Lessons from the Jungle Cruise

March 27, 2014    |    Brad Holst

“Welcome aboard the Leaky Tiki. My name’s Brad and I’m going to be your skipper and guide.”

I'm proud to say that I was a Disneyland Jungle Cruise skipper. I wore the hat, shot the gun, and made “the backside of water” water joke more times than I can count.

For me, it was the ultimate part-time college job.  The pay was good, the work itself was crazy fun, and it turned out I learned lessons about effective presentations skills that are still with me to this day.  

Here are three lessons from the Jungle Cruise that can help you be a better presenter.

1. Know your material.
Before getting command of my own boat, I attended the Disneyland narrations training center, followed by three full days of intensive on-the-job training. Then, I had to pass to the “spiel test”. 

The core script quickly became muscle memory, enabling me to be in the moment, stick to the story when appropriate, and ad-lib when needed to tickle the funny bones of different audiences.

2. Fully commit to your delivery.
On the Jungle Cruise, the skipper has to go "all in" on the delivery.  While many of the jokes in the spiel were beyond corny, the guests expected a good return for their investment of an E-ticket (yes, it was back in the old days) and time in line.  

A flat, half-hearted delivery wouldn't cut it. I learned I had to fearlessly amplify my energy and add a touch of drama, while still being genuine and authentic, in order give my guests the experience they expected.

3. Feed off your audience.
I quickly learned, with rare exceptions, that my Jungle Cruise passengers wanted me to succeed. The energy I put out to them came back to me exponentially, making it possible to enjoy the 25th trip of the day as much as I enjoyed the first. 

The secret was making real eye to eye connections with every guest on the boat, which drew them into my story and included me in their reactions. 

Do you have to become a Jungle Cruise skipper to put these lessons into practice?

No, definitely not. But, it's not a bad gig if you can get it!


Even if you missed your chance to be a young skipper on the Jungle Cruise, it's never too late to learn how to be a better presenter. Mandel offers a 2-day intensive, learn-by-doing training program that helps business professionals gain the skills and confidence to present effectively to any audience, in any setting. To learn more, check out our flagship presentation training program: Think and Speak for Results™.

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