Present like Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves may be one of the most likeable, hype-generating actors of 2019. One of his public speeches – the announcement of the new game, Cyberpunk 2077 – proved enormously entertaining and went viral for many reasons. Apart from the entertaining aspect, this short stage appearance of Keanu made our Language Extreme Team wonder about the presentation skills that the actor used. So, what can we learn from one of the most admirable actors and implement the lessons in 2020? First, watch this Cyberpunk announcement and then, read the analysis.

Listen to the audience

The paramount reason for this bit going viral is the connection that Keanu built with the audience. How? By listening AND responding. Most probably you’re familiar with the “you’re breathtaking” moment but let’s hear it once again:

Yup, we’re all breathtaking. Even if your business environment is slightly different, from this short moment we can learn that addressing audience’s questions, fears, and comments can move mountains – and make you win your audience in no time.

Just remember: there’s a fine line between being neurotic and overreacting to each comment from the audience’s side and the attitude Keanu shows here. Don’t exaggerrate. If there’s a need, then respond.

To do this well, think of a presentation as a dialogue, not a monologue. Radical as it may seem, we believe presentations are two-way communication. Use what the members of the audience show you by narrowing down the prepared content to the most valuable bits, add a joke or a real-life story if you sense the audience would be keen on it. Don’t ignore difficult questions – if you’re not ready to reply, explain why and address them later.

Remember that each presentation is different. That’s because the audience changes. When our team runs quite similar trainings or classes with different groups, there’s no way we can get bored! The dynamics is each time very different and people are so diverse that it’s actually fun to repeat the same material or tasks and observe various reactions!

You are the presentation

Obviously, Keanu uses no power point slides here. But how would your corporate colleagues react to you lacking the very standard visual aids? What’s also obvious here may not find understanding within the business world (well, PowerPoint seems to be a company’s best friend). However, just bear with me for a moment as I convince you why you shouldn’t care that much about your slides.  

Keanu did in fact, nothing different from any manager or director. He announced and presented the release of a new game on the market. Can we call Keanu’s appearance „a presentation” then? With an aid of the omniscient Cambridge Dictionary, we define a presentation as “a talk giving information about something”. So, yup. Cambridge confirmed – a presentation indeed. No slides. See? The bottom line is that even though the corporate world pushes everybody to have a slide for everything, it’s actually not that important to focus too much effort on that. Why? Because slides are your visual aids. Something that helps with, but does not make a presentation. Cheesy as it sounds, you are your presentation. Without your insight, knowledge, charisma or expertise, the slides will mean nothing. That’s why Keanu rules. Well, the fact of being a movie star that’s crazily famous for avenging his puppy and car theft may help, but if he had presented a boring, power-point presentation and read from the slides – would that be interesting and generate hype? Nope.

Now you may say: okay, but how can I become my own presentation? Follow these steps:

  1. Know who you are speaking to. Decide whether you need general information, more detailed or technically-backed up arguments. That’s a must-have. If you have no clue who will listen to you, make sure you can operate on different levels so that each participant can get something for themselves. Start with a general background, and follow with more detailed information if there’s demand for it.
  2. Minimize your slide word count. Put as little as you can there. If you have to type something, use at least 30-point font and bullet points counting up to 4 words. If the audience can’t read the full thought from the screen, they will have to listen to you to get the context. For busy business people out there – instead of creating a presentation “to-be-sent”, create a pdf or docx file with all the necessary information. If you still need a presentation to be sent out, simply create a copy for the public appearance and cut out all the useless words and information.
  3. Mind your language. Yes, to be respected we need to take care of the language we use. However, let’s not overintellectualize what we say. We give the presentation for the people – so that they understand and DO what we want them to do afterwards. What’s the use if they can’t understand it or will be too tired of hearing the hectic mumbo-jumbo, the complicated phrases and cryptic abbreviations? Will your ego go up? Probably (although, if I were you, I’d check with a specialist why this gives you satisfaction). Will you reach the wanted results? Most probably no. That’s why it’s best to stay out from overcomplicating. Don’t get me wrong – oversimplifying also has its cons, and should be avoided as well. However, it’s easier to dig in the more complex material if you’re asked a question than get handle it when the audience doesn’t understand what’s happening.

Play with the voice

Keanu is an actor and knows better than all of us how to evoke certain emotions with certain pitches of voice. What we can learn from him is that modulating your voice must come with very specific speech elements and can evoke increased engagement in the audience. Let’s analyze it:

The way he talks about the storyline at the beginning of this part, shows a bit of boredom. The audience is almost waiting for a “but”. That’s how he gradually gathers attention.

Then, he sums up: “and it’s not something I knew before, but I was excited by”. The audience gets their explanation for the previous tone of voice. Keanu implied that all the game details weren’t that much of a deal for him before, but as he got to know the game, he truly became interested as he’s “always drawn to fascinating stories”. His voice here is truthful, providing a statement without redundant hype. Stoic, affirmative way of speaking makes everybody convinced that Keanu, in fact, became a fan of this game. Is it the climax yet? Oh, not really, if you hear out the next sentence. This roller-coaster of voice intonation not only conveys emotions and raises hype. The overdone “cyberpunk” accentuates that he’s moving on to the next point and brings dynamism to the presentation.

Would you be able to do what K. did? Mostly, yes. Don’t be afraid of sounding like a typical sales guy! As you don’t have to. One of your goals when working with intonation is not only to convince the audience but also to make it easier for them to listen to you. Trust us on this one: playing with your voice is something you need to do to thrive in presentations. With the attention span of the audience being quite limited, by modulating your voice you can prevent them from falling asleep or drifting away – which is not your goal, right?

Conclusion

That’s it: these are three lessons that we learn from Keanu’s appearance. Hopefully, these will help and guide you with your business presentations. Remember to prep yourself well so that you can confidently answer the audience and also, have content variations to adjust to the groups you actually speak to. On top of that, loose the excess of your slides – you don’t need that. Last but not least: focus on the intonation you use in specific moments and understand what it conveys. While prepping yourself, face the music and try to guess what you audience’s reactions can be.

This article is a part of larger series where we find the best presentation examples and show how you can nicely improve your performance. See any material worth to cover or have any questions?


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