Join the 1 percent

Don’t “Occupy” . . . Join the 1 Percent!

1-percent presenting
Join the 1 percent!

Isn’t it time you joined the top 1 percent?

There is, in fact, one thing – one skill – you can learn that can lift you into the top 1 percent of especially powerful business presenters.

Too good to be true?

What if you discovered that this skill is something that you can develop to an especially powerful level in just a handful of weeks?

What would that be worth to you?

Worth How Much?

Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?

Think of it – a skill you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life.

A skill that few people take seriously enough.

A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.

Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively, logically, comfortably, clearly, and cogently.  This is why corporate recruiters rate the ability to communicate more desirable in candidates than any other trait or skill.

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

Time to Join the 1 Percent

And this is the silver bullet you’ve always sought.

You, as a business student or young executive, gain personal competitive advantage vis-à-vis your peers, simply by taking business presentations seriously.  You gain incredible advantage by embracing the notion that you should and can become an effective and capable business presenter.

In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker, you become one.

And the task is not as difficult as you imagine, although it isn’t easy, either.

You actually have to change the way you do things.  This can be tough.  Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves.  The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves.

Off the shelf.  In a box.

This doesn’t work.  Not at all.

You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.  You already carry it with you.

But . . .

But you will have to change.

Join the 1 percent of especially powerful presenters
Powerful Presenting Skills can lift you into the Top 1 Percent

This is about transformation.

Transformation of the way we think, of the way we view the world, of the lens through which we peer at others, of the lens through which we see ourselves.

It is a liberating window on the world.  And it begins with your uniqueness.

No, this is not esteem-building snake-oil.  I’m not in the business of esteem-building, nor do I toil in the feel-good industry.

If you had to affix a name to it, you could say that I am in the business of esteem-discovery.

So you are unique, and your realization of this and belief in this uniqueness is utterly essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.

But given the tendency of modernity to squelch your imagination, to curtail your enthusiasm, to limit your vision, and to homogenize your appearance and your speech, you have probably abandoned the notion of uniqueness as the province of the eccentric.

Perhaps you prefer to “fit in.”

Some truths can be uncomfortable.  Often, truths about ourselves are uncomfortable, because if we acknowledge them, we then obligate ourselves to change in some way.

But in this case, the truth is liberating.

Your Shrinking World . . . Reverse the Process

Recognize that you dwell in a cocoon.  Barnacles of self-doubt, conformity, and low expectations attach themselves to you, slowing you down as barnacles slow an ocean liner.

Recognize that in four years of college, a crust of mediocrity may well have formed on you.

It is, at least partially, this crust of mediocrity that holds you back from becoming a powerful presenter.

Your confidence in yourself has been leeched away by a thousand interactions with people who mean you no harm and, yet, who force you to conform to a standard, a lowest common denominator.

People who shape and cramp and restrict your ability to deliver presentations.  They lacquer over your innate abilities and force you into a dull conformity.

Your world has shrunk incrementally, and if you do not push it out, it will close in about you and continue to limit you.

Your most intimate acquaintances can damage you if they have low expectations of you.  They expect you to be like them.

They resent your quest for knowledge and try to squelch it.

Beware of people who question you and your desires and your success.  I suggest that you question whether these people belong in your life.

You are unique, and in the quest for business presentation excellence, you discover the power of your uniqueness.  You strip away the layers of modern mummification.  You chip away at those crusty barnacles that have formed over the years without your even realizing it.

It’s time to express that unique power in ways that support you in whatever you want to do.

For more on developing your uniqueness as a presenter and joining the top 1 percent of especially powerful presenters, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Student Evaluations

Great Student Evaluations — The Secret

Student EvaluationsCould there be a university faculty lobby in this country in favor of dull, listless, unenthusiastic classroom teaching?

Apparently so, and it has vocal adherents.

Consider, for instance, this article by Liberal Arts professor Stanley Fish.

Fish is an academic journeyman whose fortunes have waned considerably since he strode the radical academic world like a colossus at Duke University in the early 90s.

Fish wrote a piece about college student course evaluations.  He contended that these evaluations have little value when it comes to assessing professor teaching skill and classroom performance.

And he received lots of feedback.

Those Pesky Evaluations

Fish’s piece received beaucoup responses from a strange sub-set of college faculty:  Bad teachers who externalize the blame for their own poor performance.

