Presentation Lessons from Etta James

Yesterday, Alex Rister shared a new extra credit assignment with her class based on an article she wrote on comedian Kevin Hart. Rister outlines five lessons presenters can take from Hart–note that none of them are “be a comedian.” The lessons instead focus on strategies presenters can use to better engage with audiences and enrich their experiences. She then challenged us to develop our own “Lessons from..” article. I’ve begun the process (because for the past few days, tweaking and designing has been far more interesting than sleep) with one of my biggest inspirations, Etta James, whose magnificently versatile voice brought the jubilance of “At Last” to life as easily as she conveyed anguish and heart break in “I’d Rather Go Blind.” James was a dynamo her entire career. Weathering the now too common storms of stardom, she performed up until 2009, two years before she passed of leukemia. James’ live performances are mesmerizing, albeit often raunchy and bawdy. It’s this unbridled passion that inspires me as a presenter. I’ll be studying her performances over the next few days to prepare a more thorough analysis, but for now, I leave you with Ms. James and three lessons I drew from this performance.

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