What Can We Learn From Bill Cosby?

In my opinion, one of the greatest and respected comedians of all time is Bill Cosby. His career has been going strong for decades and he has done it all; stand up, movies, TV shows, advertisements, radio spots, cameo’s and public speaking events and much much, more. He is someone that is down to earth and is a great example of what is needed to be a great presenter.

We can learn a great deal from the way Mr. Cosby presents his comedy and together we will be looking at one of his early performances, “Bill Cosby” as himself. You can view this performance on YouTube at the following link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hZ6PsZOlk4

Lesson 1: Relatable

Bill Cosby shares personal stories from his own life that different audience members can personally relate too. He touches on many different topics throughout this performance where the audience can sit back and relate to what he is talking about because they have been there before. Around 8 minutes and 10 seconds into this act Mr. Cosby starts to discuss people going out and having a good time by getting drunk. He gives a lot of funny examples of how different people can act when they are drunk. Many of the audience can relate to this story because many people have experienced drunkenness. He also gives some great examples of what the outcomes of drunkenness can be.

A good presenter must learn how to relate to their audience otherwise they will not have a leg to stand on. If I am listening to a speaker and they are talking over my head or about something that I have no clue about, I will stop listening. Relatable examples mixed into the subject matter of a presentation are a major priority. In order to help your reliability you must know your audience and who you are speaking too.

Lesson 2: Engagement

Mr. Cosby is an expert at being a “naked presenter” as Garr Reynolds would say. He “approaches the presentation task embracing the ideas of simplicity, clarity, honesty, integrity, and passion” to connect and engage with his audience. He “builds rapport to connect” the audience to his subject material and inspires you to feel what he feels. Mr. Cosby opens this show with engaging the crowd. He interacts directly with them before he even says a word by walking back and forth and eventually looking at them while they are applauding. His first words are in response to a member of the audience screaming out excitedly. He than forms his first jokes around this interaction. He shows engagement by drawing the audience in before he even starts his planned material.

Every presentation needs this type of engagement and form of connection. This helps the audience to do a few different things; it helps them to stay active in listening to what is being said, it builds a trust and respect that because the audience is giving away their time they will be entertained and enjoy themselves in return, this engagement allows the presenter to go different directions with what they want to say. This Idea of engagement also allows the audience to feel more of what the presenter wants them to feel when they are supposed to feel it.

Lesson 3: Authenticity

One of the things that Bill Cosby is known for is his authenticity. No one else can be Bill Cosby except Bill Cosby. When people imitate him you often see a wobbly head, facial expressions, holding one hand up with a bent wrist as if holding a spoon or popsicle and you probably hear something about pudding pops. Mr. Cosby is a master at projecting himself by connecting with his audience through eye contact and projecting emotions with his face. Every joke that Mr. Cosby tells in this performance he sells to us with a great big side of facial expressions. Watch from 20:20 on for some great facial expressions.

Presenters need to be authentic in what they say and facial expressions are such a great way for them to connect with their audience. They can show concern, anger, happiness, importance and many other things. Our audience can tell if we are not being real (authentic) and will tune us out if they think we are talking about something that we do not care about ourselves.

Lesson 4: Lasting Impression

Along with facial expressions, Bill Cosby turns his words into actions with lots of physical comedy. He does not have any fancy backdrop, screens for images or major props on the stage for him to use. He is all alone and exaggerates all of his movements and shows us examples of walking for one of his jokes. Watch at 9 minutes on. Because he does this he is giving us images to help us remember some of the things he is saying. This is a great example of how he can use the picture superiority effect. He creates a visual image and pairs it with his words to allow us to remember what he is saying six times longer.

When speaking to a crowd you do not want to waste their time, you also do not want to waste your own time. What is the point is speaking to a crowd if they will not remember any of the points you have made? We must create lasting impressions that will help our audiences come back to things that we said in our presentations. Using pictures or somehow creating images is a great way for us to burn our subject matter into the minds of the audience.

Lesson 5: Timing and Star Moments

Bill Cosby is a master at timing when it comes to making a joke. He waits till the perfect moment to delivery a punch line. His performances rise and fall with star moments that hook us in and leave us waiting for more and more. He shares memorable dramatizations and evocative visuals like the example of what drunkenness can look like. He has emotive storytelling through the use of packaging stories in a way that is easily remembered and repeatable for the audience. When al of these things are combined he creates a perfect moment of entertainment for the audience to enjoy. A great example is a story that Mr. Cosby shares about his son cutting his own hair at 1:16:50. The timing, delivery and different voices he uses for this joke create an amazing star moment that has its own ups and downs with each portion of this joke.

As a presenter timing is everything. We must structure our presentations to fit the needs of our audiences. If we come out with all of the great points we want to make at the beginning the audience might not listen because we have no credibility with them. If we tell them they must perform some sort of action before we tell them of a problem that exists, they will be confused. We must use timing in our favor. Star moments must also appear at different parts of our presentation in order to keep interest and flow. These must also fit into our timing so that they do not appear all at the same time. They must be disbursed throughout our whole presentation.


Bill Cosby – Himself – YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved September 29, 2013, fromhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hZ6PsZOlk4

Presentation Zen: Make your next presentation naked. (n.d.). Presentation Zen. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/10/make_your_next_.html

Ojeda, C. (n.d.). Real Delivery: Presenting as Yourself. Upload & Share PowerPoint presentations, documents, infographics. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from http://www.slideshare.net/ohmgrrl/real-delivery-presenting-as-yourself

Online Visual Design 2 – YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved September 29, 2013, fromhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN1C1WCwzJI&feature=youtu.be

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