Now . . . how do I know that they’re bad teachers?

Red flags abound.

1)  Their responses are characterized by dismissive hubris and betray a lack of self-awareness.

2)  They use the formulaic vernacular and familiar liturgy of complaints that we all hear in those interminable faculty meetings.

3)  They are the first and loudest in line to criticize the legitimacy of student evaluations and yet offer no substitute evaluative instrument they believe would be more accurate.

4)  They laud the length of their course syllabi as a qualitative measure of excellence.

5)  And they abhor any feedback on their teaching performance.

These profs offer defensive responses that seek to explain why students, themselves, are the problem and ought to appreciate the prof’s unenthusiastic and lackluster presentations and devil-take-the-hindmost shabbiness.

Granted, problems do plague student evaluations — it’s unfortunately true that angry and unmotivated students can exert disproportionate influence on a prof’s rating.  They can sometimes sabotage a professor who satisfies the majority of motivated students in a class, and this is a legitimate concern of faculty who genuinely teach well.

The “outlier” problem can and should be addressed.

But bad teachers do exist.

You know it, and I know it.  And some of them believe that there is nothing wrong with their classroom manner — that if any “problem” exists, it’s the students’ fault.

This strange, aggressive subcategory of bad teachers exercises rhetorical gymnastics to explain why, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence (and the necessarily silent collegiality of their colleagues), they actually are superb teachers.

Sloppy, Disinterested, and Dull

Let’s have a look at these persecuted folks.  Here’s one sample of sourpuss opinion:

Teachers who fear (correctly) that student evaluations will determine their fate become stand-up comedians — wave your arms around, praise students excessively and “dress sharp,” advises Dr. Bob — and alter their grading policy in an effort to be liked.

The actual quote from East Lansing’s “Dr. Bob” is here:

1. Project enthusiasm (even if you don’t have any) by continually saying how interested and passionate you are and waving your arms around.
2. Call on your students by name and praise them for every little thing they do.
3. Dress sharp!
4. Be especially attentive to 1-3 on the first day of class since after that your ratings won’t change very much.

Presumably, Dr. Bob believes that unenthusiastic, impersonal, insulting, and poorly dressed professors suffer unfair discrimination in the student evaluation process.

Of course they do, and I hope they do.  And rightly so.

But rather than address the issue — which is their own substandard performance — they blame the messenger.

Discrimination?  Try “shame,” because it fits.

Strangely, this aversion to enthusiasm for course subject matter has supporters.  Here’s another gem:

I’ve seen research that suggests that ‘apparent enthusiasm’ is the single most important component of student evaluations, overall.  This is not irrelevant — an instructor’s passion can be important exactly for the kind of long-term development that Fish discusses — but clearly reflects matters of personality and self-presentation that ought to be secondary in evaluating a teacher.

Beg pardon?

“Apparent enthusiasm” for the course subject matter “ought to be secondary in evaluating a teacher?”

Unenthusiastic, Impersonal, Poorly Dressed

In the end, Stan Fish’s journalistic exercise is productive in that it surfaced a pathology in higher education . . . and it’s not the “unfairness” of the student evaluation.

The article flushed out of the cracks a bunch of folks who really ought to be working on their classroom presentation rather than boasting in the New York Times of their lack of enthusiasm and affinity for sloppy dress.

The pattern of pathology that emerges is that of arrogant faculty who apparently believe that almost any lackluster, dull, insulting, impersonal performance delivered in t-shirt, jeans, and jaunty beret should be applauded as acceptable.

This is presumably because students “aren’t capable of understanding just how good the professor truly is.”

A “truth” apparently to be realized and appreciated years hence.

Hogwash.  Utter.

I like to imagine that these characters are in a blessedly tiny minority.

So what should a teacher do?  What should motivate a university professor in the classroom?

It’s no mystery.  The powerful formula is buried in a book 104 years old and offers secrets to speed the heart and rivet the mind!

So, dutifully and with appropriate fanfare, here revealed are the secrets of getting great teaching evaluations . . .

The Student Evaluation Secret Code

William DeWitt Hyde, the President of Bowdoin College, offered advice in 1910 that I have found far more useful than any 100 articles by modern purveyors of classroom teaching theory or “pedagogy.”

