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:

  • Plaster
  • Bricks
  • iPhones
  • Bagels
  • Cupcakes
  • Chocolate
  • Pizza
  • 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
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Iceland
  • 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.

let go of the fear, make the leap


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on October 21, 2013, in Communication Skills, Diversions, humor, Instructional Design, Learning. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Recent impromptu topics:

    * Football and How It Pertains to Ballet
    * Obamacare
    * Wearing High Heels

    (the last one was delivered to a group of 4 men and 4 women… it included a message about the importance of empathy and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes…)

  2. Latest impromptu topics:

    * Cheese
    * Vampires and Why I Recommend Becoming One
    * Changing diapers
    * Betty White
    * NHL Hockey Playoffs

    (Participants usually assume that a sports-related topic like hockey or baseball would be easy for me… and they’d be wrong. As far back as I can remember, all the time that I could have spent following the intricacies of local professional sports leagues was instead spent reading encyclopedias (World Book as a child, Wikipedia as an adult) about random topics… as a result, it’s the more obscure & random topics that I do better at, especially in relation to other people’s expectations.)

Leave a Reply -- for humans only, no spambots

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: