Sell Well in Presentations: Tips from a Tour Guide

By: Glen

I stumbled upon an article on The Daily Muse which discussed one method to improve any of your presentations: Comedy. As a tour guide the last two summers, I can tell you that this is completely true. Whether you are giving a presentation at work, school, or a conference, there is something all of those speeches have in common: You are a salesman (or woman). For most of us, our presentations will try to get our audience to learn a lesson or to buy into an idea. Either way, you have to be riveting and convincing. I am going to focus on the former. Be riveting!

Comedy Opens an Audience

When you are giving a presentation, you will be throwing fact after fact at your audience. If I had to take a guess, the large majority of us would rather attend a presentation or lecture that was given by someone who could make the material enjoyable. If you can make an audience laugh, you will lower their defenses in a way that makes them more likely to listen and absorb the information you are giving them.

In addition, I have noticed during my tours that if you want to interact with your audience, getting them to laugh will make them more agreeable toward you. There is nothing worse than a tour group that looks like it is suffering.

Now, this does not mean your presentations should make an audience laugh at every moment. Again, as a presenter, you are selling something. The Daily Muse article mentioned a sweet spot of 4-5 jokes in each of your presentations. With my tour guiding experience, I would personally say 4-5 jokes is good number for a 45-50 minute presentation. If you are going an hour to an hour and a half, 6-8 would probably be a better range.

Tips from Tour guide

All of this discussion about jokes begs a tough question: How do I make the audience laugh?

Joke Creation 101

The best jokes come from (or seem to come from) personal experience. If you are giving a presentation on a subject in which you do not have a funny personal experience, that is fine! There are some basic elements to good jokes that can be created using almost any material. Here are two methods to create some good humor in your presentations.

Personal Stories

One of my favorite teachers here at the University of Minnesota Duluth teaches some complicated upper-level psychology courses dealing with brain chemistry. For a lot of people, this can be dry material. This teacher uses personal stories to spice up the lectures.

  1. Start out broad. The set up to your story should be relatable or easily imagined. My teacher would usually start out stories describing to us some kind of lab, and having us imagine we are researchers.
  2. Get to your specific story. My teacher would usually explain some odd case that he or his colleagues were working on in the lab.
  3. Deliver the unexpected. One example of how a joke would end is, “… that filter is actually made out of a specific brand of women’s pantyhose. Who knew that pantyhose would be better than lab equipment?”

The Random Method

If you delve into the anatomy of a joke such as what is described above, you can actually see that the funny part is the unexpected. From my tour guide experience, I have learned to tell jokes about random things within the subject matter I deal with. If you do not have a personal experience in your presentation subject, this is a great method to create humor.

Here is an example of a joke I tell on most of my tours: When exiting a specific room, we have to exit the same way we entered the room. There is another exit, but it is a fire escape, so I use that to make a small joke, “Alright, we are going to turn around and go back the way we came! Unless you want to set off the fire alarms, but that was not in my list of things to do today.”

It might not be comedy gold, but some kind of unexpected one-liner should be able to get a couple of chuckles, opening up your audience a bit. When you have to present ANYTHING, whether it is in class or at work, impress your audience with your ability to both entertain and educate. With this skill, your teachers and supervisors will respect the way you can handle the pressure of a room filled with people.

Read Glen’s other posts

Referrals: A Boost to Your Career Search

By: Michael

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know?’ Check out this article by CNN, where they focus on this very question. In this article, CNN takes the time to explain that it isn’t just who you know, but that there are a variety of other factors that come into play, such as how you know them, how well you connected, and whether they are a respected member of the organization. After my previous internship experience, I have been spending a lot more time networking and relying heavily on the ‘who you know’ aspect of things. It has helped me narrowly define the companies and careers I want to apply for as I approach my graduation this December.


A perfect example is one that occurred very recently. I had met with a good friend of mine whom I went to high school with and inquired about his position as a credit analyst and that I was graduating soon. He was dismayed to tell me that if only I had asked him a couple months prior, there was a position open that I could have applied for. This discussion occurred at the beginning of the summer, but two months later I received a message on LinkedIn from his manager notifying that my friend had referred me and asked if I would send my Resume. I scheduled an interview that next week.

Another example was when I was applying for an internship through Minnesota Power. Although I did not receive the position, I met a lot of valuable contacts through referrals from one of my classmates who had interned there previously. I ended up going through informational interviews and even getting a referral for the position.

The most important lesson I take from this idea of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ is that it is important to connect with others while networking, and I mean really connect. The more you get to know a potential reference while networking, the more valuable and viable their recommendations of you will be. I know that many of you will probably be attending the upcoming job fairs this fall, and my advice to you is this: take some time to research exactly which companies you are interested in talking to, don’t try to rush from table to table, take as much time as you can at an individual company’s table and make sure to get business cards to follow up with potential contacts. Be open, talk about your interests, why you want to work for the company, etc. Try not to focus on meeting the most contacts, but focus more on having a pool of contacts that have a much clearer idea of who you are. That’s how you will get to that next step towards your dream job: The Interview.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Michael’s other posts

Ways to Showcase Research on Your Resume

By: Glen

Previously, I have discussed how research is helpful as a career builder, and how to get involved in research. Once you have been a researcher, being able to put your skills into words is important. Explaining your project(s) to potential employers could make or break your application for employment. Today, we will break down a few examples of how to write about your research participation on a resume. All four of the following examples are used directly from the University of Minnesota Duluth Career & Internship Services Career Handbook, 11th Edition.

Example 1

Example 1

Example 2

Example 2

The above examples are located in the “Experience” section of the resume. When writing in the sections featuring your positions, the bullet-point list is a tool that can (and should) be used to your desire. Depending on how much you want to extrapolate from each experience, you will find that positions, projects, and activities will vary in the amount of points you can write. If your involvement in research is something you want to highlight as a main focus, I would recommend having around three to six bullet points with the details of the project, as shown in Example 2. If an experience was worth noting, but you only wish to cover a couple of details, two or three bullets is a good range to shoot for, as per Example 1. If a specific position is not the most important thing on your resume, do not be afraid to just write a brief piece like this:

Example 3

Example 3

In this example, the bolded title of the research position is the name of the program. The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program was formed to give undergraduates at UMD a chance to lead research. This includes writing a competitive grant application to be funded for their time researching. If your research project was a part of a larger organization, you could put the organization’s name as the title, as shown above in Examples 1 and 2.

Example 3

Example 3

This final example uses the “Education” section to briefly note undergraduate research involvement. Similar to the previous example, featuring the position was not the main goal. These examples use the brief indications of lab work to supplement other experiences on the resume.

Read Glen’s other posts

Surviving the First Year of Grad School

By: Justine

Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Justine back for a guest post! Check out all her previous work on the blog from when she was a student!

Even though I can hardly believe it, I have completed my first year of doctorate degree in physical therapy. The year has gone fast and with this post I will share a few things I found helpful throughout my first year in the program.

Surviving Grad School

Get to know your classmates

Once you have made it past the application process, your acceptance into a grad program marks the end of the competition with your fellow peers. Getting to know your classmates has many benefits beyond forming friendships. Each of my classmates shares a common interest in physical therapy but our backgrounds and past experiences make us each unique. Some students with an athletic training background are more familiar with sports injuries while others have a background in geriatrics. You can learn from your classmates as they may be able to share ideas or explain concepts you have difficulty with.

Set up a study schedule

Another benefit of getting to know classmates is to find other students who have a similar study method as you. A big part of physical therapy is patient education which requires not only that you are able to understand a concept but are also able to explain it to your patients in terms that they will understand. Due to that focus, I would frequently get together with a few classmates before or after our classes to go over lectures and break down the more complicated concepts so we could fully understand the material. Find classmates who have similar study methods as you in order to make your study time the most effective for your learning.

Learn to manage free time

This one isn’t much different from an undergrad piece of advice. However, once I started school again I became a bit jealous of my graduated friends working full time jobs without an extra homework load to do in the evenings. This was a change from my undergrad days because at that time all my friends were in school and had times where they needed to study as well. Someday, I will be able to relate to a 40 work week without homework (and a paycheck instead of loans!) but until then I will be spending a little more time with my nose in my textbooks. For the time you are in graduate school, make it a priority to get comfortable with a study schedule, with a few study breaks squeezed in for the occasional social outing or get-together with a friend.

Maintain the knowledge

This is going to be your career field. One of the big switches I had to change in my brain from undergrad to graduate school was commitment to the material. I can confess that in some of my undergrad classes I would hold onto the material until the exam and then it would fade away. Now it’s much easier for me to see the application of the material I am learning, it will help me to understand my patient better and allow me to answer patient questions when they arise. Finding the right career path for you will make learning much more meaningful and purposeful and eventually support a career in a field that you love.

One of the most rewarding aspects of grad school is that I’m being taught by physical therapists, in a classroom of students who want to be physical therapists, who will one day be working in a field with people who need physical therapy. It’s a very welcoming environment and after making it through my first year, I know that this is the right field for my future. To anyone else who is starting or continuing within a graduate program, I wish you luck and hope that you find success in all that you do!

Read Justine’s other posts

3 Skills Undergraduate Research Can Improve

By: Glen

I recently posted a piece extrapolating on how to get involved in research as an undergraduate, but what is the fuss about undergraduate research? Is that not what graduate school is designed for, practical experiences to fully certify the student? This may be true, but research at the undergraduate level can give you much needed experience earlier in your career. Here are some skills that (in my experience) undergraduate research can improve.

Critical Thinking Skills

Here is a truth that conducting undergraduate research has driven home: If you are going to make a claim, you need to be able to back it up. Research experience can teach you how to ask questions about the world, and search for good answers to those questions.

For example, the internet is filled with posts filled with information that may or may not be true. When you find yourself reading some of these reports, your research experience will have taught you the correct way of being skeptical. You will find yourself asking instinctive questions such as: who conducted the research, what methods were used to make this judgment, can I see the actual data? Heck, maybe you are reading this post right now, and asking questions like: why should I listen to you, what are your qualifications, what proof of these claims do you have? All I can say is this is my personal experience, but I digress. Point is researchers are trained in the importance of hard facts. This is a great skill to have in the workplace.

