April 3, 2024

Presentation Hacks – What do sniffer dogs and Jack the Ripper have in common?


“Mum, can you help me with my assignment?”

is a question I don’t hear that often. But last week, Jess asked for my support. She is doing Agriculture Science at the University of Melbourne and suffice to say this request came as a big surprise. Part of her assignment required a five-minute presentation. The lecturer had told the students to make sure their presentations were engaging and to tell a story. Understandably Jess said, “I know someone who can help me with that!”

My Presentation Advice

So, I asked her the brief and they needed to present on a relationship between an animal and its handler. Specifically, they needed to identify the pros and cons to both the animal and the handler. Jess had chosen the relationship between border force security and the border force Labrador retriever dogs.

I figured that with a five-minute time limit she had two-minutes to talk about the pros and two-minutes to present the cons, which left her with a minute to top and tail it.

But it has to be Serious!

I suggested she start with a personal story on why she chose that dog or maybe even a “fun fact” type of story.

“Do you have any fun facts?”

I asked. Jess then told me that she had found out that sniffer dogs were first used by the police to try and find Jack the Ripper. Now that is a fun fact story. But then she followed this up with, “Mum don’t forget it’s for Uni so it has to be serious.”

And this is where so many presentations go wrong!

Just because it’s Uni… or it’s business… or it’s finance… or it’s technical… or it’s compliance… or it’s SERIOUS! We think it can’t be engaging or dare I say entertaining. That’s a big, BIG mistake (sorry I will stop yelling).

Engaging Your Audience

Now I’m not talking about doing a stand-up comedy routine, but your presentations should be engaging. If they aren’t, then you are not getting your audience’s attention. Which means they won’t remember a thing you have said.

There are many ways to make your presentations engaging. One is starting with a story. In my presentation workshops, I explore four types of stories you could share. They are Personal, Professional, Public and Parable.

When Jess gave me her presentation script to review, I had a very proud Mum moment because it started like this.


Let me take you back to the year 1888. There is a serial killer on the loose that goes by the name Jack the Ripper, who is terrorising London citizens, and police are stumped. They have exhausted all their attempts in trying to find this violent, bloodthirsty criminal, yet they have failed each and every time. And while the killer was never caught, police used a new technique for trying to track down the murderer. The sniffer dog …and that was the very first-time sniffer dogs were ever used as a tool by the police.

Now I don’t know about you, but with that introduction I will be paying attention for the next four and a half minutes.

The next time you are presenting information, I encourage you to think about how you can make it engaging. Not only at the start with a story but throughout the presentation. Only being engaging at the start and never again will lead to a very disappointed audience.

Just imagine how interesting and effective your workday would be if people spent more time making their presentations engaging.

P.S. If you don’t have me as your Mum to get free personal coaching (and you don’t 😜) then check out my upcoming workshops on both presentation and storytelling. Or contact us to set up a time to discuss an in-house workshop to get your whole team presenting in a more engaging way.