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Presenting Like Captain Kangaroo

Remember watching something on TV that captivated your imagination so much that you didn’t want the show to end? People in the entertainment world have that kind of appeal, using eye contact, humor and improvisation to leave the audience wanting for more.

Captain Kangaroo had me at “hello” on his weekday CBS Television program when I was growing up in the 1970s. As the Captain, Bob Keeshan was the entire package and he delivered it along with our favorites, Mr. Moose, Rollo the Hippo and Grandfather Clock.

I was reminded of the Captain’s appeal while attending and listening to various speakers at ALM Chicago, a conference presented by our client, Centare. There were several great takeaways from the experts at this two-day conference that I think were “Captain-worthy” so keep them in mind for your next big talk:

  • Generate discussion –The Captain successfully used the show’s characters to entertain and inform his viewers so find a way to involve the people in attendance. Consider a talk-back. Skip the “Any Questions” slide on the PowerPoint and ask people specific questions related to your topic. Have someone on standby to play “Phil Donahue” with the microphone so everyone can hear the questions and comments or get off stage and into the crowd yourself. It’s okay to have a few “planted” questions in the audience. No one will know if you don’t tell them.
  • Include humor – Self-deprecating humor or tapping into something funny related to pop culture as part of a PowerPoint doesn’t make it feel like a PowerPoint. Remember the ping pong balls? No need to hit people over the head, but find something that fits your style. An ALM Chicago speaker from Canada made fun of himself before a U.S. audience, and weaved several clever references to the Comedy Central pop hit, “South Park,” into his talk. He nailed it.
  • Have a killer ending – How do you want to walk off stage? A simple thank you is allowed, but can you offer something more memorable? Another ALM Chicago presenter laid out a situation to his audience that kept getting more and more complicated during his talk. At the end of the session, he didn’t tell people what to do next because he wanted them to figure it out. Some might be upset with such an abrupt ending, while others are accepting of the challenge. Either way, few will forget how he took a bow.

Photo By The Kellogg Company. Kellogg’s was one of the program’s sponsors; the postcard is postmarked from Battle Creek, MI, home of the company. Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia (eBay item card front card back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons