The Sesame Street Presentation Rule

After being on both the giving and receiving end of plenty of presentations, I now realize there's one golden rule which applies to all of them:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

that definitely is a good idea.

Well, my hat’s off to you; this is decidedly the dumbest thing I have read all day… and I had the entire day off to catch up on mindless blogs.

Apparently Sean was not entertained…

Is it just coincident that this post comes right after your keynote presentation to college students? :slight_smile:

I really enjoyed your presentaion @ cusec. It was really fun and instructive at the same time.

I think the Sesame street rule apply to writing blogs also.Most successful blogs are the one that entertain while being instructive.

Excellent Job Jeff…

It was memorable enough for Sean to take the time to leave a comment, so I’d say it’s a success!

No need for additional muppets. We’ve got you, Jeff.

Jeff, I agree with you on entertaining the audience. An audience needs to be motivated to listen to what you as a presenter have to say. If the presentation is dull and boring one’s mind starts to wonder and very little is absorbed. A presenter has to entertain to some extent as many topics are quite boring, but with a bit of passion, energy and entertainment the point is delivered successfully. When I look back at all my presentations, the entertaining ones have always been a hit (even the ones where you have made a fool of yourself as the audience remember the topic and you)

Can you perhaps post some examples of presentations do this well (maybe post your CUSEC presentation if possible)? I understand the point of your post, but I’m not sure how to put it into practice.

i wish u’d told that to all my lecturers, every day was a test of endurance, it was as if they didn’t care… i’m stil here though and lovin’ IT!

I agree, but …

If you’ve ever seen three presentations (using Microsoft PowerPoint, StarOffice/OpenOffice Impress, Corel Presentations, or similar applications), you never need to see another.

Honestly. Boring. Audience. To death.

First of all, if you’re trying to do an “outline” sort of presentation, a good part of your audience isn’t in the right position to see it. For this kind of speaking, you are better off passing out a handout.

Secondly, once your audience members have seen a few different backgrounds, heard a few sound effects, and been wowed with a few different ways to segue from slide to slide, they are not impressed and likely not engaged or interested.

Third, any public speaker should seek to engage his / her audience, whether by being entertaining, controversial, or informative.

I have no idea what Sesame Street is. Aren’t you supposed to start with something popular, so we won’t waste time (and get distracted) finding what it is?

The bold line “entertain your audience” is a very old idea. Everyone knows it, they just don’t know how to do it. All other paragraphs don’t have any significant point. How is it related to “programming and stuff”? Can we add a puppet to our software presentation?

Thumb up for Sean. Yawn…

“Every slide of your presentation”

It’s a fair assumption to say that most presentations will be a series of slides, and given that we probably just have to put up with it the single piece of advice I’d give to anyone is:


I swear; I watched a Channel9/MSDN lecture from some top MS developer, where he was a talking head superimposed over a video-ed slideshow presentation, and that’s all he did: read the slides to me. If I can reach back into the memory box I’ll post a link. I’m sure you’re on tenterhooks.

This was actually a great post Jeff, at least it was good if you were present at CUSEC.

He perfectly summed up the speaks that influenced and engaged people and the other talks that had interesting subject matter but no one remembered because it put them to sleep.

I’m really sorry to see the comments posted on this so far. It may just be a lack of context I think. Maybe you had to be there to understand this post. See Zed Shaw in action. See Jeff give his presentation where his slides (a total of maybe 15 or 20 for the whole hour) were just a series of images or interesting quotes. See Jon Udell’s slides that were sometimes interesting videos, sometimes just interesting segues into a topic transition. And, very importantly, see the contrast with the more “academic” presentations that were… umm… less engaging.

Luckily, CUSEC recorded video of all the keynotes and said they were going to post the videos online. I suggest you watch every keynote (ok, maybe just half of the boring one(s)) and then re-read this post. You’ll understand much better.

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My one of my favorite presentations I put a comics inside, right at the start. Sometimes I even asked the listeners of the presentation to talk the parts of the characters. Once they laughed a little, I could make my points. (Of course, the comics was specifically about those points.)

The link made me check out Mr. Rogers again. sigh Those were simpler times.

On a totally non-dev track, there is (was?) a lot of research done on sesame st - by them, and studies after it was showing for a while by others. It’s quite amaizing what they are doing. If most presenters - myself included - could engage at even 20% of that level, things like TechEd would be so much better.

I think a lot of it is covered in the Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), or possibly Blink (same author). Both of them are pretty amaizing books.

For me, the title of “best presenter ever” goes to Steve Riley from MS’s security division ( He’s amaizing on stage, never even looks at the slides unless it’s a diagram he’s actaully describing, and s so entertaining it’s usually impossible to get a seat at his presentations at TechEd New Zealand. And, he’s a really nice guy off stage, too :slight_smile:

My best teaching presentations are ones that I can do without ANY pre-made slides - ones that I can do with a white board; ones where I have some passion about the subject, and an audience I can let loose with.

Unfortunately that doesn’t work well in a multi-national corporate world where parts of the audience are in different locations, different cultures, and speak different languages. You need to slow down, write it all down, remove cultural references, etc.

Am I the only one who wants to know: What is THE longest running children’s show in the world?

You may find Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points of some interest.

He takes classical narrative form (as used in story telling for thousands of years), and builds PP presentations on that structure. Without bullet points. And without just reading the damn slide!

You may not find every technique applicable to your presentations, but I think there’s enough sense in there to justify reading it.

(And it’s available on O’Reilly’s Safari books online.)