Mar 9, 2015

5 Presentation Lessons from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is an interesting comic satire on HBO. The show and its anchor have some very good lessons for all presenters. If you have never watched Last Week Tonight, see this episode first. Most episodes on YouTube are 10 to 15 minutes long.



Let us break down this 11 minute video.

Part 1 (Introduction): In the first minute he talks about Halloween and then introduces the topic sugar. Lots of humor at the start. The show was just a few days before Halloween.

Part 2 (Making people care): Now comes the serious stuff. Why should we care about this topic (sugar)? Because the average american consumes 3 times more sugar than required. Visuals add to the 'oh my god' factor. Sugar also appeals to all of us naturally and hence food companies add it in everything. So hidden sugar in food is the real story here. Sugar is bad and we all know that. No one will bother with this old news. Its the hidden sugar that's new and interesting (and shocking).

Part 3 (Shocking stuff): Where is all this sugar being added by food companies? Ketchups, Beverage, Breads, Cereals, etc. Almost everything has 'hidden sugar' and this messes with our brain. Very bad for our health.

Part 4 (Counter view & the problem with that): Now the villains of the story. He mocks at the sugar association claiming sugar does not lead to obesity and diabetes. He digs up loop holes in claims of doctors and researchers (who are being funded by food companies). These people claim poor links exist between sugar and obesity.


Part 5 (Right to know): Whether sugar is good or bad, should the consumer not know how much sugar is being added to their food? The FDA is trying to ensure this by asking companies to declare this on the pack. But many food companies are against this.

Part 6 (the superb climax in all shows): He proposes every food company mention added sugar in forms of candies. A measure people can easily grasp. Not grams but candies. He encourages people to tweet using the hashtag #showusyourpeanuts :)

Here is the main message:
Most food companies add sugar into our food to make it tasty. This sugar is hidden from all of us. We have a right to know how much sugar is being added.

John is not trying to talk anything more than that.

If you have seen the video, you know why this guy is so good. Forget the slang and the explicit language at times. Here are 5 things we can learn from him:

1. Humour works - John Oliver talks about very serious stuff. Tobacco, sugar, native advertising, prison, Independence of Scotland, etc. but he add tons of humor into everything. That's because we all want humor. Life is too serious anyway.

2. Short and simple - A serious topic. Tons of research by John Oliver and his team. Yet what is the duration of this video? 11 minutes 30 seconds. What will normal presenters do when asked to talk about sugar? They research for a week and then present for 1 hour. The world does not care. There is no time for anything. If you want to get people to pay attention, finish quickly and get out.

3. Credible information - John Oliver gives you proof every time he says anything important. Sugar consumption data is from National Center for Health Statistics. Sugar is bad for us says AHA (a newspaper report is shown with date). He ensures credibility is there in everything he claims.

4. Videos & images - There is proper use of videos and images. Imagine listening to John Oliver for 11 minutes 30 seconds with no videos, photos and animations. It would be tough. We need change. John Oliver gives us that.

5. Passion - John is so passionate about his topic. He laughs, he moves his body, he makes faces and he is completely involved. His passion is infectious.

Learn from John and add some of these ingredients in your next speech or presentation.