff. Okay, great. How do we actually do that? Well, there is some structural stuff about how we teach and how we test, etc. You're building a presentation, or a PowerPoint. How do we make sure that there are some stuff that's actually going to be sticky? There's certain things that stick with us, like feelings.

This is why the story and the – like you were talking about, Hollywood in the cinematics. There's just emotion woven through that entire thing. Really, we should be doing the same thing with our own presentations and making things a little bit more emotional. Data for sure doesn't necessarily lend itself to that. If we can look for opportunities to put a human face figuratively and literally on something, people really respond to faces. That's going to be stickier and it's going to be more memorable than had we just talked about numbers. Because numbers on their own, really just tend to fall right out of our head.

[00:23:31] LP: Let's say, you were showing a landing page and this is specific to my field, but landing page, abandonment. At what rate do people come to a page and then they leave right away, which is the worst thing that can happen if you're trying to generate leads. You could tell your decision-makers, you could have a pie or a bar that shows 80% of people left. What I decided to do one day, because no one seemed to really care about that and I was using bullet points and whatever. I took a picture of what could look like, one of our disgruntled, potential customers who was confused because our page was broken and things like that. He's looking very upset and he's on the phone, customer service. I had just a big number. 80% of people are possibly having this experience and leaving. That was what actually activated my audience into feeling empathy and motivating to do something, where it didn't require a chart. I think, there's some discernment there for sure.

[00:24:35] DF: Yeah, for sure. Even breaking that down, where four out of five people that come here look like this guy. What are we doing wrong? That face and the feeling that they have of connecting with that picture is going to be far stickier than a pie chart with 80% and that thing. Yeah, absolutely.

The A is analogy. Any time that we can relate something to what our audience already knows, because what we want to do is take them from the known, or what they know into the unknown, which is what we're trying to convey to them. If we can relate that to what they already know, then that's great. I'm a big, big fan of analogy and of even just being able to say something in a funnier way, or in a more interesting way, it just tends to stick a lot better.

Being purposeful about building some analogies. Certainly, we can we can come back to that one. Surprise is one of those – If we can get people to have one of those aha moments and we reveal a gap in their knowledge, they didn't know that. Rather than sometimes just giving everybody the answer to stuff, have them guess. “Okay, I've done analytics on your website. How many people are clicking here, but then clicking away before they actually engage with anything on the site?” Have them guess. Then when they're going, “Oh. Well maybe 10% of people, but everybody else is going to love what we do.” You go, “Nope. Here's the actual answer.”

First of all, they're engaged with thinking about the material, because you've asked them to. Then secondly, they get that that surprise and that's going to be, you broke their guessing machine, and that's going to be stickier for sure. Well, the next S would be stories. Like you said, I love that you're doing this thing to bring cinematics and stories and that kind of thing into the data world. Look to tell stories. So much of our human history has just been learned and passed on from story. People love to hear a story. Even kids at bedtime –

[00:26:38] LP: Over anything.

[00:26:39] DF: Yeah. You want to watch a YouTube video, or do you want to hear a story? Oh, I'd love to hear a story. Again, it's just being purposeful. Sometimes it means looking at, here's an important point. You know what? I don't have a story for this. Maybe there's places I can go to get a good story that's going to illustrate my point. I can talk to somebody else in the industry who's had a similar situation, or perhaps, it's just keeping your mind open that we need to have stories that go along with all of this stuff.

I've got some stuff in my book about really how to mine your friends and family and co-workers on how to get stories, because everybody's got them. For a lot of people, they think it's mundane. Yeah, there's so many great stories out there. If we can incorporate that, that's great. Then finally, having something tangible.

That is making things more concrete and really, when we're talking about data, that's what you're trying to do is you're trying to convey this message in a way that is so concrete for people that they can easily grasp on to it. That's where some charts and graphs, like some of the ones that I've seen in the financial sector, you're eye doesn't even know where to go on the screen. What is the takeaway message here? Just making that more tangible. That just means like you're already doing, including pictures, making numbers visual in a way that relates to something your audience already knows.

