Our latest podcast guest is Dan Fraser. He is a public speaker, the author of the book Kickass Presentations, and the owner of the company Fraser Training Solutions.

Everyone from the presentation industry has a curious story of how they entered the field. But Dan Fraser’s one is quite the thing.

He used to be a police officer. He eventually became a tactics trainer, teaching other police officers, which meant that basically, he was presenting every day. But at the same time, he started doing stand-up comedy because why not? It just seemed cool to him. And it is cool, that’s true! In the process, he found out that there are a lot of parallels between professional presentations and doing stand-up.

Now Dan takes his lessons from his tactics training and stand-up experience and helps instructors hone their ability to deliver unforgettable trainings. In this episode with him, we talk about stand-up comedy and what you can learn from it to improve your public speaking and presentation delivery. Listen or watch the full episode for both valuable and fun knowledge.

But if you prefer reading, you can find the whole conversation transcript below. Enjoy this talk the way you want.

Resources

Check out Fraser Training Solutions here. Connect with Dan Fraser on Instagram, or grab his book called Kickass Presentations here now!

Watch the full episode

Transcription

Dan Fraser:

I’d also say that standup comedians don’t waste any time. So, I’m a big advocate of having a purposeful opener. And of course, that’s important for things like TED talks and those kinds of things. But I think even if you’re doing a one-hour seminar at your workplace, instead of starting out with the normal Hello. My name’s Dan Fraser. I’ve worked here for 20 years. La, la, la. You don’t see standup comedians doing it. They get right to something that is going to grab people’s attention and it doesn’t need to be funny if you’re a trainer but… I like that, that part of it, where you’re constantly editing what you’re doing and you are writing new material, you’re trying it out on a live audience, you’re getting immediate feedback, and if you get no feedback, that’s also feedback.

And you’re rewriting and tweaking and going, you know what if… what if I, if I said this a little bit differently, if I, I said this in three sentences, can I see this in two shorter sentences and just make it more compact and brief? And I think if we do that with all our speaking, there are some good lessons there

Boris Hristov:

Hey everyone, and welcome to another episode of The World of Presentations podcast brought to you by us at presentation agency 356labs. My name is Boris. Your typical host of this show, obviously. And today we have together with us a colleague from our industry who is a public speaker, who is an author of a book that’s called Kickass Presentations. I love that name, by the way.

And he’s also an owner of the consulting company Fraser Training Solutions. His name is obviously Dan, but his family name is Fraser. So, we have with us Dan Fraser. Dan, welcome to the show.

Dan Fraser:

Hey, thanks for having me, Boris. This is great.

B.H.:

Absolutely! Dan let’s start where we always start from. Meaning, how did you end up working in the presentation industry and becoming a public speaker, and having this company. What happened there?

D.F.:

I think I probably took a different path than most people I am. I was a police officer in Calgary, Canada, where I live, and eventually became a full-time tactics trainer. So, I’m teaching police all the physical stuff to do with policing, all the putting your hands on people and weapons and talking to people and driving, etc. and that led me to basically presenting every day.

I did that for six years straight, and when I left, one of the other instructors said, hey, would you put together some like a course on how to actually teach and come back and deliver that? And I thought, Wow, that’s quite the endorsement. Okay, I’m going to have to take a deep dive, into presenting. And I guess there were some things I knew intuitively that I was doing that were working well, but this led me really to putting together a workshop and then ultimately a book.

And when I retired two years ago, I was able to move into, you know, presenting full time and, and being and being a speaker. And so, I didn’t I didn’t grow up being a speaker. I just kind of came into it like a lot of people, they join whatever they have a job, or they work in an industry and then at some point they find themselves presenting.

They’re told, hey, can you teach some of the new people or can you go and presented this conference, and often they get little to no training. And really, my passion now is around helping those people to find their voice and to be effective at delivering their message.

B.H.:

So, yeah, I am completely sure that we… in the past 105 or six episodes, that we don’t have someone that came from that background that is guaranteed. You’re the first one. Were definitely the first one. However, we decided, and you suggested three or four topics when we were exchanging emails, and one of them caught my attention because I don’t think we discussed that topic also so far on the podcast. Yet, I believe it will be extremely easy for people to relate to. Because we decided to talk about what we can steal as an idea or ideas from standup comedy.

