For me, the coming weekend is going to be filled with binge watching of the Netflix series House of Cards. I am a great fan of the despotic and conniving protagonist, Frank Underwood, who sees other people only as means for advancing his own agenda. I have to say that it feels kind of awkward to admit that.
Presentation lessons from House of Cards and Kevin Spacey
The series has been a success story with both winning the hearts of audiences and the juries of Emmy and Golden Globe galas. All this despite of the unusual approach to its distribution (=no pilots, available only from Netflix, no ads apart from some serious product placement, all episodes of a season are released on one go).
About a year ago Kevin Spacey, one of the creators of the series and the actor behind the main character, gave a great speech in IBM Impact 2014 conference. Unfortunately it is not available in full length in video, but just watching the intro below you can understand why it too has been generating so many blog posts on the importance of ”storytelling in the age of disruption”.
I think what both that short excerpt of Kevin Spacey’s speech and the wild success of House of Cards can teach us is that good content, characters and storytelling is still what gets people attention and sympathies even in this age of abundance and information overflow. Be it a a presentation, blog post or TV series.
I believe this is the reason for my sympathies to a monster for a man, Frank Underwood, who by the way is an inexhaustible source for great quotes.
Presentation lessons from Frank Underwood
Here is my short recap of presentation lessons from House of Cards as a Slideshare.
1. ”THERE’S NO BETTER WAY TO OVERPOWER A TRICKLE OF DOUBT THAN WITH A FLOOD OF NAKED TRUTH.”
Based on what I have seen thus far, people give their best presentations when they are feeling closely to the presentation subject and are willing to expose their authentic feelings in front of an audience. Exposing yourself and being your true self in front of the audience is what wins people´s hearts and that is when you can really start having a conversation with them.
2. ”THE HIGHER UP THE MOUNTAIN THE MORE TREACHEROUS THE PATH.”
At first when I got interested in the art of public speaking and presentations, I thought that it is matter of learning the tricks and gimmicks to being persuasive. Now about seven years later my thinking has evolved. Being a great public speaker and presenter is about having something that is truly important for yourself to say and mastering the art of being yourself. Both of these are closely related to knowing yourself, which for many is a life-long venture. Therefore it is a long and treacherous path to become good in persuading others.
3. ”OF ALL THE THINGS I HOLD IN HIGH REGARDS, RULES ARE NOT ONE OF THEM.”
One of the best lessons about public speaking comes from David Gelkin, one of my Toastmaster colleagues, who I hold in very high regard. Couple years back we were hanging out in our hotel room in Malmö during the Nordic championship of public speaking. David is a really funny guy, but here he had delivered a more serious speech and in more soft spoken manner than usually. It was also very different from all of the other speeches. I asked David why he was so different from his usual self and the other speakers. David said something that really stuck with me: ”The best way to stand out is to do something different than the others. When the others go left, I go right.”. Knowing the rules and conventions is a good thing, but breaking them is what makes you stand out.
4. ”IF WE NEVER DID ANYTHING WE SHOULDN’T DO, WE’D NEVER FEEL GOOD ABOUT DOING THE THINGS WE SHOULD.”
Sometimes you may get stuck with certain styles or manners of presenting. You may notice it by not feeling as many butterflies in your stomach before a presentation as you did earlier. At these times, it is good idea to try something different. Incorporating a bit more audience interaction or trying a little different method of delivery may get you off the comfort zone and more focused again. Trying new things and taking (calculated) risks at times is what keeps you fresh.
5. ”I AIN’T ONE FOR LOOKIN’ BACK. EYES AHEAD.”
Let´s face it, you are not going to shine every time. Sometimes you may even ”swallow the mic” as the standup comedians say. It is not the end of the world. Remember people are mostly interested in their own business, and the one that remembers the duds for the longest will be yourself, no one else. Life is too short to dwell on errors, at least with speeches or presentations. Eyes ahead, there is always next time.
Have a great weekend and remember to tune in for House of Cards!