In law enforcement, we've got something called the best evidence rule. That means, if you're going to go to court, rather than describe a knife, it would be better to have a picture of that knife. What would be better than having a picture is to bring the actual knife into court. People love props and they love to actually see those things. If you're able to do that, bring these things actually into your presentation and let people see it. Let people touch it and experience it. That is far more tangible and concrete and they're going to walk away remembering more than had you just described it, or even just shown a picture.

[00:28:41] LP: That's fantastic. What's the name of that rule again?

[00:28:44] DF: That's called the best evidence rule.

[00:28:46] LP: Even you relating that to a topic outside of data and presentation, I think it allows the brain to switch to a context that is more concrete, as you said, more familiar. To the analogies purpose, I always think of, what are things that people can really relate to? That's why I chose movies and TV as the contexts for this keynote, because I'm actually going to be citing a whole bunch of just the most beloved movies, TV, stories, and relating like, what if Game of Thrones put an executive summary of the show on a slide before you started watching? What do you think would happen?

I'm trying to show what would happen if we did the same things in business in Hollywood? It wouldn't work. Showing it in the context of these familiar things, like The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, The Avengers, things that they can understand and see that contrast, they'll say, “Oh, that's why that works in Hollywood.”

[00:29:50] DF: 100%. I think that’s awesome. You're already grabbing on to something that people are passionate about, whether it's movies, or their –

[00:29:56] LP: Right. It’s pretty universal.

[00:29:57] DF: Their TV program. They go, “I know Game of Thrones.” That's going to be a sticky thing, because you're right. They're going to be thinking about this boring executive summary that you have to sit through on Netflix, or whatever before you advance to the first – Everybody attests that they've read this document before you move on. Yeah. Yeah, it would not work well.

[00:30:19] LP: Do you have any analogies, or metaphors, or things that you've made concrete that can help people understand how you related concepts that way?

[00:30:28] DF: Yeah. That is putting me on the spot. You know what I didn't realize is that the whole best evidence rule and talking about bringing evidence to court is really also an analogy for giving presentations. I didn't see those two. Yeah, people can picture themselves, even if they've never been in a court, everybody's enthralled, it seems, right now with what's going on with Johnny Depp. There's a lot of court watching going on and people can imagine themselves in there. I think, analogies are one of those things that when I hear a good one, I'll write it down.

[00:31:01] LP: Oh, okay.

[00:31:03] DF: Sometimes it's not even something that I know where I can use it, but I just go, “I really like that. I’m going to write that down.”

[00:31:12] LP: You can pull from it like a library.

[00:31:15] DF: Totally. You can look for opportunities to use that in what you're teaching. If you have a library of analogies, sometimes you're right, it'll even spark something where you go, “Ah, I can actually use that analogy here.”

[00:31:28] LP: Yup. Sometimes the analogy itself makes you relate to something that you're doing. I thought of this where I was not looking for an analogy of why I really overstuffed slides with lots of graphics and bullets and logos and things. I wasn't looking for analogy for that, but I was shopping one day, and at the grocery store, and I was stuffing my cart with stuff. Then I'm handing her these things, my items one at a time, and the cashier scanning them one at a time. Suddenly, I had this lightbulb moment that this is how good presentations work, where you try to really separate out different ideas on each slide and let people digest them one at a time. Versus shoving all of the items through the checkout at once, where the cashier would freak out.

I know what you mean. Once you start tuning your antenna, that you're going to be using things like analogies and stories and metaphors, your antennas start picking up things like, “Oh, that's funny how politics, this part of politics work. That's interesting.” Or, “Oh, this is a funny thing that happens at the airport.” Like you said, I actually have an Evernote of stories, just interesting stories, but I haven't thought of using that for analogies, so that's a really good suggestion.

[00:32:48] DF: Yeah. Having one, I've got one for stories, I've got one for analogies and doing stand-up comedy and stuff, I'm always – if you think of something that's funny, or that might be the kernel of something, maybe I could – If you don't write it down, it is gone. You’re, “Oh, I’ll remember this for sure.”

[00:33:06] LP: I’ll remember.

