Russ Klein’s Secrets to Presenting

By March 12, 2018Blog
Russ Kelin Photo

Russ Klein, CEO of the American Marketing Association and Marketing Leader

American Marketing Association CEO Russ Klein presented at UC Davis on Monday, February 26 in an event co-sponsored by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and AMA Sacramento Valley. He delivered a convincing case for making experience design central to marketing and business development.

However, a question from one of the UC Davis MBA students yielded another unexpected goldmine from the veteran leader. The student asked him his secrets for presenting.

It was a natural question, given Klein’s style. He spoke for just an hour, but you’d be happy to learn from him all day. He involves the audience, keeping you alert, and engaged. But there’s a lot more going on than that, as he generously revealed:

  • Never sit or stand away from your presentation. In the room we were in, the podium was on one side of the room, but the screen was in the center. He mostly ignored the podium, alternating from standing in front of the screen to moving closer to the audience. Don’t make the audience choose between you and the presentation, he counseled: you’ll have a much greater impact if they experience both.
  • Throw baseballs at the audience. He doesn’t literally recommend that you throw baseballs at the audience, of course. What he did mean was to connect with individual audience members when you make statements, as if you are playing catch. Since it’s hard to connect with everyone, he also recommends that you break the crowd into quadrants and alternate where you look.
  • Use lots of images. Presentations should be interesting, which means visuals. Shuttling through a lot of simple slides with interesting photos or graphics will keep the audience engaged.
  • Don’t forget to smile. Nothing connects to an audience like a smile.
  • Move close to hecklers. If someone is giving you a hard time or over talking, move toward them. This is not an intimidation move. Instead, you are drawing attention to the person in such a way that the audience will focus on them and make them self-conscious. It will also make them feel like you’ve given them personal attention. The sum effect should be that they will become less assertive.
  • Finally, he spoke about the power of…

…the pause. Pausing shows emphasis. Pausing conveys a contemplated point. It creates tension, which makes things interesting.


Klein is charismatic; he could probably disregard these rules and still be interesting. But these tips will improve even the shyest person’s presentation. And in a way, it reinforced Klein’s greater point about experience design: Presentations are an experience, and you’ll make a much stronger impact on your audience if you design your presentations effectively.




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