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Presentation Mastery

Presentation Mastery: Use humor to disarm any audience

Had I been able to snag a ticket to hear Obama speak tonight at ASU‘s commencement ceremony, I would have been one very happy ASU alumnus. But I watched him on TV and realized again that appropriate humor wins every time.

Here in Arizona, and elsewhere, the fact that Obama was being denied an honorary diploma from ASU was huge and, to me, very embarrassing news. I gladly would have sent him mine and tweeted to tell the world. 

Obama, however, didn’t tweet, he stood up. He talked about the elephant in the room and, by adding humor to the discussion, he turned a negative into a positive.

Here’s what CNN said, “Obama turns controversy into jokes, lesson at commencement.” …..

Knowing that Michael Crow, ASU president (or one of his spokespeople) had said that one of the reasons Obama wasn’t receiving the honorary degree was that his body of work is yet to come, Obama said that he wanted to address “the little controversy everyone was talking about a few weeks back,” and “we all learned an important lesson.”

“I learned to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket,” he said, referring to the school’s basketball team. “It won’t happen again.”

“President [Michael] Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS,” he joked.

Obama agreed that he has not yet achieved enough.

“I come to embrace it, to heartily concur, to affirm that one’s title — even a title like president of the United States — says very little about how well one’s life has been led,” he said. “That no matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, more to learn, more to achieve.”

“Your body of work is yet to come,” he said.

Mary Poppins said ” a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.” A little humor does too.

Action tip: Think about what is on everyone’s mind and ask yourself the question: If there were something funny about this, what would it be? 

How have you used humor to disarm your audience, handle difficult presentation situations, or discuss the “undiscussable”? Join the conversation.

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