[00:33:07] DF: Yeah. For sure, I'll remember. It's like waking up. You remember a dream for a for a short time. Then by mid-morning, you're like, “Ah, it's gone.” It's the same way. Yeah, anywhere that you can use to capture it, and I'm a big fan of Evernote as well, because that way, even if I lose my phone, it's in the cloud.

[00:33:25] LP: Right. Exactly. Oh, this is where technology is amazing. That's beautiful. What is some of your take on using humor, especially with your background in stand-up humor? You mentioned video. You mentioned memes. I love these things for big conference keynotes, where the point is to have a good time and be memorable. What's your take on that during “dry, dryer business meetings?” Can they be used?

[00:33:51] DF: A 100%. This is why they're dry is because people go – this is corporate, this is official. There's no room for humor here.

[00:34:00] LP: Right. That's right. We're robots.

[00:34:01] DF: Yeah. We're robots. Yes. We're here for the numbers and the numbers only. Yeah. Everybody loves to laugh. What I tend to ask people, if you're going into the same – you're going to a business presentation. It's your company, or another company and you've got two choices. You can go through door A. That's going to be just the standard business presentation. You're going to get all the data and that's going to be it.

On the second one, though, it's going to be the identical presentation. But in that one, you're going to chuckle, or you're going to even smile just once. Which one are you going to choose? You're going to go to the one that’s a little –

[00:34:37] LP: Definitely, the dry one.

[00:34:38] DF: Oh, yeah. Nobody wants that. When we think about it from what we want as an audience member, yeah, I want something where I don't care if it's corny dad joke puns, or whatever. It's still something where if we can –

[00:34:52] LP: It’s an attempt.

[00:34:52] DF: Yeah, it's an attempt. We can relate to our audience a little bit more, it's an emotion. Any time that we can inject a little bit of emotion is awesome. There's some real, easy ways to do that. There's a method to it. This is one of the things that I learned going into doing comedy very part-time and stuff, but there's formula to some of this stuff. Certainly, if you're using a slide deck or a PowerPoint, looking at some of the subjects that you present on and just Googling that with the word ‘funny’ with it and see what comes up.

[00:35:29] LP: Oh, what a great tip.

[00:35:30] DF: Yeah, and see what comes up. Especially if you can get a picture that doesn't require a lot of reading. You might find a funny New Yorker style comic. If people have to read a whole sentence or whatever, it's not going to hit the same as if you can just put that picture up there and get the immediate visceral response of something. The idea is to use that picture as your punch line. You have to know that it's coming up and you have to prep your audience for it, so that you can say, an example would be, safety. You talk about, if we're going to be safe here, we do need to be able to spot what the warning signs are in our industry.

Then you use your presentation MO to advance to the next slide, and it's a picture of somebody doing something dangerous. Like, I've got a picture of a guy who's sleeping in the engine of a huge aircraft. It's funny on its own, because people can imagine what's going to happen if this airplane starts up and everybody gets a truckload of that, and you move on and it's as simple as that. You're not going to get people rolling on the floor, laughing. It's not going to happen. There's professional comedians. They're trying to do that, but they're only trying to get laughs and they can't do it. Most people in most audiences, especially in a business setting, will just appreciate the attempt at it. If you're not sure if it's funny, again, this is part of the preparation. Run it by some people.

[00:37:00] LP: Test it.

[00:37:00] DF: Test it out and see, and don't make the first time that you use that the big show.

[00:37:06] LP: Right, exactly. Right. Which is exactly what I'm not doing with this next one. You practice things enough times and also, you're willing to let each experience just be an experience and something to learn and grow from. If you treat every experience as the Olympics, you're going to bring so much pressure to yourself that you may not even try to begin with. The way I go is even with this next one, I'm like, “All right, sprint’s probably going to be messy. I can't see my next slide. It's really super fresh. It might be a tired early morning crowd. You know what? I'm going to get some –” It's like going to it's the circus. You get some kinks out, you figure out the rough patches. It will not be the last time. You go from there.

[00:37:50] DF: You learn from that and you tweak it a little bit next time. That's again, one of the things that I've found from comedy is that you can practice it at home, holding a toothbrush, or a remote, or whatever, like a microphone.

