The Basics of Engaging and Entertaining Presentations: ‘…and Death Came Third! 10th Anniversary Celebrations

Ten years ago, in 2006, Peter Roper and Andy Lopata published the first edition of ‘…and Death Came Third! The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ on Bookshaker. The book was a big success with over 2,000 copies sold in the first 48 hours alone. Panoma Press published the second edition in 2011 and negotiated a separate edition published in Malaysia and Singapore.

We have consistently been amazed by the affection held for ‘…and Death Came Third!’ by many readers, reflected by the emails and comments we have received from people from a range of backgrounds. The book focuses on the basics of networking and presentation skills, giving readers simple approaches to working the room at networking events or giving their first talk.

To celebrate this, we have got together with our network to provide a series of short ‘Basics’ blogs. Over the month of September Andy, Peter and Panoma Press owner Mindy Gibbins-Klein will share a guest blog every day exploring the basics of business, from the basics of confidence and attitude to negotiation and strategy. We have also made the Kindle edition of this excellent book just £1.99 or $2.99 throughout September, so if you haven’t read it yet, get your copy now!

Today writer and broadcaster Jeremy Nicholas shares The Basics of Engaging and Entertaining Presentations

I’ve sat through an awful lot of presentations over the years.

And I’ve sat through a lot of awful presentations.

I started in professional speaking as an MC. As a broadcaster I was asked to compere events. It amazed me how much companies would spend on conferences, yet so little effort went into making the presentations interesting.

It’s considered bad form to fall asleep when you’re the MC, so I kept alert by devising the Talking Toolbox system to make presentations engaging and entertaining.

I grew up at the BBC whose values are to inform, educate and entertain. Too many speakers concentrate on informing and educating and forget about entertaining. That’s a shame. If you entertain your audience you’ll hold their attention.

Here’s some of my ideas to grab the audience and hold onto them (although organisers have asked me to restrain from physically touching the audience):

  • Show a short video – moving pictures and music can be so inspiring.
  • An audience interaction – get them to do something that challenges them.
  • Ask a question – anything that makes them think
  • Give them a short task to do in pairs – it gives them a chance to talk.
  • Get them to vote with a show of hands – it changes them from passive to active.
  • Tell a funny story – use humour to engage them.
  • Tell an inspiring story – make them feel something.
  • Use a killer fact – the more incredible the better.
  • Deliver a ‘wow’ moment – something that they’ll be talking about the next day.
  • Bring on a prop – appeal to the visual learners in the room.

All of the above help keep you audience’s attention.

I like to add humour to my talks. My maxim is ‘If they’re laughing, they’re listening’.

If you’re not naturally funny then find someone who is and get them to write you some lines. I offer a ‘Tickle My Keynote’ service where I ‘gag up’ talks for high profile speakers.

If humour doesn’t fit with you, then pick one of the others, but you must do something. Audiences are easily distracted. We fight a battle to keep their interest when they have so many handheld gadgets they can play with.

If you don’t give them a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, don’t be surprised if they get out their tablets.

Jeremy Nicholas is the director of Talking Toolbox coaching presenters to be more entertaining and engaging.

He specialises in adding humour to keynotes for professional and public speakers.

To download a free copy of his book ‘A Million Tips on Public Speaking – Volume 1’ just visit

Don’t forget: the Kindle edition of ‘…and Death Came Third!’ is available for just £1.99 or $2.99 throughout September. Get your copy now!

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