Voice . . . for Personal Competitive Advantage

Develop your Voice for Advantage
Develop your Voice for Power and Impact

I often ask the rhetorical question “Do you have a case of Bad Presentation Voice.”

The question addresses the issue of your voice quality, one of the key issues in business presenting today.

“Bad Voice” is a problem that goes largely ignored.  For many reasons.

Pride.

Ego.

Sensitivity.

It remains a debilitating burden for many people who could otherwise be superb speakers.  And folks forfeit a key factor of potential personal competitive advantage.

Your Presentation Voice

Your voice can be a sensitive issue.

We tend to think that our voices are off-limits when it comes to changing, let alone improving, our presentations.

Business Presentation Voice
Develop a Powerful Business Presentation Voice for a Personal Competitive Advantage

We believe the voice is “natural” when, in fact, it’s likely the product of undisciplined and random influences – parents, peers, television, celebrities, radio, occasional mimicry.

The result can be awful.

Many influences in our culture have, in the last decade or so, urged on us a plaintive, world-weary whine as voice-of-choice.

Thus, voice becomes a matter of style – not just in the slang we use, but in the way our voices sound when we use that slang.

So what’s a “Bad Presentation Voice?”

Do you swallow your voice in the back of your throat so that you produce a nasal twang?

Is it pinched?

Do you use your chest as the resonating chamber it ought to be, or does your voice emanate from your throat alone?

High-pitched.  Small.  Weak.  Pinched.  Nasal.  Raspy.

Unpleasant.

Next time you stand in line at the convenience store, listen to the people around you.  Focus on the voices.  Listen for the trapped nasal sound, the whine of precious self-indulgence.

Or the sound of air rasping across vocal cords.  A voice that has no force.  No depth.

Cartoon Presentation Voice

A voice you could swat away as you would backhand a fly.

A voice from reality television.  A cartoon voice.  A voice that can even hurt your social life.

The cartoon voice is more prevalent than you might imagine.  Several reasonably-known celebrities have cartoon voices, and they usually dwell in the wasteland of reality television.

Two champions of the squeaky, whiney cartoon voice are people who appear to have achieved questionable fame for all of the wrong reasons:  Kim Kardashian and Meghan McCain.

Their voices are barely serviceable for even routine communication.  They embody all that is wrong with regard to acquiring a powerful business presentation voice.

They exhibit habitual pathologies of the worst sort.

But . . . my Voice is “Natural!”

If you want to become a good speaker, but you do not accept that you can and should improve your voice, it means that you are much like an un-coachable football player.

Oh, you want to become a superb football player, but you refuse to listen to the coach.

He tells you to develop your muscles and coordination in the gym, but you refuse.

I’m sure you see the absurdity in this.

The same is true when it comes to your presentation voice.  Voice is an extremely personal attribute, and people don’t take criticism lightly, perhaps viewing it as a self-esteem issue or an attack on personhood.

It’s not.

Don’t bristle at the notion that you should strive to develop a mellifluous and compelling presentation voice.  This is naiveté and vanity and ego masquerading as who-knows what.

It’s a self-imposed handicap and an excuse for inaction.  You hold yourself back.

It’s also a manifestation of fear.  Clare Tree Major observed this fear almost a century ago in college students of her time:

“People are exceedingly sensitive about changing their methods of speech for fear it will bring upon them the ridicule of their families and friends. . . . Charm and grace and beauty will come only when speech is unconscious – not while you have to think of every word and tone.  If a thing is right, there can be no question of affectation.  It is a greater affectation to do the wrong merely to pander to the less cultured tastes of others.  If you know a thing is right, do it.  If you have not this ideal and this courage, then it will waste your time to study correct speech. ”

What is your voice but a means of communication?

Does it have purposes other than speaking or singing?

Other than communicating?

And if we consider this carefully, it’s easy to see that clear communication depends upon the timbre of your voice.

It does matter what others think of your voice, since you use it to communicate, and it is others who receive your messages.  Doesn’t it make sense, then, to cultivate the most effective voice you possibly can?  So that you might communicate most effectively in especially powerful business presentations?

Put another way, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate what is unpleasant, ineffectual, shrill, and dissonant from your voice, if possible?

For more on developing personal competitive advantage with an especially powerful business presentation voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Make the Right Presentation Choices

especially powerful presentation choices
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

To deliver an especially powerful presentation means that you must choose correctly more than 100 times . . . it means that you take the correct presentation choices from start to finish.

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

Regardless, every time you deliver a presentation, you choose repeatedly.

Dozens of times.

Invisible Presentation Choices

And most often, you’re unaware of the silent, invisible choices you make.  Instead, your presentation simply unspools on its own, chaotic, willy-nilly . . . sometimes for the good, more often badly.

Rather than conceive of the presentation as a series of choices, many folks view the presentation as an organic whole.

As something we simply “do.”

It’s presented as something that can be conducted via a series of “tips.”  You’ve seen the articles on presentation tips.

Or business presenting is discussed as a “soft skill,” something you can pick up along the way.  Perhaps in one of the ubiquitous and uninspired “communications classes.”

We receive vague instructions in a communications class, a place where mystification of the presentation is perpetuated, the myth of the “soft skill” is maintained, and presentation folk wisdom reigns . . .

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

Advice that is obscurantist at its best and can be downright wrong at its worst.

Not a “Soft Skill”

The delivery of the Business Presentation is not a “soft skill.”  Approximately 80 percent of the presentation process is definable as a series of choices each of us must make.

And if you choose badly, you deliver a horrendous presentation.

How can you choose wisely if you don’t even know what the choices are?  Much less the wise choice at each step along the way?

