Here we are at episode seven of The Presentation Boss Podcast! Your hosts Kate and Thomas are experienced not only as speakers, but as presentation coaches. They love finding the strengths and weaknesses in a presentation and explaining why they work or need to be considered. And so, here’s another episode where we listen to a TED Talk and break down what is great about it!

This time Kate has picked a demonstrative talk from retired US politician Joe Smith and his 2012 TED Talk ‘How to Use One Paper Towel’. This is a great example of how to best leverage the use of physical props!

What You’ll Learn
• One of the most powerful ways we know to continually improve your speaking
• Something Kate thinks about every time she washes her hands in public
• How to use paper towels (obviously!) and reduce your paper consumption
• A introduction method for building intrigue in your presentation
• Why a physical prop can be far better than slides
• A beautiful example of getting the audience involved in the delivery
• Persuasion through demonstration

Mentioned In The Show
• Joe Smith | How to Use One Paper Towel:

Resources and Links
• Presentation Boss on Facebook:
• Presentation Boss on LinkedIn:
• Kate on LinkedIn:
• Thomas on LinkedIn:
• The Presentation Boss Podcast:
• Email us!

Quotes From This Episode
• “He’s added where we’re going to land in this presentation.. so now we know the [direction] of the rest of his talk”
• “What a beautiful example of audience involvement”
• “People love that!”
• “He’s made the key [message] of his presentation really obvious and memorable”
• “There are so many rhetoric devices about persuasion”
• “A beautifully thought out closing line”