Standup comedy, I don’t know for Canada, you are located in Canada from what they told me, but at least in Bulgaria became extremely popular in the last two or three years, maybe because of Netflix. I don’t know why that happened, but it’s extremely popular nowadays and a lot of people that are listening probably went on a stand up recently. So, what let’s start with the most fundamental things maybe while they’re the top, I don’t know, three things those standup comedians do that we can kind of just look at and say, wait a minute, I can do that also for my presentation to work in my context.

D.F.:

Yeah, I started standup late in life and it was kind of on a dare. It’s something I have always envied. And I didn’t do standup. Yes, yes. All right. So, I’m not just taking stuff from standup. I started doing standup and I didn’t do it with the goal of becoming a better speaker or whatever. I just thought it was a cool thing. And I’ve had my wife encourage me. She’s always like, you should do standup. And so, I finally did. And what I learned from that is that there is a lot of parallels between whether it’s maybe not necessarily corporate speaking, but if you’re giving presentations and training, people like to be entertained. We’ve come like you said, with Netflix.

And the just the popularity of standup has increased. And we’ve all now kind of expect some entertainment with our information and I think the biggest thing for me is that getting people to smile or getting people to laugh is an emotion. And any time that we can connect emotionally with our audience, it helps them pay attention because nobody’s falling asleep when they’re laughing.

And so that’s really where I started to look at stand up and going, okay, what can I purposefully take from what I’ve learned and stand up and bring it over to the training world? And so first is that emotional connection. I’d also say that standup comedians don’t waste any time. So, I’m a big advocate of having a purposeful opener.

And of course, that’s important for things like TED Talks and those kinds of things. But I think even if you’re doing a one-hour seminar at your workplace instead of starting out with the normal. Hello, my name is Dan Fraser. I’ve worked here for 20 years. La, la, la. You don’t see standup comedians doing it. They get right to something that is going to grab people’s attention.

And it doesn’t need to be funny if you’re a trainer, but I like that. That part of it, where you’re constantly editing what you’re doing and you are writing new material, you’re trying it out on a live audience you’re getting immediate feedback, and if you get no feedback, that’s also feedback. Yeah. And you’re, you’re rewriting and tweaking and going you know what?

If I, if I said this a little bit differently, if I, I said this in three sentences, can I see this in two shorter sentences and just make it more compact and brief? And I think if we do that with all our speaking, there are some good lessons there. And so, in my book, in my workshop, I call it, “You’ve got to be joking” because everybody loves to be able to smile.

And so, if you think about it, if you were going to two identical presentations, you walked in and you’re going to go through door number one or number two with same presentation, same presenter, but in one of them, you’re not going to laugh at all. It’s just going to be straight information. It’s going to be a standard presentation And then the other during that hour, you’re going to laugh or smile one time.

Which one would you go to? You’re going to take the one that is going to engage you a little bit more. And so, knowing that and knowing what we want as audience member, we should be more purposeful in building in some funny stuff or humorous stuff as presenters.

B.H.:

Okay. I get I hear you say a lot of things here. To be very honest. Like, Wow, I was listening to I took at least I will say three things that people can immediately apply in the presentation. The first one was a very strong opener, right, not just the typical one that everyone immediately gets bored to worry or at least associate with. Okay, here we go again. Same, the same type of presentation, the same approach.

I’m already bored. Right. Hey, my name is Boris in today. Click the agenda, slide the beer. So, we we’re going to discuss X, Y, and Z yeah. This is obviously not the perfect the perfect start of a presentation. And the standup comics. Standup comedians. I think yeah. Jimmy, maybe when I think about it, the first thing that I see, especially the kind of rock star level comedians, the first thing that makes an impression on me is that they wait a little to somehow get all the all the cheering that happens. Oh, when they go on stage, this is kind of a step zero for them. Is there a reason why those guys are doing this?

D.F.:

Yeah, it’s because you need all the attention on you, and you need to be heard over the audience. So, if and this doesn’t happen to me because I’m no rock star comedian, but if you come out and people are clapping and cheering and you start talking over that, there’s some people that are going to miss that. So, it’s in the same way that, you know, if you’re hanging out with a bunch of your friends and you’re going to you’re going to say something funny or you’ve got that thing where you’re like, Oh, I have to see that you’re going to wait for the perfect time where there’s a little lull in the conversation to be able to just put that in there. You don’t want to be talking over other people. So, it’s all about just having all the attention on you so that when you deliver that funny thing, everybody is getting it at the same time.