We seek easy solutions, the quick fix, the “secret” to turn a drab, staid, listless presentation into one that brims with vigor, zest, and elan.

An especially powerful presentation.

especially powerful presentation choicesFailing that, perhaps just something that can flog a bit of life into our tired efforts.

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.

It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

Why was it a great presentation?

Many folks answer with one – maybe two reasons.  This is akin to medieval alchemists searching for a method to transform lead into gold.

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.  The topic was relevant and au courant.  Torn from today’s headlines!

It was the audience . . . he had a good audience!

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.  This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.

No single technique.

There is no business presentation alchemy.  Except in the notion that we must get lots of things right.

The superb business presenter does 100 things right, while the bad business presenter does 100 things wrong.

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

Of course not, no more than great writing consists in getting exactly 100 things right, instead of getting them wrong.

For any talk, it could be 90, or it could be 150.  Or something else.

The “100 things” trope suffices to convey that great presentations are planned and orchestrated according to set principles that can be learned, and those principles consist in proven practices.

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Techniques of posture, voice, syntax, gestures, topic, presentation structure, your expression, confidence, your movement . . . all of these done well or done poorly combine to yield either an especially powerful presentation . . .

. . . or a dud.

Especially Powerful
Scott’s Lessons: An especially powerful source for Abraham Lincoln

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators.

There, you’ll find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 techniques?

Surely.

The important lesson is that great presenting is assembled from the verbal and non-verbal construction materials we select.

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’s the power of synergy.

Take just one aspect of your show – the way you stand.  Have you ever thought about it?  Where you stand?  How you stand?

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.

To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

The next step, of course, is to actually do it.  In your next presentation.

More of the 100 Presentation Choices that constitute especially powerful business presentations here.

Presentation Skills 201

Steele Presenting of Presentations SkillsLong ago, when I was a young man in the army training at a base in Texas, I loaned a book to my roommate, Jim.

It was a foreign policy book by a controversial former president.

Jim read it . . . oh he read it.

It animated him and addled him, and it inspired him like no one else I had seen before or have seen since.

He would slap the page and exclaim, “That’s it.  That’s it!

Jim did this often in the course of his read.  I’d hear him in the bunk below mine.

Slap!

“That’s it!

And so it went.

That’s It!

I don’t recall that he ever returned the book, and that’s just fine, as I like to think of Jim slapping the page even now, somewhere in rural New England where I hear he ended up.

You don’t come across books like that often.  I hear tales of poor, uninspired folks who never do.

Books that crack the carapace of cynicism.

I’m a self-appointed judge of such things, and it takes a heckuva book to crowbar me off the passive-aggressive rock of smug observation and get me hooting and hollering.

But I found a book like that.  Yes, I found one.

You’re holding it.

Deceptively slight of build, innocuous in its appearance, William Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is presentation fissile material of the first order, glowing with power on every page.

Presentation Skills 201 – High Concept

This isn’t the Great American Novel, no.  You hold in your hands, instead, the Great American Presentations Book.

Whoa!  Have I gone overboard?  About to slap the page with a robust “That’s it!”

You bet.

Let me explain.

I teach at a university business school in Philadelphia and have been coaching student presentations for years.

I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 3,000 volumes, going back to 1762.

quintilian especially powerful presentation skills
Quintilian said it all 2,000 years ago . . . except for the 10 percent you learn here

I’m a student of Demosthenes and Cicero, Quintilian and Blair.

I study the great speakers of history to glean just one more nugget of wisdom from the wealth laid up over centuries.  I buy presentation books even now to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

Again, I say all of this by way of prelude, because I am not given to exaggeration at all.

When I read this book the first time, I entered the reading task methodically as I do for a welter of presentation books.  And I skim many of them.  Just to see if there truly is anything new under the sun.

Most of them huff-puff along, chugging in workmanlike mundanity.

They can stretch a nugget of technique across five anecdotes and across twice as many pages as needed.  Not nearly enough for me to un-cock the skeptic’s eyebrow.

So . . .

High Praise, Indeed . . . and Deserved

What I say next, I utter with the sincerity born of many years laboring in the vineyards of bad presentations – Mr. Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is, page for page, the finest book on advanced presenting I have ever read.

Surely it is the most succinct.

It froths with superb and utterly essential advice on every . . . single . . . page.

Distilled into powerful instructional nodes, Mr. Steele’s book is spot-on again and again.  I thought that I had seen and heard the length and breadth of the presentation enterprise, given that I view and judge 300 individual and 75 group presentations each year – but not so.

Mr. Steele’s work is a reminder that there is always “one more thing” that each of us can learn to hone and improve our own presentation skills and develop our personal competitive advantage.

Here, however, there is much, much more than simply “one more thing.”

We all deliver presentations, every day of our lives.  But we do not think of our many discussions as presentations.  We deliver our points of view usually quite well in venues as disparate as church socials and local pub happy hours.

But when it comes time to deliver what we think of as a “real” presentation, well . . . many of us suddenly turn into zombies.  Presentation zombies – stiff, mechanical, glazed-eye zombies.

We hear advice, sure.

And the proffered solution to much of the undead in the presentation enterprise comes as “communication theory” and a handful of vague apothegms passed down from an archaic and unquestioned oral tradition . . .

Don’t put your hand in your pocket!

Make eye contact!

Move around when you talk!

This, of course, is unsatisfying and completely inadequate, certainly for those steeped in the basics of powerful presenting and who want to, as they say in the vernacular of my bailiwick, “take it to the next level.”