The advice is actually an especially powerful tonic for anyone who wishes to become a powerful business presenter as well as a competent classroom instructor.

If you can answer these five questions in the affirmative, the student evaluations should take care of themselves . . .

  • Is my interest in my work so contagious that my students catch from me an eager interest in what we are doing together?
  • Is my work thorough and resourceful, rather than superficial and conventional, so that the brightness of my industry and the warmth of my encouragement kindle in my students a responsive zeal to do their best, cost what it may?
  • Do I get at the individuality of my students, so that each one is different to me from every other, and I am something no other person is to each of them?
  • Do I treat them, and train them to treat each other, never as mere things, or means to ends; but always as persons, with rights, aims, interests, aspirations, which I heartily respect and sympathetically share?
  • Am I so reverent toward fact, so obedient to law, that through me fact and law speak and act with an authority which my students instinctively recognize and implicitly obey?

It really is that simple.

Or maybe it’s not so simple . . . and that’s the problem.

Especially Powerful Story

Especially Powerful Story

People sometimes ask me:  What books do you read?

Especially Powerful Story
What’s Your Especially Powerful Story?

They ask this question for assorted reasons.

Either to shut me up from my latest soliloquy on product differentiation . . . or as a casual pleasantry . . . or perhaps to discover what kinds of presentation books that I read (given that I’ve written my own book on presentations).

But I’ll choose to accept it as a genuine request to discover what I think are the kinds of books and stories I find most instructive for my own writing . . . and my own thinking about writing.

And my thinking on telling a good story

What’s an Especially Powerful Story?

This is not far afield from business presentations.  Not at all.  Because delivering an especially powerful business presentation means delivering an especially powerful story.

So . . . what do I consider a good story?

Well, I have a problem shared by many booklovers.   So many books infest my shelves that, when I finally get an hour or so of quiet time, and I can pick and choose to my whim . . . I am paralyzed.

So many choices, and the selection of a single book means rejection of all the others, some possibly more worthy of attention.  That’s the perpetual conundrum.

So I usually nap.  Or I visit the bookstore to purchase several more great books for later reading.  When I have time.

But here is a minor paradox.  When I do read a good yarn, I find that I go back to it and reread it.  Caress it and wonder at why I thought it so grand to begin with.

It’s akin to the man who finds a great restaurant and a great menu item and begins to settle comfortably, as with an old friend.  It doesn’t mean an aversion to the new and different . . . it means appreciation of the old and proven.

So I reread old favorites.  Even as I already know what happens.

Mining the Cold War for Powerful Story

With that as the obligatory throat-clearing, let me share with you two old favorites , which differ from each other in ways quite obvious, but which resemble each other in the fundamentals of good storytelling.

The first is The Spike, a cold war thriller published in 1979.  I’ve read it five times in the past 28 years.

Authored by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss, The Spike is considered by some in intelligence circles to be the finest novel in the cold war CIA vs. KGB genre.

For me, it is difficult to define the particular attraction for me of this story, except to note that it has all of the elements of a good novel – a compelling lead character with strong beliefs and who changes dramatically as a result of powerful events, colorfully described.  The novel has a supporting cast that is diverse and well-drawn.  The stakes are high.

The Spike
The Spike tells an especially powerful story

This novel is also obviously political and, on the extreme left, it was considered “McCarthy-esque disinformation.”  Methinks the storyline simply cut too close to home for the progressive tastes of Alexander Cockburn and the folks at the Covert Information Action Bulletin.  In fact, having served in Military Intelligence for eight years, I know it cut close to home.

But then, what powerful novel doesn’t have an agenda, political or otherwise?

Most stories worth the telling will call out folks who don’t want the story told, whether fictional or not.  And The Spike hit a nerve with people who saw themselves limned with what might have been uncomfortable accuracy.

Limned as the bad guys.

And so it stirred considerable debate.

There’s an analog in the world of film, although much of the cold war fodder was anti-Washington and against the “Military Industrial Complex” labeled by President Eisenhower and conceptually fleshed out by C. Wright Mills.

Dr. Strangelove, Seven Days in May, Failsafe, Wargames, The Day After, Red Dawn, and The Day After Tomorrow. . . .  Evil and one-dimensional military types, the exaltation of technology over human control, and thinly veiled portrayals of real-life folks.

Good yarns all, and yarns that angered certain constituencies with political proclivities differing substantially from those of the films’ themes.

