Emily Vernon

Taking a Stand-Up Class for Better Presentation Skills

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In the past I took professional presentation classes that were dry, generic and uninspiring. Searching for a challenge and novel approach, I took a stand-up class through a local improv group. If you struggle with presentations and are looking for something more upbeat, there are a number of reasons I would recommend a stand-up class.

Presentation is a day-to-day reality for many creatives and professions. We think presentations are only in front a room with many people, but I also consider calls, mini reviews and team sharing sessions as presentations. I always enjoyed presenting, but noticed many of my more personality-blessed colleagues afraid or even timid during presentations.

A typical presentation class will give you templates to organise your ideas, techniques to sound more natural and pointers on facial expressions, as well as body language. It is probable you will be video recorded multiple times to help analyse and improve your technique. The value of such classes is raising awareness. Presenting is more than delivering information, it’s connecting and communicating with your audience through multiple means.

Though these classes give you easy, simplified rules and guidelines, it still doesn’t help individuals find their personal presentation style. I found the generic advice was a quick fix, but most insights can be found on the internet. I wanted to find something that focused more on shaping an individual’s approach and onstage personality.

A stand-up class helps to develop presence, style, writing and delivery while infusing a little fun and laugher into the mix. I found it harder and more rewarding as a class. The typical format for a stand-up class is an improv warm up, stand-up exercises and practice stand-up performances with feedback. The mix of learning and performing means you could apply feedback quickly. Many stand-up exercises combined coming up with material and presenting it at the same time.

One of the most valuable aspect of a stand-up class is becoming more comfort in front of a crowd. Without comfort, it’s hard to apply any presentation or stand-up learnings. In the stand-up class we realised life continued after an embarrassing, awkward or even horrible stand-up performance. It meant failure wasn’t a problem, helping everyone be more brave and natural onstage.

As the stand-up class continued, individual styles became more apparent. It was encouraging to see everyone’s progression in both onstage presence and writing. I felt each person uncovered a part of their personality that was always there, but difficult to identify. In stand-up, it’s funnier if you become a stereotype of yourself. This sort of exaggeration gives you an identify to play with and develop through different jokes and bits.

The best, best part of a stand-up class is that it’s fun. Homework could be watching stand-up comedians and writing down techniques to try later. In the end you are making people laugh. This means the subject matter might be serious, or it might take weeks to perfect, but you’ll get a positive boost in the end.

Improving your presentation skills can be frustrating, but when you are feeling stuck, it’s worth trying a new approach. A stand-up class not only makes it fun, but also helps to develop your own style versus applying blanket techniques. Still in doubt? Go see a stand-up show and you’ll see why comics are masters at captivating audiences.