So, this is one of those rare times that I recommend and endorse a book in the presentation genre; and in case you didn’t get it by now, I’m utterly delighted to craft a preface to this second edition of Presentations 201.

I have found wisdom on every page – every page – of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand.  I reference it often, and you will as well.

You may even, as I have, slap the page on occasion . . .

“That’s it!

International Presentations – China

China - B schoolI not only travel a great many miles to special places, but also work with some of the brightest business leaders of tomorrow, endowed with the talent to deliver especially powerful international presentations.

In China, for instance.

China has already overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economy, and its engine of domestic and international commerce is only just starting.

Especially Powerful Drive

With incredible knowledge resource capability and government that increasingly recognizes the power of individual initiative and the economic benefits that accrue from relaxing regulation, China is set for an economic renaissance to stagger the world when its gears fully engage.

MBA students at the Sun Yat Sen Business School in Guangzhou, who appear on this page, show a determination, drive, optimism, and coachability that should be the envy of the world.

These young people a2016-06-23 08.59.16re cosmopolitan to an extraordinary degree, proficient in multiple languages, and eager to absorb the lessons of Western-style management.

Poised to enter middle-management as a sage class of entrepreneurial knowledge workers who embrace the proven techniques of modern industrial wealth production.

These techniques of course include especially powerful presenting, which can confer unmatched personal competitive advantage.

I’d go so far as to say that they constitute a new cadre of global executives, a new breed of 21st Century Managers, unencumbered with outdated notions held over from the industrial revolution.

A cadre imbued with the qualities of . . .

Cultural Competence

Technical Proficiency

Flexibility and Adaptability

Cosmopolitan Outlook

Team-work orientation

Personal and Professional Aligned Strategic Focus

International Presentation Advantage

A cadre who can deliver especially powerful presentations in a second or third language.  International Presentations.  Now that’s advantage.

And with an incredible hunger to become the best business presenters possible, who embrace the range of instruction found in The Guide to Business School Presenting . . . quite revolutionary to the Chinese education system.

The rest of the business world should take note.

China is an economic dragon on the cusp of a genuine Great Leap Forward.

How Not to Give a Finance Presentation

The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica.Win Your Case Competition

It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.

In fact, many finance presentations devolve into basic meeting discussions about a printed analysis distributed beforehand.

The group of presenters stands idly while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of questions.

Several presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life . . .

“Just the facts”

Exhortations of  “Just the facts” serve as little more than a license to be unoriginal, uninteresting, and unfocused.

“Just the facts”

Folks believe that this phrase gives the impression that they are no-nonsense and hard-core.  But there is probably no more parsimoniously pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase yet to be devised.

It achieves incredible bombast in just three syllables.

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”

Which facts?

Why these facts and not those facts?

Events are three-dimensional and filled with people.  They require explanation and analysis.  Mere “facts” are flat, two-dimensional, unemotional, and unsatisfactory proxies for what happens in the real world.

“Just the facts” masks much more than it reveals.

“The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of folks who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them.  “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling,” finance majors often tell me.  “We deal in hard numbers.”

There’s so much wrong with this that it’s difficult to locate a reasonable starting-point.

Numbers, by themselves, tell no story at all.

numbersIf numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a considerably incomplete story, giving a distorted picture of reality.

Numbers in a spreadsheet of past performance are proxies for myriad conditions inside and outside the firm that will not repeat themselves.

The end result of these finance presentations shenanigans is an overall level of mediocrity and outright bad presentations.

If firms want nothing more than a group discussion about a handout, with the only thing distinguishing the  “presenters” from the audience is that they are standing, then so be it.

It may be useful.  It may be boring.  It may be morale-building.  It may be team-destroying.  It may be time-wasting.

But whatever else it is, it is not an effective business presentation.

“Cut ’n’ Paste” Finance Presentation

This is the heinous data dump that all of us inevitably see.  PowerPoint slides crammed with data in tiny, unreadable font.

The display of these heinous slides is accompanied by a sweep of the arm and the awful phrase:  “As you can see . . . ”

The cause of this pathology is the rote transfer of your written report to a PowerPoint display, with no modification to suit the completely different medium.

The result?

Slides from the netherworld.

But in every obstacle exists an opportunity.  Sometimes, you must dig deep for it.

But inevitably it’s there

The Good News

Because the bar for finance presentations is so low, if you give a finance presentation using the powerful principles that apply to all business presentations, your own shows will outstrip the competition by an order of magnitude.

It can be a source of personal competitive advantage.

This, of course, implies that your content is rock-solid.

Because it should be.

Your ratio analysis, your projected earnings, your sophisticated modeling should all reflect your superb finance education.

But how you give a finance presentation is the key to presentation victory.Give a Finance Presentation for personal competitive advantage

All of the presentation principles that we discuss here apply to finance presentations, particularly the parsimonious display of numbers and the necessity for their visual clarity.

If anything, finance presentations must be more attentive to how masses of data are distilled and displayed.

A situation statement must be given.

A story still must be told.

Your analysis presented.

Conclusions must be drawn.

Recommendations must be made.

And external factors must be melded with the numbers so that the numbers assume clarity and meaning in an especially powerful 3D presentation.

If you do the above, and nothing more, then your finance presentations will easily outshine the hoi polloi.

But if you delve even more deeply into the masterful techniques and principles available to you, learning to use your tools skillfully, you can rise to the zenith of the finance presentations world precisely because you are part of the tiny minority who seizes the opportunity to deliver an especially powerful presentation.

Finance Presentation?

Finance students can gain competitive advantage with superior presentations
Look beyond the cliches and standard presentations to deliver especially powerful finance presentations

Whether the presentation class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . . or Singapore . . . I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students everywhere . . .