Nuclear Armageddon makes for epic storytelling in the military-industrial-complex-meets-the-disaster-movie genre.

And all of these films stir debate on the issues, of course.  And that is what The Spike did.

In fact, The Spike performed the same vital function as did the books Failsafe, Seven Days in May and, a decade earlier, Graham Greene’s The Ugly American.  Each took a point of view, and you were bound to agree or disagree with it.

Perhaps the edginess of The Spike, then, was its attraction for me, as well as its sweep, its multifarious characters, and the tremendous stakes involved.

The other book?

There was Gatsby, and This . . .

John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra.

O’Hara’s is a decidedly different book

Appointment’s portrayal of the class structure in 1930s America and the ugly strength of some class mores is, I think, brilliant.  But this has been said by more able writers than me.

From my perspective, the strength in O’Hara is his powerful characterization, particularly of the self-destructive protagonist Julian English.  The sense of presence, the sights, the smells, the sounds are all original and compelling.  It rivals The Great Gatsby in its capture of an era and the human behavior that is channeled by the quirkiness of a cloistered environment.

Story
John O’Hara told an especially powerful story

O’Hara’s characters are introspective, and yet their introspection sometimes has a hollow and self-deceiving quality . . . as does our own ersatz introspection at times.  We recognize ourselves, and this recognition is uncomfortable.

At times when we believe we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, we’re truly only trying to convince ourselves of our worth, our good motives, our essential goodness.  Deep thinking can be confused with revelation.  Deep thinking can blind us as well as it can reveal to us.

Deep thinking is not necessarily honest thinking.

And this is what O’Hara portrays so well.  At least, for me, this is the received wisdom.

The Spike and Appointment are two entirely different books, equally attractive to me for overlapping reasons.

Both share the quality of great story and compelling characters.  One is introspective, involves the fate of those in a small town, and is bound temporally by several weeks.  The other is sweeping, event-oriented, involves the fate of nations, and stretches over 15 years.

Ah, if I had the ability to write both types of novel!

Failing that, both books offer the novice writer magnificent instruction in how to construct scenes, how to transition between scenes, how to handle character description, how to deliver backstory, how to craft crisp and spare dialogue.

It’s all there, in both books.

In fact, what a method to “learn” how to write and to tell compelling stories, if such a thing is truly possible.  Certainly, craft can be learned, and I find these two books – even in their extremes – valuable in that respect.

They are also books with especially powerful story.  Books I will re-read.

Not today, and doubtless not tomorrow, for there is no time.

But I will.

Malcolm X was a great presenter

Malcolm X Presentation Technique

The Malcolm X presentation technique
Malcolm X was a powerful presenter, a passionate man of strong belief and charismatic bearing, and this Malcolm X presentation technique is a textbook on how to sway an audience

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way, and no better way to do it than with a Malcolm X presentation technique.

Make it sit up straight, snap their heads in your direction.

You can do this several ways, and it’s up to you what you choose, but it should fit your audience and the topic of your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line, which was a Malcolm X presentation technique.

This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not Another Canned Talk

One of the greatest public speakers of modern times was the late Malcolm X.

While his oeuvre rarely touched on aspects of business that we deal with in our presentation enterprise, his speeches serve as powerful examples of how to grab an audience and mesmerize it.

His techniques are so powerful that he deserves a category all his own, and you can captivate an audience with Malcolm X presentation techniques.

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a powerful communicator who drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.  His charisma was unquestioned and it grew organically from the wellspring of passion that he invested in his cause and in every speech.

The Malcolm X Presentation
Malcolm X Presentation Technique was a powerful tool for persuasiveness.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.

They are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases, and to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

When you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

You gain a sense of the gathering storm, almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.  With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches today begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

They sputter with routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or giving jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Use Malcolm X Presentation Technique

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.  Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course will leaven our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners and layed out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He establishes a mood of confidentiality and rapport.  He then states boldly – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

No Chit-Chat  in a Malcolm X Presentation

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.  No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases:  “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.

And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.  With a Malcolm X presentation technique that grips the audience and never lets it go.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them.

He focused on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes.

He framed the issue in colorful language, and created listener expectations that he would offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from the Malcolm X presentation and ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we’ll look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation, building to his call for action at the end.