Welcome to the Presentation Boss Podcast, this’s episode number seven. We’re your hosts, I’m Kate Norris and I’m Thomas Krafft. Whether you’re pitching your business speaking at a work meeting or on the stage, we’re here to help you present with clarity and confidence. Today we’re breaking down a speech, a TED Talk by Joe Smith titled “How to Use One Paper Towel”. We believe the best way to become a great speaker is to watch other speakers and think about what works for them, what you could borrow and things that maybe don’t work so well. Today was my pick, and I’ve chosen one of my favourite TED Talks. TED Talks are usually about 18 minutes long. This one is just four minutes long, but it’s one of my favourite because I think about it every single time I use a public bathroom, and I think that’s a great indicator of how effective it actually is. And it’s also just a really great example of how to use props. So we’re going to play that TED Talk now, and we’ll pause it the interesting places and make comments about those points. So this is how to use one paper Towel by Joe Smith in 2012. Five hundred, seventy-one million two hundred and thirty thousand pounds of paper towels are used by Americans every year. Correction, wrong figure. Thirteen billion used every year. If we could reduce the usage off paper towels, one paper towel per person per day Five hundred, seventy-one million two hundred and thirty thousand pounds of paper not used. He’s gone for quite an effective introduction type here, which is to go with a quite large number that he delivers relatively slowly. So it sort of builds intrigue about what is this large number going to be? He pauses for a moment, then explains its paper tails used by Americans per year. And so I think that does a really nice job of building the intrigue in the audience. Obviously, you got that number wrong and corrected it, which reduces effectiveness a bit. But when you’ve already started, like what else is there to do? And I quite like that. He’s also added, where we’re gonna land in this presentation, which is we can reduce by this number. So now we know the rest of his talk is probably going to talk about either the impact of doing that or exactly how we go about doing that paper not used, we could do that now. There are all kinds of paper towel dispensers. There’s the tri-fold. People typically take two or three. There’s the one that cuts it that you have to tear off. People go one two three four tear this much. Right there is the one that cuts itself. People go on two three four or this’s the same thing but recycle paper. You have to get five of those because they’re not as absorbent. Of course, the fact is. So here what he was doing. He was just holding up different paper towels. And while he explained the different type of dispensers that they were on, they all looked a little bit the same. But it adds a level of interest to his presentation because he’s actually showing us paper towels, and we all know what a paper towel looks like. The fact is, you can do it all with one tower. The key two words. This half of the room your word is shake. Let’s hear it shake louder. Your word is fold. Again. Really good. Okay, What a beautiful example of audience involvement. It might be a little bit we’re looking for here, like childish, but I think people like that. I think people like “Oh yeah, we’re team fold” and they get to shout it out when he points to that part of the audience. So it’s actually giving him a great excuse for stage use, to take a couple of steps that way, point to that side of the room and say, your word is. That’s a way to get some good audience involvement. I think it’ll be fun. And I think he’s just made the two key words of his presentation really obvious in giving each half of the audience one word each super memorable now. Yeah, memorable. That’s the one. Yeah. Okay, wet hands shake. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. Why 12? 12 apostles, 12 tribes. 12 Zodiac signs. 12 months when I liked the best. It’s the biggest number with one syllable. What he has on stage, along with these paper tells, is a tub of water. Oh, like this is a beautiful example of the demonstrating something like you can have pictures or somebody washing the hands. You could talk about washing the hands but to have the tub of water on stage, then to shake hands literally onstage, reach in and pick up the actual paper. Well I don’t know of a stronger way of proving your point about using paper towels. Yes, and I love that he talks about you shake 12 times why 12 and then there’s not actually science behind that. It’s just hey, this is just a good number. So then, after he took his hand out of the bucket and shook them, he then picked up one of the paper towels he folded in half, which is that second word that came in. There was shake and then fold, and he didn’t actually use any words. He just showed us him dry in his hands. Using this paper towel rather than just telling us he demonstrated. Cuts itself. Fold. The fold is important because it allows interstitial suspension. You don’t have to remember that, but trust me. Cuts itself. You know, if anything is, I get my hands drier than people do with three or four because they can’t get in between the cracks. So then to really leverage. What he’s already set up is this. Second time was just a point of the audience, they said. Shake. He did the shake point of the audience. They said fold. He dried his hand and didn’t say a word in that whole process. He pointed twice and did two other actions and demonstrated exactly this method. It’s so visual and memorable. I love it. Between the cracks. If you think this isn’t good now, there’s now a real fancy invention. It’s the one where you wave your hand and it kicks it out. It’s way too big a towel. Let me tell you a secret if you’re really quick, if you’re really quick and I can prove this, this is half a towel from the dispenser in this building. As soon as it starts just tear off. It’s smart enough to stop and you get half a towel. So I think there’s so many like rhetoric, devices and methods. We can talk about persuasion about getting somebody to adopt a belief. But having seen him basically say not very much and just literally point at the audience, shake, point at the audience, fold, and pick up a different paper towel each time and just dry his hands. It’s demonstrated that this method works, and I struggle to think of a more persuasive technique to get this message across about using one paper towel when you’re a public bathroom. Now let’s all say it together. You will for the rest of your life. Remember those words every time you pick up a paper towel. Remember, one talent for person for one year, five hundred, seventy-one million two hundred and thirty thousand pounds of paper towels of paper. No small thing next year; toilet paper. So that’s the end of the presentation. He’s just basically went his hands shaped, folded and dried his hands like six to right times over and over. And that’s all it is. Another really powerful point he used there was, he got the paper towel from the building we’re in. Yeah, nothing drives that home and makes it more relatable than this building that we are in. I also really like in that presentation. It’s a bit light. Obviously, it was something that’s been demonstrated that audiences participating is a little bit of humour on. Then, right at the end, he links back to that opening number. The five million number, which is a beautiful way of tying that whole presentation together and then finishes with next year toilet paper, which is obviously a little bit of a just a giggle as he leaves the stage from the audience a beautifully thought about closing line and exactly as he said, Every single time I use a paper towel, I think shake, fold, which I think again demonstrates the effectiveness of that talk. Even though the words were really quite minimal. We always ask ourselves the question at the end of any presentation, we see what was the take home message you got out of that. Shake and fold. Yeah, I tell you what, it’s been years since I’ve seen that talk. I remember him physically demonstrating and remember the other shake unfold. I don’t remember the numbers. Obviously don’t wanna use more paper towels, because I’m just a nice human being. I remember that it was significant. I remember everybody reduced their paper towel usage. We would have a significant impact on the paper usage in the world. Yeah, the number isn’t important. And what a simple message. Just shake and fold to reduce paper waste. That was Joe Smith with how to use one paper towel in 2012 at TED, and I think it really just demonstrates how you could drive home a really great message with very, very small amount of words but a really effective use of props because all of the props did all the heavy lifting in that presentation there. We recommend you go watch Joe Smith’s talk, it will be linked in the show notes below, and we are absolutely going to do a lot more of these speech breakdowns. So if there’s a TED Talk or keynote that you think we should break down on this podcast, feel free to send us an email Thanks for listening to today’s show. We’d love for you to leave us a review on teams. If you’d like to know more, check out where you’ll find the show notes for today with links to everything we’ve discussed. Want to get in touch? Send us an email at We’re always happy to hear your thoughts or take suggestions for future episodes Most importantly, we rely on you to share the information in this podcast. If you can’t value in today’s episode, please recommend us to a friend. Have a great week.