“Finance is different.”

“We don’t do all of that soft-skill kumbaya presentations stuff.”

“For us, the numbers tell the story.”

Worshiping at the Altar of Finance

Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways.

As if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language, less subject to manipulation.

In a chaotic world, a spreadsheet exudes familiarity, a firm valuation offers comfort, an income statement serves as anchor.

For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.  This illusion of certitude and precision exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, well . . . that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them in the coldness and hardness of objective numerical analysis.

Finance presentations are somehow harder.  They seem more firmly rooted in . . . well, rooted in the very stuff of business.

The Finance Myth Exploded

But this is an illusion.

The result is 2D presenting, full of voodoo and bereft of nuance and subtle analysis.

Where business presentations are concerned, finance folks are not different, special, unique or otherwise gifted with special powers or incantations denied the mere mortals who toil in marketing or human resources.

Finance presentations need presentation techniques more than any other business field
Adopt the techniques of the presentation masters to deliver masterful presentations

We all are subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast, demands that nettle us equally and indiscriminately during the business presentation process.

As with most things, there is bad news and good news in this slice of life provided here.

The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica.

It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.

Finance Presentation Hell

In fact, many finance presentations crumble into little more than meeting “discussions” about a printed analysis distributed beforehand, picked apart by jackals with nothing on their minds except proving themselves worthier than those who might be unlucky enough to be the presenter du jour.

Finance presentations seem to offer nothing save the opportunity for public posturing and one-upmanship.

A presenter or group of presenters stands at the front and shifts uncomfortably while everyone else sits.

They interrupt with strings of gotcha questions, usually couched to demonstrate the mastery of the questioner rather than to elicit any worthy piece of information.

This is the all-too-familiar scenario.  And several presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life.  We spell out several of them in upcoming posts . . .

Meanwhile, you can find my in-depth treatment of how to wrestle and subdue the finance presentation beast in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Case Competition

Always a privilege to coach a team of especially powerful presenters.

This team from Drexel University is top-notch aPerrautnd ready for case competition.

Combining superb analytical skills with top-drawer presentation skills, Team LeBow offers a keen amalgam of savoir faire and elan and is imbued with a pervasive humility that makes them a pleasure to work with.

Visit here often to check on their progress . . .

Give an Interesting Presentation

InterestingHow can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience?

To deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?

You must become a 3-D presenter.

Now, this means several things.  It includes how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage.  A major component is the exercising of your mind.

And I talk about that here.

3-D Presentations

This is the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.

It means becoming learned in new and wondrous ways.

Think of it as enlarging your world.  You increase your reservoir of usable material.

And you connect more readily with varied audiences.

You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.  By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.

Expand Your World

And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or enables you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.

By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty, and by rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.

This philosophy of daily improvement was a staple of Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin believed that we should start our day with an activity, no matter how small, that would make us better people when we go to bed at night . . . regardless of whatever else might have happened that day.

Read a book outside your specialty.  Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.

give an interesting presentation
How to give an interesting presentation? Expand your Context.

Dabble in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job.  We huddle inside our tight little world and forget that other fields can offer insights.

For myself, I sometimes sit in on a course in a different discipline, such as economic history here at LeBow College of Business.  Periodically I’ve participated in a course at Temple University sponsored by the History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”

Does it Yield an Interesting Presentation?

How does this help in preparing my own classes?  It’s never certain.

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

What a leavening experience it is: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

I do know that it enriches my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue  in 3-dimensional fashion, connected to the “real world” – textured, deeper, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

It will do the same for yours, and it likely aid your development into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.

I promise.

For more on how to give interesting business presentations, click HERE.

Train of Thought

chin scratchYou’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.

That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.  It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt.

You can’t remember what to say.

Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.

Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.

You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the stance.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.

If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.

It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.

In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques to regain your train of thought:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement bails you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . . “In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult the especially powerful The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop Busy Fingers Sabotage!

Don't engage in busy fingers
Stop those Busy Fingers!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit, and one of these is Busy Fingers.

Proper gesture in your presentation means controlling those aimless actions your body takes on its own . . . because of habit or nerves.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.

For instance, without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations that distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are a few of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.

These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Busy Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

Or this nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of  mediocrity.

This bad presentation habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.  And so their fingers get busy on their own – Busy Fingers.

You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what.  So you develop these unconscious bad presentation habits.

Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”

Tugging at your fingers.  I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.

Bending your fingers back in odd manner.  This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced.  It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell.  It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.

Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement.  This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.

Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.

Especially Powerful Gesture

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

We gesture to add force to our points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?

While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

Said James Winans in 1915:

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues.  Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine.

Harmonize.

You attain a powerful communication moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine and align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy.

Be spare with your gestures and be direct, and they gain power.

Make them count for an especially powerful business presentation.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit of busy fingers in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Open the Business Presentation

Open the Business Presentation
Open the Business Presentation the right way to set the tone for your message

Of course you know how to open the business presentation with a powerful presentation opening.

The Presentation Opening is surely easy.

Right?

But do you really know how to launch a powerful presentation?

Consider for a moment . . .

How not to Open the Business Presentation

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation opening, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?

Do you edge sideways into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing.

Do you back into it?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?

Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?

Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices.

A Bad Presentation Opening

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Walmart case.  The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years.

She spoke in monotone.  She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

Craft a superb presentation opening
Grab Your Audience with The Presentation Opening

I waited for her main point.

As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point.  At the end of her segment, I asked a gentle question.

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

“Yes!” she said brightly.  And she was quite ingenuous about it.