If you want to learn how to energize a presentation with Malcolm X presentation techniques, as well as the secrets that other powerful speakers use in their presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion means powerIn our battle to fight through the white noise of life to communicate with others, we often ignore the most powerful of weapons at our disposal – Business Presentation Passion.

Passion, Emotion, Brio, Energy

Sure, we pay occasional homage to emotion and to “passion.”

But more often than not, it’s only lip service.

You don’t really believe this stuff, do you?  Or maybe your fear of others’ judgments pushes out thoughts of investing your talks with something interesting.

We save our presentation passion for other activities.  For our sports teams and our politics and, perhaps, religion.  We separate our “real” selves from our work and from our “formal” exposition in front of an audience.

Business Presentation Passion for PowerMaybe we construct a barrier for the audience, to prevent an audience from seeing our vulnerabilities.  Perhaps we affect an air of nonchalance as a defensive mechanism.

Regardless of the reason, by not investing ourselves in our presentation and in our narrative, we render ourselves less persuasive.

If we purge our Business presentation passion, we are less effective, perhaps even ineffective.

Nonchalance is the Enemy

Emotion is a source of speaker power.  You can seize it.  You can use it to great effect.

And you can learn to do this more easily than you imagine.

James Albert Winans was a Presenting Master early in the 20th century, and he offered this beautifully crafted description of passion’s power.  Brilliant discovered words from 1915:

A speaker should feel what he says, not only to be sincere, but also to be effective.  It is one of the oldest of truisms that if we wish to make others feel, we ourselves must feel.  . . .   We know we do not respond with enthusiasm to an advocate who lacks enthusiasm.  And quite apart from response, we do not like speakers who do not seem to care.  We like the man who means what he says.

Do you mean what you say?  Do you even care?  Or do you sleepwalk through your assignments?  Reading from a note card, reading from the slides behind you, oblivious to why you are up there?

Now, one purpose of this counsel is not simply for you to display powerful emotions in service to a cause.  You are not simply “being emotional” for its own sake when you incorporate business presentation passion into your show.

You want to evoke emotions in your audience.  You want them to think, yes, but you also want them feel.

You want to establish a visceral connection with your audience.

Don’t Purge Business Presentation Passion

Sometimes it may seem as if you must purge all emotion from your presentations, especially your business presentations.

It’s as if you are instructed to behave like a robot under the guise of looking “professional” or “business-like.”

We can find that we respond too readily to these negative cues.  We think that if A is “good,” then twice as much of A is twice as good.  And three times as much of A is even better.

And without presentation passion, our business presentations suffer.

So, let’s accept right now that emotion and professionalism are not exclusive of each other.  Conversely, shun indifference.

The opposite of earnestness is indifference. An indifferent man cares no more for one thing than for another. All things to him are the same; he does not care whether men around him are better or worse. . . .  There are other opposites to earnestness besides indifference. Doubt of any kind, uncertainty as to the thought or to the truth, a lack of conviction, all these tend to destroy earnestness.

You know the indifferent man or woman, delivering a presentation that obviously means nothing to him or her.  Perhaps you’ve done this.

Haven’t we all at one time or another?

Unknowing of emotion, believing that we cannot show we care?

Business Presentation PassionDo you just go through the motions?  I understand why you might cop this attitude.  Layer upon layer of negative incentives weigh down the college student.

Adding to your burden is the peer pressure of blasé.

It’s perceived as “uncool” to appear to care about anything, to actually do your best.  Certainly to do your best on schoolwork of any kind.

Understand from this moment that this is wrong.  No, it is not a matter of opinion . . . it is not a “gray area.”  It is incontrovertibly wrong.

If you don’t care, no one else will.  And if you don’t care, you will lose to the presenter who does care.

Lose the job you want to someone else.

Lose the contract you want to someone else.

Lose the promotion you want to someone else.

Lose the influence you want to someone else.

Win with Business Presentation Passion

Does this seem too “over the top” for you?  Of course it does!

That’s because you’ve likely been conditioned to look askance at the kinds of rich, lusty pronouncements that embrace emotion rather than scorn it.

And that is a major part of the B-School Presentation Problem.

When was the last time a business professor criticized you for showing too much emotion in your presentation?

Have you ever heard anyone criticized for it?  For giving a presentation with too much feeling?  Or for being too interesting?