[00:38:03] LP: With your dog.

[00:38:04] DF: You don't really know how that's going to go, until you're in front of a live audience. Then you're hoping to get the feedback that you're looking for. If you're not getting any feedback, that's also feedback.

[00:38:15] LP: If you're not pulled off stage with a cane, then it was good enough. I just look for in the start of good enough, they took something away and there's always room for improvement. That's always helped me.

[00:38:28] DF: I feel like, all of my stuff is just constantly in beta. It's never really done.

[00:38:35] LP: I've never not changed it.

[00:38:36] DF: Yeah. No, it's good for today. But every presentation I've given has been slightly different, because I do that, sort of a hot wash afterwards and go, “Okay, what went well? What do I need to change for next time?” So that you can be better next time.

[00:38:48] LP: At the post-mortem.

[00:38:49] DF: Yeah. Exactly. That's where, I think, companies can learn a thing or two, because they like to have their standardized presentation, where if you're talking about this, here's your slide deck and there's no opportunity for the presenter to inject their own stuff. It's, you need to march through this. I've suffered that, where you've got – it’s full of text, or just this nonsense on there, but that’s what –

[00:39:14] LP: Backgrounds and cables.

[00:39:15] DF: Yup. It's been established. This is what corporate wants, and so you've got all this distracting stuff with page numbers and tables and logos. Yeah. But you do what you can.

[00:39:24] LP: What I try to tell people, because they usually, once they get equipped with tools, they're faced with a dilemma of trying to affect this cultural shift within how their company does things. Their company enlisted me to help make this shift, and yet, many of the paradigms that they've instituted limits, that creative potential and hamstrings them in terms of how to do this more effectively.

What I try to tell them is have this conversation, have it as a thing where you are trying to partner with them, where people love cupcakes and cupcakes are not necessarily good for you, right? But they want them. People don't always want what's necessarily in their highest service. This is about having the conversation of this is actually in a higher service to you. Let's try this out and see how it works, because you never know what you're going to love if you see it done a different way.

[00:40:25] DF: Yeah, you're right. I think, people are get just married to these ideas that this is the way that it needs to be. I've bumped up against that with corporate templates, where you need to have it on the template. It's like, okay. Why do we have a template? They go, “Well, that's just how things have always been done, or that's how head office –”

[00:40:48] LP: Everyone has one.

[00:40:48] DF: Everyone has one. Okay, so if you've got the same background color and the same font, in the same font color and the same font size, again, if we're trying to make things sticky so that people can remember it after and nothing stands out, because you got that same thing going on.

[00:41:05] LP: Cookie-cutter.

[00:41:06] DF: Yeah. Yeah. It doesn't lead to engagement. Often, once people realize that, they go, “Okay, well, loosen the reins a bit here.”


[00:41:22] LP: All right. We've entered the next segment, which is called The Upgrade. The Upgrade is some tool, resource book, something nifty that people can check out after this. Because people love fun things to check out. It would be great to know, was there a resource that played a pivotal role in your journey?

[00:41:44] DF: Yeah. I know we talked about this before, and I'm going to take it in a different direction. One of my favorite resources is a company called Manager Tools. I've been listening to their podcasts for about 15 years. I've paid the money to go to their training. They just offer so much value just in their podcasts that are completely free.

It's everything from presentation stuff, but not just that. It's a lot about actionable advice on how to deal with some very specific managerial and workplace issues. They have been really pivotal in my growth at work and also, just even in the way that I put my book together. Mark Horstman, who's the founder, or the co-founder of that, was one of the endorsers for my book. That was such a huge win.

If I can direct anybody over there, and man, it is like drinking from a firehose. If you have a question about interviewing, about presentation, about all kinds of stuff, man, they've got a podcast for it. They're short. They’re like 20 minutes. They're meant to be consumed on your drive.

[00:42:58] LP: The bite size.

[00:42:59] DF: Yeah. It's always very actionable. I'd send people over there.