That’s the wrong way to open the business presentation.  Utterly wrong.

In my next post, Part 2, I show you how to put Pow in the word Power.  How to invest your opening with sinews and and muscle for an especially powerful presentation.

How to grab the audience and get them into your presentation every time.

Stay tuned . . .

 

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Every great presentation carries a foolproof presentation structure, and this is it . . .

Foolproof Presentation Structure
Foolproof Presentation Structure to Win the Day

Whoa.  Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.  Here it is . . .

Beginning – Middle – End.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this especially powerful presentation structure.

Don’t be deceived by its apparent simplicity.  This is the source of its power.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.

Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story part that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.

The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure adds Impact
Your foolproof presentation structure is simple and sturdy, smart and strong

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative, you can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.  Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.  I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.

But do so with careful thought and good reason.  And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.  Hence, the term “Bookends.”

And in-between, you explain what your “book” is about.

Build your story within this foolproof presentation structure and you’re on your way to an especially powerful business presentation.

For a more elaborate explanation on how presentation structure can enhance the power of your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

An Interesting Presentation?

Give an interesting presentation every time
Give an interesting presentation by broadening your context

How can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience?

To deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?

Become a 3-D presenter.

Now, this means several things.  It includes how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage, and a major component is the exercising of your mind.

And I talk about that here.

Three-D Presentations

Think of it as enlarging your world.  You increase your reservoir of usable material.

And you connect more readily with varied audiences.

You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.

By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.

And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or enables you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.

By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty, and by rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.

Read a book outside your specialty.

Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.

Time to Dabble . . . Just a Bit

give an interesting presentation
How to give an interesting presentation? Expand your Context.

Dabble a bit in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world.  We forget that other fields offer insights.

For myself, while teaching in the LeBow College of Business‘s management department this semester, I sometimes sit in on a course sponsored by another college’s history Department “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

How does this help in preparing my own classes?  In surprising ways.  Linkages appear, and the dots begin to connect themselves.

That’s the beauty and potential of it.

I do know that it will enrich my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue  in 3-dimensional fashion, connected to the “real world” – textured, deeper, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

It will do the same for yours, and it can aid in your developing into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.

For more on how to give interesting business presentations, click HERE.

The Business Presenter

Cicero was doubtless as good at business presentations as he was at arguing before the Roman Senate

Before computers.

Before television and radio.

Before the bullhorn and all of our multifarious artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, the public speaker stood tall and apart.

The public speaker.  The Business Presenter.

The Business Presenter

From out of mists of time, of the earliest Greek history came the public speaker as especially powerful citizen of the state, a persuader, a doer, a person imbued with almost magical powers to sway the crowd . . .

From the time of Corax in the 5th century B.C., public speaking blossomed and developed into what was considered close to an art form.

Some did consider it art.

Public speaking – or the “presentation” – was the province of four groups of people:  Preachers, Politicians, Lawyers, and Actors.  The first to save your soul, the second to take your money, the third to save your life, the fourth to transport you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.

Other professions utilized the proven communication skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.

These were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters, but they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.

Began to suck the life from “presenting.”

Skills of the Master Business Presenter

The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over centuries.

The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument, the persuasive powers of words.

Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory, coupled with his unpopular ideas.

In our modern 21st century smugness, we likely think that long-dead practitioners of public speaking and of quaint “elocution” have nothing to teach us.  We’ve adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to improve, embellish, amplify, exalt our presentation.

Yet the result has been something quite different.

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have served to supplant them, providing barriers between speaker and audience.  Each new advancement in technology creates another layer of insulation.

 

Seize every opportunity to deliver a powerful and persuasive business presentation, and you’ll find your personal competitive advantage increasing

Today’s presenters have grasped feverishly at the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.  The idea is that PowerPoint has removed responsibility from you to be knowledgeable, interesting, concise, and clear.

The focus has shifted from the speaker to limp fireworks, and this has led to such a decline to the point where in extreme cases the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

In many cases, this is exactly what happens.

The presenter pivots, shows us his back, and edges away from the stage to become a quasi-member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.  You should be able to present without them.

When you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.

In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university.  Some of them give fabulous presentations.

Most give simply adequate presentations.

They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.

On the Job Business Presentation Training

For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.

The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.

Many students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress – they view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.

Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.

Business Presentation
The Waiter as Business Presenter

Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.

As a waiter, ask yourself: “What special thing can I offer that my customers might be willing to pay more for?”

Your answer is obvious . . . you can offer a special and enjoyable experience for your customers.

In fact, you can make each visit to your restaurant memorable for your customers by delivering a show that sets you apart from others, that puts you in-demand.

I do not mean putting on a juggling act, or becoming a comedian, or intruding on your guests’ evening.

I do mean taking your job seriously, learning your temporary profession’s rules.

I mean crafting a presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity, and then displaying enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.

It means becoming an especially powerful business presenter.

The Hero in Your Audience

Yes, hero.

Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you will win every time.

I’ve just described a quite specific workplace scenario where effective presenting can have an immediate reward. Every element necessary to successful presenting is present in a wait-staff restaurant situation.

The reverse is likewise true.

Hero Business Presenter
The Hero in Your Audience

The principles and techniques of delivering a powerful presentation in a restaurant and in a boardroom are not just similar – they are identical.

The venue is different, the audience is different, the relationships of those in the room might be different.

But the principles are the same.

So, back to the early practitioners of oratory and public speaking.  Here is the paradox: a fabulous treasure can be had for anyone with the motivation to pluck these barely concealed gems from the ground, to sift the sediment of computerized gunk to find the gold . . . but few bend to pick them up.