B.H.:

Yeah, this is the first one. Obviously, the, the let’s go with how did you call it? You’ve got to be joking. Yeah. The second thing is second thing that I heard you saying is something that I also heard recently on the conversation with Horror Shooter, who is the Ritz-Carlton co-founder and who is going to be the speaker of who was already a speaker. This is going to be published after the conference is over, but who was a speaker of Present Succeed or conference?

Who in a conversation that was not recorded, actually shared with me that one of the things that they were doing in the Ritz-Carlton and afterward in the Capella group was that every single time when someone from his staff was doing their work all the time, serving a table or creating a drink or whatever it was, they have this mentality of pushing it, pushing themselves and just having this idea that once I serve that table, once I create this drink, I need to ask myself how can I do this better?

Absolutely. You know, and I heard you saying, hey, when I have these three sentences, can I do two shorter ones? Right. Can I do it better? Can I do a presentation that’s otherwise a great one and still ask myself for even as the others. Right? Can I do this better? That was yeah. And I know that in stand up especially, that is crucial. Crucial, crucial thing because not all the time the jokes work from the first try. Right.

D.F.:

Right. And with comedy, what comedians are looking for is something called LPM or laughs per minute so you can time. If you record a five-minute comedy set, you can find out how many times people are laughing in there and condense that down by going okay this was maybe a 30-second pause.

How can I make that 20 seconds or 10 seconds and still be able to be funny or set up the next joke? And so, presenters shouldn’t have to really concern themselves with that. But it is a measure, you know, if you if you want to tighten things up you know, edit down what you’re saying and can I say this in a more condensed matter and get to something that is going to be entertaining or emotional or funny, quicker.

B.H.:

Yeah. And the third thing, by the way, here is very quickly, I really like that one. That that comparison, the two that you mentioned like if you must choose between this presentation and that one, that kind of makes you laugh or entertains you even a bit, even though it may be on a serious subject which one would you go to? Well, if both are the same and the speaker is the same and the topic is the same, but the other one then even entertain me Yeah. I mean, I would always go to that. Yes, of course. Yeah. And that’s that means that wait a minute. Maybe we definitely have to be thinking about okay, we’re talking about serious subject, but how do we drive emotionally? How do we incorporate humor or here and there? So that it’s not like just the data, numbers, charts, they are both products in use and patients and everything else.

D.F.:

It’s about being purposeful about adding some stuff in there because people will say, well, hey, I’m not funny. So that’s good for Boris because he’s, he’s just naturally funny. Well, we can do some purposeful things to build in some humor into our, into our presentations. And it’s not about getting people laughing to where they’re falling out of their chairs, and they think it’s hilarious. It’s just getting some emotion from smiling. So, so everybody’s got some degree of humor in them. Whether maybe it’s corny, we call them dad joke kind of puns and if that’s what you do, well, then leverage that in your speaking and just look for opportunities to put stuff in there.

I think one of the easiest for core presenters because most, most are using a PowerPoint or Keynote or course or some type of thing where they’re putting, like you said, charts and that kind of things that gives you a huge opportunity to put some funny stuff up there where even if it’s a corny sort of a pun or a play on words, to have some of those built-in and it’s really not that hard.

So, if you’re talking about, I don’t know, you’re presenting in the oil and gas industry and you’re speaking about a specific topic, you can just search for funny images that relate to that topic. And look to put them into your presentation. So, my advice on that is to go a little bit off the obvious, because if you were to put in let’s say you’re talking about spotting, you know, spotting the danger signs in whatever you’re speaking about.

Well, if you put in if you look for a Google image search, for example, of danger signs, you’re going to have literal danger signs. Yep. So that’s not funny. It’s maybe better than nothing. So, we can go another step further and go, okay, well, what about a funny danger sign? Well, some people have created you know, I’ve got one in the book where it’s talking about a steep hill, and it shows somebody on a wheelchair rolling down into the waiting mouth of an alligator.