3 Skills Research

Creative Problem Solving

I have found that the development of my critical thinking skills has led to an increased ability of solving problems in the work place. In the past, I was someone who could solve problems that I had faced before with ease, yet I would struggle with new problems I encountered. I am finding that pattern to be changing as I become more educated. If I were to point toward a cause of this growth, I would point toward my experience conducting research and time spent in my research-oriented classes. Discussing the methodological construction of research studies has opened my eyes to the many ways questions can be answered. Do NOT underestimate this skill.

Lab Skills

This might seem pretty obvious. “You gained lab skills by doing research? No way!” The important fact is that gaining lab skills as an undergraduate can look fantastic on your resume. I am very glad to have my own research experience, because if I decide to go to graduate school, I will be prepared! A number of my professors have told us students stories from former students explaining how grateful they were to have research experience. Apparently, the students with lab practice were much more comfortable with their graduate programs, due to training with statistics and methodological design.

In conclusion, I figure research experience just makes for better people and better employees. Having technical experience looks good, and will make you a more efficient thinker. Now, this is not to say that every person needs to have research experience, but if the opportunity arises, try it out. Perhaps your career path is taking you in a different direction. Maybe you feel like you would be better served with on the job training, internships, or some similar method of gaining experience. Even then, I would highly encourage any student to conduct research if they have the opportunity. It will diversify your skillset, and that looks mighty impressive.

Read Glen’s other posts

160 Characters to Tell Your Story

Guest Post By: Ellen (Career Counselor & overseer of all social media for UMD Career & Internship Services)

I am a huge fan of social media. Then again, I have an undergrad degree in Communication and love everything about the process of how individuals communicate with one another. Of all the social media platforms available to us in this era of instant communication, my favorite is Twitter. As one of my favorite higher education social media people noted while he was visiting UMD this past Winter, Twitter is 140 characters of awesome.

Personally, I love Twitter because the information is quick and easy to digest. I organize all the people I follow into lists. I have lists like: Student Affairs, Twin Ports, Career-Related, and Travel. The lists are great because all the tweets I’m reading are about the same general subject. I’ve used to Twitter to connect with professionals in field, to live-tweet from events and conferences, follow conferences from afar, share my life, and much more. It was the easiest way for me to connect with other professionals in Higher Education from around the United States while I was in graduate school. Now that I’m in my professional career, it’s still the easiest way for me to do that networking and connecting.

Twitter Bio

Okay, now on to the real reason for today’s post about Twitter.

Your Twitter bio.

You have 160 characters to tell the story of who you are, what you do, and anything else you want to share. Sounds impossible, right? Fear not, here are a couple of tips to help you be on your way to crafting an awesome Twitter bio.

  • Include information about your major and/or your intended field. I have that I am a career counselor at UMD. For the UMDCareers account I manage, the bio is a condensed version of our mission statement.
  • Include relevant hashtags or Twitter handles. In the UMDCareers bio, I’ve included my own Twitter handle so that our followers can see that the UMDCareers account is managed by a real person. A possible hashtag we could use (if we had more characters) would be #UMDProud since it is widely used on the UMD campus. Another example is the UMD Admissions office. They use #futurebulldog in their bio as another way to tie with all of their online and print branding. That’s right, hashtags and handles can help with your personal branding!
  • Have a professional profile photo. Using the same photo as you have on LinkedIn will help with branding across your social media platforms.
  • Use the header photo to show off your personality, hobbies, and/or interests. Mine has a photo of a sunrise that I took. It conveys that I have an interest in photography and I enjoy the outdoors. For UMDCareers, we have a photo of Aerial Lift bridge, which is an icon in Duluth.
  • Update your profile as things change. This could include your major, intended field, finally graduating, or when you’ve gotten a full-time position.

Here are some snapshots from bios of people I follow. Great examples of how to tell your story and show your personality.

  • Career Counselor at UMD Duluth, traveler…photographer, & loves working in Student Affairs.
  • Higher ed geek who thinks new year always refers to August…Accidental techie, bookworm, hiker, and traveler.
  • Advocate for Awesome…Dislikes standing still.
  • Leadership Educator. Runner. Yogi. Speaker. Delta Zeta Alumna.
  • Aspiring archivist, lover of history.

Now it’s your turn. If you’d like help with writing your bio, make an appointment with one of our counselors today!

If you’d like, you can follow @UMDCareers or myself @Ellen_Hatfield.

2012-2013 Graduate Follow-up Report

In the past month, we released the newest edition of the Graduate Follow-up Report. We’re excited, as this is one of the major reports we produce each year. We use the report almost daily in our office as a way to show off what UMD grads have accomplished and also to help current students brainstorm jobs, internships, and graduate/professional schools they could pursue with their majors.

GFUR Infographic (half)

You can view the full report in all its glory on our main website.

UMD Homepage story written by External Affairs can be found here.

Previous blog posts we’ve written about the Grad Follow-up Report

Thanks to UMD External Affairs for creating the awesome infographic shown above!