Adopt the habits of the masters.  Acquire the mannerisms and the power and versatility of the maestros who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.

They and their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful presentations.

For more on powerful presentations, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Top 35 Presentation Books for the New Year!

This list offers the Top 35 Presentation Books . . . but noOne of the Best Presentation books of 2013t of all time.

Just, say, from the last 20 years.  They’re quite good, and what better way to launch the new year with brio than with a compendium of the finest that presentation experts have to offer?

Here is the PDF for the entire list of Top Presentation Books.

At the top of the list is one of my favorites, Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman.

To read a related story, here’s a great link.

For my own thoughts on the finest presentation resources available, have a look here.

And launch 2016 with a commitment to especially powerful business presentations!

 

No Business Scrooge this Christmas!

No such thing as business scroogeWhen asked if the university stifles writers, Flannery O’Conner quipped that the university unfortunately doesn’t stifle enough of them.

Indeed.

My naturally autocratic tendencies, which have held me back in the literary world for years, compel me constantly to cast a pall on the enthusiasms of my young charges.

To stifle the urge to ponderous first-person narratives sourced from an uncomfortable chair at an outdoor bistro on the Champs-Élysées.

To replace pedestrian visions from well-worn paths with clarity and precision and vision of things and places never once visited.

At this time of year, such endeavor might be considered . . . Scrooge-like.

But no.  You won’t find Scrooge in the Business School.  There is no such thing as a Business Scrooge.

Scrooge is commonplace, but not here.

It’s Time for Mind-Clearing

This is about shaking off medievalist bad habits learned over in the liberal arts college . . . about clearing the mind . . . scattering gnat-like notions to the winds . . .

Accordingly, as a business school professor, I urge my students to dispense with their fanciful flights picked up in undisciplined liberal arts courses.  To dispense with the bad and the ugly . . . and to embrace the good.

In class, my students look at me, expectantly.  Yes, we’re here – in class – now:

“You remember those idyllic scenes conjured by your imagination, back when you were young and unjaded?  High school seniors . . . or even freshmen here in university?  When college had its sheen?”

I roam the floor, the space in front of the rows of desks with their internet connections.

“Remember those scenes of professors and students out on the lawn under a late summer sun, students sitting cross-legged, perhaps chewing on blades of grass?  Your kindly bearded professor, a tam resting upon his head, gesturing grandly while reciting something beautiful?

“Perhaps a passage from Faulkner?  Perhaps a trope from Camus. Or verse from an angry beat poet?  The occasional angry finger-point at the business school with all its philistinism?  The house of Business Scrooge?”

One student speaks up.

“I saw a group out theThere's no Business Scrooge . . . but plenty of pinched brows in liberal artsre last spring!  Why can’t we do that?”

“Because it’s winter now, of course.  But wouldn’t that be nice,” I respond.

Nods around the room.

Broad smiles.

“No, it would not be nice,” I say.  “That’s not genuine.  It’s not authentic.  Just actors performing for touring visitors and posing for publicity shots.  College isn’t like that.  There is no authentic college of your dreams waiting for you to discover.  Remember the lesson of Oliver Wendell Douglas.”

“Who?”

“Oliver . . . Wendell . . . Douglas.”

I’m concerned at this lack of essential preparatory knowledge of the modern college student at a major university.

Search for the Authentic

“The star of Green Acres, the greatest television show of all time.  Don’t you watch Nickelodeon or TV Land?  See Youtube.”

Green Acres.  I explain.

It was really an allegory, a metaphor for our time.

Mr. Douglas was forever in search of the authentic.  He had an idyllic conception of the rural experience.  He abandoned his big city lawyer’s life in a quest for authentic Americana.

Instead, Mr. Douglas found a bizarre world populated by characters that could have been confected by Stephen King.

Hank Kimball.The business scrooge myth

Mr. Haney.

Sam Drucker.

Eb.

Frank Ziffle.

Homer Bedlow.

Everyone was an actor in a surreal drama staged for the benefit of Mr. Douglas’s dreams of the authentic rural life.

The unifying theme of the show was Sam Drucker’s general store, where many of the crucial insights were revealed.  Rural folk did not use oil lamps, “’cause we all got ’lectricity.”

The barrel in Sam Drucker’s general store was filled with plastic pickles.

The store was a magical place for Mr. Douglas, a crossroads for many of the strange characters who nettled him so naughtily.  For the most part, they gave Mr. Douglas exactly what he wanted to see, because in the immortal words of Sam Drucker:  “City folks seem to expect it.”

The idyllic outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature-scene.

Students seem to expect it.

High Expectations

Expectations that inevitably collapse under the weight of real challenges, real work . . . and in the process of genuine labor, a true generosity of spirit takes root.

“I suppose that no one in this classroom has seen Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan?  The original, not the remake.”

“And if you have, I’m betting you completely missed the theme of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of Utilitarianism expressed by Spock throughout the film.  Never mind the obvious references to Melville’s Moby Dick?”

“Is this class Global Strategic Management, Professor?”

Again, those naturally autocratic tendencies assert themselves.

“This class is what it isBusiness Scrooge?,” not unmindful of the evasiveness.  “And it is not about outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature instruction.  It’s about  . . authentic.”

I snap my fingers.

“How many people here believe in this . . . this muse?”

Silence.  No movement.

“You know.  This writing trope.  This muse.”

I squint.

“Anyone ever heard of this muse?  Don’t hide from me.  I know you were exposed to this . . . this muse over in that heinous liberal arts college.”

Hands begin to go up.  Cautious hands.  More hands than I expect.  More hands than are comfortable.