[00:43:02] LP: I'm going to check that out. Perfect. I love new podcast recommendations, obviously, so that's so great. All right, so we've arrived at our final wildcard question. Think very hard here and imagine this very plausible scenario. You're walking into a live taping of the Roast Battle Comedy Show, when suddenly, you trip and fall into a vortex that pulls you back to the moment you're about to deliver your first presentation, or training. Do you remember what you're presenting about, and what advice would you give to your past self?

[00:43:35] DF: Wow. My first real presentation was when I was eight-years-old. I was in 2nd grade, and we call grade two here in Canada, 2nd grade. It was in French, because I was at a French immersion school. I had worked my way through the class and then to the school and presenting in front of the whole school.

I'll never forget this, because of course, you’re a kid. Well, even adults do this. You're so worried about blanking when you're up there. This is before PowerPoint, or anything. One of the teachers there actually had me draw out a picture for each segment of my talk on a cue card. They punched a hole in the corner and they put a little ring through it, so if I dropped it, I always know which one is next. They had me draw the pictures, because it was important for me to know what was up next and to be involved in that process. I made it to the provincial levels, the state level of doing that and didn't do as well as I would like for somebody who was eight-years-old.

[00:44:44] LP: You had high standards back then.

[00:44:46] DF: Yeah. I think, I would tell my myself back then to just enjoy the process. There's just so much pressure. Enjoy the process and the opportunity to be able to speak to so many people, that it's just such a privilege. I think that we can forget that with all of the other pressures that we have going on in getting presentations together is that it's a real privilege to be in front of people. You're giving time from your life that you're never going to get back, and they're giving you time from theirs. Soak it in and be present and enjoy the moment.

[00:45:21] LP: I love that advice so much. It shows two sides of a coin. Really holds sacred this privilege — that's a perfect word for it, this privilege that you have of occupying people's time, which is getting less and less and being in service to them, creating a moment for them, leaving them better. At the same time, you're going to make it out alive. This is what I've told myself over and over when I thought it was going to expire on stage from nerves, or technical problems, or blanking on things. I was like, “Wait a minute. I'm here because I've made it out alive every time. I'm going to make it out alive today.” That's what I want to offer, too. You're going to live.

[00:46:06] DF: You’re going to live. Yup, you're going to live and you're going to get better and you're going to do it again – hopefully, again, and do it better and enjoy the process more every time.

[00:46:15] LP: Yeah, really diving into the actual process of improvement, I think, is what makes that panic and terror so much easier to get through. That's really valuable. This was awesome. I loved this conversation so much, but unfortunately, our time has run out. I'd love for you to tell the listeners where they can keep up with you.

[00:46:34] DF: I’ll direct them over to my Instagram @kickass_presentations. They can certainly check out my website at Certainly, if they are interested in learning more, my book, Kickass Presentations, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, on Audible, on Kindle, you name it, you can find it there.

[00:46:59] LP: Carrier pigeon.

[00:47:00] DF: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Send me an email, I'll carrier pigeon one out to you. Yeah.

[00:47:07] LP: All right. Well, that's great. I'm so excited for the success of your book and everything and all of the links resources that you've mentioned to keep up with Dan will be on the show notes page for this episode. I want to thank you so much. It was such a pleasure crossing paths with you, and I hope we get to do that again. Till next time.

[00:47:26] DF: For sure. Thanks, Lea. Appreciate it and good luck with your book.

[00:47:28] LP: Thank you.


[00:47:38] LP: All right. I hope that you enjoyed that interview as much as I did. I love pulling in experts from all different walks of life and experiences, just so we can see how can – what each of us have learned really help up our game in the conference room. To catch all of the links and resources mentioned in this episode, visit the show notes page at

If you'd like to connect, don't be shy, and reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter, and be sure to send a connection invite with a note mentioning the show. I love to meet my listeners and I respond to every message.

I'll leave you with today's presentation inspiration by Mark Twain. That is, “Humor is the good-natured side of a truth.” I really love that one. My take, it can feel really scary to try to incorporate humor into your data presentation, especially with particularly dry subject matter. It's key as a speaker to remember that we're not presenting to robots, but rather, humans. Take your time with it, play around with it, practice and try to have some fun with it.

That's it for today. Stay well. Stay safe and namaste.

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