Trainer Tip: Playing “Stump the Chump” — Impromptu Presentation Topics
As a part of a presentation skills training program segment about how to organize (structure) a talk, I used to illustrate how to use a particular structure using a standard, pre-written presentation. After a while, though, a part of me would die every time I did that same old canned demonstration.
So I decided to have some fun and took a leap of faith: “From now on,” I told myself, “It’s entirely up to the program participants.”
During the session, I ask participants to give me a random subject to do… the more difficult the better. By “difficult,” I mean a subject that I’d likely know very little about… although some participants like to go with topics that they think I’ll find disagreeable or uncomfortable.
In this way, I can (attempt to) demonstrate how useful having a good structure can be, especially when dealing with impromptu situations. Having a good structure is like having a nice firm handrail — by having something to hold onto with one hand, the rest of you can move more boldly and playfully. Bonus: Participants get some good ‘ol fashioned entertainment value in watching me squirm a bit… and I do love a challenge.
Over the years, participants have suggested all kinds of whack topics… some more outlandish than others… and now I’ve decided to keep a running list.
Here are some of the improvised presentation topics that I’ve been given. This is a partial list of topics to date, and going forward my goal is to keep updating this list:
- Miley Cyrus
- Cloud Computing
- Football (any kind)
- Fighting in Professional Ice Hockey and Why It Should Not Be Banned
- Why the Boston Red Sox Suck
- Women’s Clothing
- Women’s Lingerie
- Occupy Wall Street
- Magical Unicorn Deer
- Pet Rodent Dental Care
- The Effects of Global Warming on Cockroaches in Guam
Recommendation for other presentation skills trainers: For best results, plant the seed of the idea of “stump the chump” early on in the lesson… give them the time to come up with a really good doozy of a topic… but be clear that they shouldn’t tell you topic until the very last moment. This adds some excitement and anticipation into the learning experience, plus increases the chances that you’ll mess up a bit… or least crack up laughing.
After all, if we’re going to stand on the shoulders of giants, we might as well dance around and do some back flips, too.