Time to disabuse them, time to explode their fantasies.

“There is no muse.”

A simple declarative sentence, but with the unsentimental power and imperious grandeur of a Thomas Carlyle proclamation.

Puzzled looks.  A few of them distraught.  Then, anger.

“But there is.  There’s a muse . . . there is!”

“Humbug!  There is no muse!  Get that Birkenstock notion out of your callow head.”

“But my English prof said—”

“Your neo-medievalist English prof is teaching because no one publishes her bad novels and because she cannot earn a living foisting this muse-myth on folks who live and breathe and work and play in the real world.  People who build bridges, harvest corn, make tires, feed hormones to beef, fly you home over holiday break, and who serve you every day at the 7-ll.  People who pay taxes and die.”

Gasp.

My voice drops low, just above a whisper, and I lean forward.

The myth of business scrooge“You must know only one thing.”

Pause.

“You must know only one thing.”

The students sense something profound coming.  They won’t be disappointed.

“Yes, there is a muse . . . I am your muse.”

I smile.  A benevolent smile.  I see several people actually taking notes, writing this down.

Muse Whispers “No Business Scrooge Here”

“I am on your shoulder whispering to you in those moments when you lack inspiration.  I am your solution to the blank computer screen.”

My voice rises, I lean back and spread my hands wide, just as I have seen evangelicals do when working a crowd.

“I am the muse, the answer to your writer’s block and the source of your inspiration.”

Titters of laughter ripple through the room, and I scowl.

“You think I’m joking . . . that this is a joke?”

I pace like a panther, my hands clasped behind my back.  I stalk the room, the entire space in front of the classroom and right in front of the giant PowerPoint projection screen.

I stop and face them, squaring my shoulders and flexing my jaw.

“I want you to remember that one thing when you’re up at night and time is trickling by, and you have an assignment but no ideas and no hope . . . .”

They are silent, and they watch me.

The Incantation . . .

“I will perch on your shoulder, and I will whisper to you just four words.  I want you to remember those four words.  Just four little words – just five little syllables.”

They are magic words!  An incantation!

“A mantra to warm you on those cold nights bereft of imagination, as you trek that barren wasteland of words without order, without discipline, without a point.”

I have their attention now.  They are rapt.

Will I win them over this time?  Can I break through?

Can I help them make the leap from soaring idealism to mundane responsibility?

“Remember these words:  Love … the … Value … Chain!”

Groans.

They’ve heard this before.  They sound disappointed.

Cheated.

So many fail to see the beauty of disaggregating the firm into its functional components . . . The Value Chain.  The analytic precision it provides, the world of discovery that it opens!  So many stop short of making that final connection . . . except this time . . .

“I love the value chain, Professor!”

“Really?”

I’m skeptical, jaded.  I search for signs of duplicity.  But detect only enthusiasm.

“Which part of the value chain do you feel most strongly about?”

“Since I’m chronologically oriented, Professor, I’m partial to Inbound Logistics!”

There is a general murmuring and uneasiness in the class.  Inbound logistics?

I nod sagely.  “That’s fine, MBusiness Scrooges. Zapata.  It’s okay to privilege one segment of the value chain over another, if it gives you the key to identifying competitive advantage!”

A hand shoots up and a voice cries out before I can acknowledge it.

Operations!  That’s the ticket for me.”

And yet another!

After sale Service!” a voice in the back calls out.  “Professor, Customer Relationship Management has a symmetry and logic about it that outstrips anything we touched on in my basic philosophy courses!”

The dam had finally burst, and the classroom buzzed with talk of core competencies, competitive analysis, environmental scans, core products, strategy formulation processes, Five Forces analysis, and competitive advantage!

They are convinced – finally – that strategy and value chain analysis can be an art.

I even say positive things about accounting and accountants, observing that there is a bit of art and flair and imagination necessary to produce a product desired by the employer . . . or patron.  Think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel for his patron.

The Value Chain!

Inbound logistics, Operations, Outbound logistics, Sales and Marketing, and Service.

If ever there were a time for sentimentality and outright weeping, this was it!  For this is the key to wealth creation and the bettering of people’s lives in a thousand different ways.

It’s our cornucopia, the secret that has propelled civilization from the Renaissance to the Age of Google.

But then . . .

But then, one of the most staid literary conventions of all time reared its ugly head.  Yes, one of the worst literary devices known to fictioneers.

I woke up.

I awoke from a dream.

A Sweet, Impossible Dream

It was nothing but a sweet dream.  Students excited at the prospect of writing a paper on value chain analysis . . . on identifying a company’s core competency and developing a strategic plan to gain sustained competitive advantage based on that competency . . .

Students who loved the value chain . . . who could see the art and creativity demanded of the accountant and financial manager.

Who could see the beauty in efficient operations management.

Who would strive for efficiency because it was the right thing to do!

It was all a sweet dream.

cruel dream.

I awoke to a cold, winter world where idealistic students still sleepwalk and irresponsible students still party and wiseacre students still wisecrack with a tiresome world-weariness and faux freshness.

Who write with an undisciplined lackadaisical casualness that drives me to distraction.

It’s the little things that do this.

I close my eyes and maybe . . . perhaps I can recapture a bit of the magic.  Recapture the dream.

I look up, startled to find a group of students gathered round my desk after I have dismissed class.  They are heading home in the cold for their winter break.

“What’s this?”

“A gift, Professor.”

There is no such thing as the Business Scrooge“Thank you.”

“Won’t you open it now?”

I peel the wrap away in a crinkle of coated Christmas paper.  It’s a book.  A copy of Peter Drucker’s Management.