For actually making you care?  For actually being memorable for more than a few moments?

Now, think for a moment of the incredible power that might be yours if you embrace emotion and Business presentation passion when no one else does.

The wonder and delight of this is that it is entirely within your grasp to do so.

More on presentation passion and personal competitive advantage here . . .

Case Competitions

Business Case Competitions Worldwide!

The Business Case Competition builds skills and tests your mettleI often judge presentations in business case competitions, and I never fail to be impressed at the high caliber of students competing.

Versed in the intricacies of wealth-building and savvy in the ways of Wall Street, the next generation of business leaders is well-armed for the competitive battles of tomorrow.

And case competitions are the way to display those skills.

Case Competitions Worldwide

In my last post, I described the crucible of case competitions and how they can lead to increased opportunities in the business world.

If it interests you (and it always interests the best), then review this site that was recently passed to me.  Appropriately enough, it’s called www.studentcompetitions.com, and its motto says:  Compete. Show Your Skills. Get Awarded.

The site features a constantly updated database of student  competitions worldwide.  As of this writing, 334 contests and competitions are listed.

So if you are serious about bringing to bear all of your business acumen in a public demonstration of your abilities to collaborate across a range of sub-disciplines in business, then go now to http://studentcompetitions.com and see what awaits you.

No Time for Modesty or Mediocrity

The Case Competition is your chance to demonstrate a wide range of corporate business skills in a collaborative effort.  You receive recognition, valuable experience, sometimes monetary reward, and perhaps an open door to corporate employment.  The competition is a showcase for your skills.

You can also win anywhere from $1,000 to $75,000 in a single business case competition.

Click for more information on how to deliver Especially Powerful Business School Presentations and learn the key secret techniques of how to win the business case competition.

Test your mettle

Case Competitions Test Your Mettle

Business Case Competition
How do you compare to the best? Or are you the best?

The business case competition puts you in front of Corporate America in naked competition against the best students from other schools.

No hiding behind a resume.

No fast-talking a good game.

No “national rankings.”

Just pure performance that puts you in the arena under lots of pressure.

Business Case Competition as Crucible

In case competitions,  your business team delivers a business presentation in competition against other teams in front of a panel of judges.

Teams display how quickly, thoroughly, and skillfully they can ingest a case, analyze it, and then prepare their conclusions.

They then present their recommendations to a panel of judges.

Business case competitions vary greatly in the details, but they do have a standard format and purpose.  The idea behind such competitions is to provide a standard case to competing teams with a given time limit and then to rate how well the teams respond.

There is, of course, no direct competition between teams.  Rather, each team is judged independently how well it handles the assigned case and presents its analysis and recommendations.  There is a time limit and specific rules.

All teams operate under the same conditions.

Business Case Competitions Far and Wide

Competitions can be internal to the Business School or involve teams from several different schools.

Sometimes there are several rounds of competition, with the final round typically judged by outside company executives.  The teams prepare a solution to the case and deliver a written report.

Teams then prepare a presentation of their analysis and recommendations and deliver the timed presentation before a panel of judges.

The judging panel sometime consists of executives from the actual company in the case.

Business case competitions, a source of competitive advantage
Business case competitions, a source of competitive advantage

The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business is good about this in its renowned Global Business Case Competition.  Twelve to fourteen schools from around the globe compete in this week-long event.  Its 2013 competition featured a case on Frog’s Leap Winery, which is known for its commitment to sustainability.

Frog’s Leap Winery produces high quality wines using organically-grown grapes and was a leader in adopting an environmental management system for production.

The competition teams, which act as outside consultants, were asked to make recommendations in three areas:   (1) the next sustainability initiative that Frog’s Leap should undertake, (2) identification of two potential markets outside the US, and (3) marketing plans for those new markets.

With 48 hours to craft a case solution and presentation, Concordia University won that 2013 competition against a range of international competing universities.

Testing Your Mettle

One excellent aspect of case competitions that are judged by outsiders is that they provide a truer indication of the competitors’ mettle.

For the most part, they are far removed from the internal politics of particular institutions, where favored students may receive benefits or rewards related more to currying favor than to the quality of their work.

In some competitions, additional twists make the competition interesting and more complicated.

For instance, Ohio State University CIBER hosts an annual Case Challenge and creates teams from the pool of participants (i.e., members will be from different schools) instead of allowing the group of students from each school to compete as a team.

