The Presentation Secrets of Seth Godin

The Presentation Secrets of Seth GodinPreviously, I wrote about having lunch with Seth Godin. And, in particular, the three key ideas from his presentation. As a fellow presenter, it’s almost automatic for me to take two sets of notes when in someone else is on stage. I’m constantly checking their content (what they say) and their presentation style and structure (how they say it). In this post I want to share seven of my thoughts about HOW Seth presented.


Typically, most presentation gurus will advise that you start your talk with a story to position yourself, share your personality, create credibility and so on. Seth skipped this. Instead, he started with a simple interaction activity around saying the alphabet forward and backwards. Whilst he probably didn’t need a ‘credibility story’, this was a great way to dive straight into the deep end of his message.

2 One minute Stories

The standard way that most speaker training is structured is to create a series of 5-minute modules. And, to present you simply stack a series of these modules together. For instance, if you speak for 30 minutes you pull out 6 of these. For longer presentations you simply add a couple of extra ones. These modules are usually based on four minutes of story with a little explanation or concept at either end.

Seth told one-minute stories instead. They weren’t long-winded take me on an adventure type stories. They were more snippets and illustrations that allowed for a fast paced, easy-to-follow engaging presentation. Upon reflection I realized that the way Seth writes his blog is how he presents – short, highly edited and refined messages. Beautifully done!

3 Everyday Examples

Another standout was the simplicity of his message. Again, based on his books and blog posts we’d probably expect this.

And, I think the big clue to how to pull this off was the consistent use of everyday examples. There were a few mentions of Apple and the big names – and, only a few. Instead, his presentation was filled with stories about his family, his travel, his interactions, people he knew and a Seinfeld-like fascination with the everyday.

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4 No Slides

For most presenters the slides are an important aspect of their message. They provide a visual mirror to the audio voice. When take to extreme this approach results in the dreaded ‘Death by Powerpoint’.

Seth didn’t present a single slide. Not one. And, the result was that he simply talked to the audience. He was simply there with us and wasn’t distracted by what slide he was on. And, as an audience member I always knew where to look and focus my attention. Perhaps slides are a distraction? I suspect this takes a lot more confidence and fluency to engage an audience merely with your voice for 30 plus minutes. And, that’s a goal worth pursuing.

5 Props

Whilst there were no slides, Seth did use a couple of simple props. At one point he pulled out and blew up a balloon to make a point. At another he pulled up his trouser legs to show us his odd socks. Again, this use of props was simple, useful and all over in less than a minute which ensured the fast flow of fresh ideas.

6 Bingo Buzzwords

When we arrived at the venue, there were a couple of handouts on the table in front of us. One was a bingo card. Presentation Bingo is a simple game often used by trainers. Essentially, you put some of your common phrases or buzzwords on a card and the audience ticks them off as you waltz through your presentation. The first person to hear all words spoken wins a prize.

What I liked most about this was that there was no mention of it before he spoke. He simply started speaking and those who were in on the game played along whilst others didn’t. This is a great way to reinforce your key concepts and sharpen the listening of your audience. And, I’m not suggesting we all start copying this as it will become passé very quickly.

7 Script or Not?

After Seth’s presentation a few colleagues on our table had an interesting discussion based on this question: Did Seth have a script or not? As an audience member, it certainly wasn’t noticeable – which is the mark of a quality speaker. In my experience too often I feel like the presenter is merely reciting a tape recording in their head. It’s like the words are coming out but there’s nobody home. Not so with Seth. It really did feel like he was talking with us. We concluded that at some point he had a script and through numerous presentations this had dissolved into the background.

Which of these elements could you adopt and include in your presentations?

The key is not to adopt blindly. The goal is not to become a Seth Godin clone, it’s to explore the edges of your best ways of presenting.


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