It’s a first edition, and I feel my eyes tearing up.

“We know how much you like Green Acres.  And Drucker’s general store.”

Smiles abound.  I cock an eyebrow, as I am wont to do.

“You do know that it wasn’t Peter Drucker’s store?  It was Sam Drucker’s store.”

“Does it really matter, Professor?”

“In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that it does not.  Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Why do I offer a hearty Merry Christmas instead of something ecumenically blasé?

Well, because I can.  Because I’m authentic.  Because I have authoritarian tendencies.

Because I offer others a piece of my world.

And I heartily accept Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Season’s Greetings from anyone and everyone else who cares to send ’em my way.

Now, I must go read Sam Drucker’s book on managing a general store in Hooterville.

No business scrooge here.  I’m such an idealist.

Presentation Greatness: Find Yours

Presentation Greatness and great presentations
Finding your presentation greatness means changing the way you present to achieve personal competitive advantage through great presentations

Nike developed a well-known ad campaign with the theme: “Find Your Presentation Greatness.”

Well, it really didn’t refer to business presentations, but it well could have, without losing much in translation.

To wit:

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars.  The truth is, greatness is for us all.  This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us.”

I like the positive thrust of the ad series, which places the locus of excellence inside each of us and urges us to cultivate a desire to strive and succeed, come what may.

The Hard Truth . . . Our Greatest Enemy

Key in this is often the hard truth that often we can be our worst enemy when it comes to achieving success.

Business presenting can be like that.

More often than not, the biggest obstacle to delivering a superb presentation is our self-doubt and fear of failure.  This can stymie the best of us.  It can result in half-hearted efforts that give us an “out” when we flop.

“I wasn’t even trying,” we can say with a shrug.  And thus spare ourselves the ignominy of putting our heart and effort into a presentation, only to have it “fail.”

The exasperating truth in this is that we need not fear failure.  Or even a job poorly done.  If we invest our minds and hearts in the right kind of preparation, we need not ever “fail” at delivering serviceable, even fantastic, presentations.

We all have the tools.  We all have the potential.  We can all give a great presentation.

But . . . the Path to Presentation Greatness?

But it requires us to do the most difficult thing imaginable, and that is actually change the way we present.  This may seem obvious, but it’s not.

Many folks think that a great presentation exists somewhere outside themselves – in the software, in the written notes, in the prepared speech, in the audience somewhere.

The thought that we must step outside our comfort zone and actually adopt new habits while shedding the old ones is . . . well, it’s daunting.  And I hear every excuse imaginable why it can’t be done.  Usually having to do with “comfort.”

“I’m just not comfortable with that.”

Of course you’re not “comfortable” with that.  You’re comfortable with your old bad habits.  That’s what “habit” means.

These are new habits of superb presenting, and when you adopt them as your own, you become comfortable with them.  When you do, you will be on your way to your own greatness.

You’ll be on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations.  Great presentations!

To further your journey to delivering great presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

World Leaders Say it’s Okay

hand in pocket3Hand in the pocketFor the 1,000th time, it’s perfectly fine for a public speaker or presenter to put one hand in the pocket.

No, it’s not “unprofessional.”

No, it doesn’t mysteriously “direct” audience eyes downward.

The “no hand in pocket” is part of that oral tradition of bad and vague presentation advice that seems to have taken on a life of its own.  Passed from person to person in anecdotal fashion.

Who knows where or why these things originate?  Certainly not from the 2,500 years of public speaking literature.

hand in pocket 4Kennedy -press-conference

Personal Competitive Advantage

Personal Competitive Advantage Through Presenting
Especially Powerful Personal Presence

Personal presence offers personal competitive advantage, and it distinguishes the business presentation as a unique form of communication.

It’s the source of its power.

I should say potential power.

For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited in a shameless squandering of personal competitive advantage.

Forfeiting Personal Competitive Advantage

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.

Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.

What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.  It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice.  It’s what they sense on a subliminal level.  That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.

Here, Paulson has described the impact of Personal Presence.

It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.

Here is where you become part of the message and bring into play your unique talents and strengths.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow and pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, communicating with and persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background, into that indistinguishable mass of grays.

And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Personal Competitive Advantage
Opportunity for Personal Competitive Advantage out in the wasteland

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.

They would just as soon compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.

If you become an automaton, you cede important personal competitive advantage.

You forfeit an especially powerful opportunity.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.

Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective.  It becomes a bad communication exercise.

It becomes an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.

Rise of the Automatons

Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.

Faded is the notion of the skilled public speaker.  Gone is the especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, powerful and convincing.

Absent is Quintilian’s ideal orator:  “The good man, well-spoken.”

We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter, in command of the facts and delivering compelling arguments using all the tools at his or her disposal.

This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.

Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd.  Or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the personal competitive advantage it provides?

For  more on personal competitive advantage through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Executive Presence for Competitive Advantage

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence
Develop Especially Powerful Executive Presence for Personal Competitive Advantage

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.

With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence by choosing wisely, and then acting . . .

. . . and executive presence is a source of personal competitive advantage.

The Paradox of Executive Presence

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capability for it.

It’s a kind of self-sabotage.

Many folks engage in it.

One client I have from a foreign country has incredible charisma and the fundamental tools to develop personal magnetism and powerful personal presence.  But he plays it down.

He tries to diminish his presence.

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.

He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height.  He employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we’ve worked on developing especially powerful executive presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.

How can you go about doing this?

Review my short instructional video here on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance and an aura of Executive Presence . . .

For Especially Powerful Business Presentations

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