So, it’s funny or but if we go even dig a little bit deeper and go, well, what other topics are related to danger? Maybe it’s doing dangerous things or spotting the signs or anything that’s just a little bit off that. And that will get us off the obvious stuff. And so now you find pictures of people doing potentially stupid or dangerous stuff like a picture of an aircrew member, you know, sleeping in the giant jet engine of an airplane.

And it’s funny immediately there are no words you nobody must read a sentence. And the way to get the most out of that and to use that funny picture as your punch line is to see what you’re going to see to set up that sort of joke and to go something like it. You know, if you’re showing a picture of somebody sleeping in a jet engine, you can imagine what would happen if somebody turned that on.

And so, before you get to that slide, it’s saying yeah, and not everybody’s good at spotting the danger. And then you use your presentation room remote to advance the slide. And that slide is now the punchline. And because there’s no reading involved; everybody gets it immediately yeah. It’s I use that to great effect all the time. And it’s not that hard once you set your mind to it.

And again, be purposeful about going, you know what, I need to add a little humor here. So where in my presentation can I put it? And especially if there’s times where sometimes we get into like a real serious topic and it’s kind of a downer, you know, in, in law enforcement for sure. There’s a lot of topics that are really that are emotionally difficult to talk about and stuff.

And so, adding some humor in there purposefully just kind of lightens the mood a bit if you need it and brings people back to life to not being just depressed over talking about things like suicide or mental health issues, for example.

B.H.:

Yeah, and you mentioned obviously just trying to incorporate humor into a presentation, but I would say that comedians also are very they are extremely good at using pauses because you mentioned that when you show that slide with someone that’s very close to the jet engine or whatever, you’re not seeing anything, right?

Because you write the joke and then you click, and that thing shows up and you just go silent, and you make the audience drive the conclusion for themselves and by themselves. What is the role of pausing? Right, because I think that quite, quite a lot of people on this podcast may have heard that pauses and using pauses intentionally are a big deal. Tell us a little bit more about that one.

D.F.:

I think it relates to a couple of things. So, one, you’re absolutely right. If we’re using a picture as a punchline, we don’t want to be maybe talking over that. We can pause and we can let the picture do the show, the messenger for us. And certainly, when people talk about comedy, timing is a big thing. And so, a lot of if we’re going to tell a joke, for example, you know, you hear our funny joke and it’s maybe it’s appropriate that you can use it in in a workplace setting. It’s not going to offend people or those kinds of things. And you go, okay, I’m going to use this in a presentation. There are I know some speaking coaches that will tell you don’t tell jokes because they’ve seen it have done so poorly so many times.

Where is I say, yeah, if you find something that’s really funny and it relates to your topic, right? You can link it back to your message. It’s not just a joke for the sake of being funny. And if you can tell it, well, then go for it. The key, though, is again, with that timing and knowing where to pause is being intentional about practicing that.

So, tell it at the office and tell it to friends and get used to the timing of that joke and what works best so that when you get to that presentation, it’s not the first time that you’re telling it and you can be nice and smooth and confident in your delivery.

B.H.:

Yeah. By the way, you are also mentioning something that I think a lot of people will find. I don’t know how many of our listeners or people who are consuming this on YouTube, let’s say, have thought about that, but I think I saw documentary on I don’t know who that was, but they were explaining the process of getting into the big show when it’s like thousands of people that are in the audience, etc., and how much preparation there is for them to get to this level.

Like they every single comedian first goes to local clubs to then to a little bit bigger venue, like a theater, then to another a little bit slightly bigger. Again, all of them doing it just for the sake of rehearsals, I would say, and just for the sake of seeing seeking feedback. And I’m sure that even before they go into the smallest venue that they choose to go to, like a club maybe as small as, I don’t know, they also rehearse before that.

Yet in the business worlds, people constantly say, I’m not a good presenter, I’m this, I’m that, I’m whatever but they never rehearse, right? And I’m like, guys, come on, you are searching for, and I don’t know, probably your training trainees are also asking you what the trick is so that I don’t get feel nervous. And I’m like, I’m sorry I have to say this, but it’s not for you to wear your favorite socks. You know, it’s that may help, but you need to kind of figure out the fundamentals first. Right.

D.F.:

Yeah, that’s the rehearsal. The rehearsal bit absolutely is huge. And I think a lot of people just go, oh, I got this all. Yeah, I’ll use my slides as a handrail and I’ll just kind of figure it out. And they haven’t rehearsed. I was at a conference, and it was an international level conference, and the woman’s speaking had flown to Canada from the United States. And the first thing she says is, this isn’t my presentation. This is somebody else’s in my company. And I’m not really that familiar with it. And she proceeds to just say, every slide that comes up was something new.

And she spoke a little bit about it, but it wasn’t smooth or confident at all. And she just she missed an opportunity to have an impactful presentation, but also the credibility of her and her organization just, you know, yeah. You know, take the time to rehearse. And that’s one thing certainly in comedy is there is a ton of rehearsal time.

And you’re right, that’s what you don’t see by the time somebody gets to Netflix or that kind of thing, they have been, they probably got 20 years of doing it behind them. And they have rehearsed that one-hour hundreds of times. They’ve performed it hundreds of times. And so, of course, it looks easy. And just like anything, you see a professional do it, whether it’s a presenter or whether it’s an Olympic athlete, and they make it look easy. And that’s because of the preparation in the rehearsal.

B.H.:

Yeah. The two components here have to hit everyone. Let’s listen to this one 20 years of experience, let’s say the numbers of years of experience of that specific person in a job, in an industry or whatever it may be. And yet hundreds of rehearsals. So, these two components played together to later on give us the impression that it looks easy, like it just he or she just makes it look easy.

Yep. And there is a reason for that. And now, you know, some of the rest are part of the reason why that’s the case. Rehearsals, the experience in general was the fact that you also mentioned not only did they rehearse but they also practiced it in front of other audiences. And then it’s Netflix, let’s say. And then you try to see like it’s such a smooth experience, you know, like how can they do that?

Well, they have done it already hundreds of times for 20 years. What do you expect? That’s right. What do you expect? Well, all right. All right then. Question here on my end, we are always it’s already 25 minutes in this super-fast. We’re trying to shorten our podcast from one hour to 20 to 30 minutes. So, let’s try to do it again.

Today we are experimenting a little to see how people will react to this. On to this. So, the question here is, is there someone that you think we have to have on our podcast, be that the presenter or someone from the business field that sometime in the past or recently made a huge impression on you with their presentation skills?

D.F.:

Yeah, absolutely. I would say sort of a personal mentor to me is a guy named Brian Willis. He runs a company called Winning Mind Training, and he’s really in the law enforcement space. But it’s really too bad that he’s not in the larger audience because he’s, he’s so good. And I’ve just learned so much presentation wise from him. So, Brian Willis would be at the top of my list, the person.

B.H.:

All right. I wrote that down immediately. I don’t know him, which makes it extremely interesting. So, we’ll try to get to you, Brian. Get ready. All right. So, one last here, which is a two-part question. There was a little bit more about what is the best place for people to connect with you personally.

And, of course, where can people find more about work, about your work, and probably also a little bit more about the book where awesome they find it Yeah. Yeah.

D.F.:

I’m on Instagram as kickass_presentations and I’m trying to put some, you know, some useful tips in that kind of thing about presenting on there. And then my book is kickasspresentationsbook.com and people can It just launched yesterday March 24th so people can get it on Amazon and from a bunch of other places including Audible.

B.H.:

I was about to be extremely transparent and honest that I didn’t have this book, but the fact that it launched yesterday maybe makes it do a little bit easier on me. So, if it’s all right I’ll get it right now then. Brilliant, everyone. First, thanks for joining. This is so much fun. Hopefully people will do. I would say at least five or six notes here very quick, very easily.

At least five or six extremely practical things that they can immediately apply into their everyday life and presentation life easily. Thank you so much for that one.

D.F.:

Awesome. Thanks, Boris.

B.H.:

So, everyone you heard it from them. We’re going to also, by the way, link to your website, if you don’t mind, because we always do. So, you also have his Instagram profile and the link to the book that was released yesterday. All right. So do you guys’ presentations book kickass underscore presentations on Instagram you can find them there? Again, thanks. Thanks for being with us and sharing over those those tips and for everyone who is listening. If you’re still not a subscriber to the podcast, then subscribe. And if you’re watching, too, if you’re watching on YouTube, then like share a comment, you know what to do. We appreciate all of the efforts there. Thanks so much, everyone, and see you in the next one.