In this case, once students are assigned to teams, there is a day of team-building exercises.

The key to doing well in case competitions is to differentiate yourselves beforehand.  This is much easier than you might imagine.  Start with the Three Ps of Business Presentations.  They provide a steady guide to ready you for your competition.

Principles . . . Preparation . . . Practice.

In subsequent posts, we deconstruct the business case competition to help you and your team prepare to your potential and deliver an especially powerful presentation.

You can also learn the entire process of preparing to win business case competitions from The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

command presentation

OCCUPY . . . the Command Presentation Position!

Occupy the command positionWhen you deliver a presentation, one of the most important factors that figures into the success of your talk is whether you take the command presentation position.

Don’t follow the example of most afterdinner speakers or professors, who hide behind the lectern, shuffling notes, looking down, gripping the edges of the podium with white-knuckled fervor.

This is grotesque.

It induces your audience to doze, to drift, to check out.

Instead, seize the metaphorical high ground of the presentation terrain . . . the Command Presentation Position.

And this means that you shun the lectern.

The Abominable Lectern!

The lectern is an abomination.

If you happen to be a liberal arts student who drifted here by mistake, think of the lectern as The Oppressor or The Other.  It puts a barrier between you and those whom you address.

For many students, the lectern is a place to hide from the audience.

I recommend using the lectern only once, as a tool . . . and this is the occasion to walk from behind it to approach your audience at the very beginning of your talk.  This is an action of communication, a reaching out, a gesture of intimacy.

Do not lean upon the lectern in nonchalant fashion, particularly leaning upon your elbow and with one leg crossed in front of the other.

Fix this now.

Move from behind the lectern and into the Command Presentation Position.  In today’s fleeting vernacular, occupy the command presentation position.

The Command Position is the position directly in front of a lectern and 4-8 feet from your audience.  It extends approximately 4 feet to either side of you.  You are not a visitor in this space.

As a presenter or speaker, this is your home.  You own this space, so make it yours.  You must always perform as if you belong there, never there as a visitor.

Occupy it!

Occupy the command presentation position now for democracy, social justice, and an especially powerful presentation.

For more sloganeering and outright good presentation advice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Learn Rocket Science Presentations (in your Spare Time)!

Rocket Science presentations
Rocket Science Presentations . . . Hesto-Presto!

YOU Can Deliver a Rocket Science Presentation in 8 Easy Steps!

10 Tips to Become a Nuclear Physics God!

3 Tips for Winning Your Next Court Case!

Great Doctors are Natural Born . . . It’s talent, not study!

5 Easy Steps to Powerful Presentations!

Pernicious Myths . . .

Two pernicious myths pervade the landscape of business presentations, and these myths refuse to be swatted down.

Well, probably more than two myths are circulating, but these two big myths persistently burden folks.

These myths influence two large groups of people.

Without knowing it, these folks subscribe to two schools of presentation thought . . . Birthers and McTips.

The first group – the “Birthers” presentation school – believes that superb public speakers are “born that way.”

Folks in this group believes that it’s nature-not-nurture and that natural talent wins the day.  Since it’s an ability you either have or you don’t, well there’s no need to even try.

Just sit back and marvel at those outstanding public speakers who make it all look so easy, but who actually utilize a host of techniques to charm and dazzle you.

Techniques that would be available to you if you would only set aside the self-defeating notion that you can’t develop especially powerful presentation skills.

Rocket Science Presentations?  No . . . just reachable goals accessible through dedication and practice.

Supersize Those McTips?

The second group – the “McTips” presentation school – believes that public speaking is both easy and easily learned.

Folks here believe that following a few presenting “McTips” or easy “McSteps” can turn them into tremendous speakers.  “Make eye contact” . . . “Move around when you talk” . . .  “Use your hands” . . .    Presto.

Especially Powerful Presentations are not Rocket Science
Rocket Science? Hardly!

This McTips view is so pernicious that  it does more damage than good.

It’s like a get-rich-quick scheme that scams people.

And who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s a painless shortcut to one of the most universally despised activities in corporate America?

One colleague told me a while back, his fingers steepled in front of him, “I can teach my people all they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes . . . all that other stuff is just B__ S___.”

Really?

Rocket Science Presentations!

And if becoming a great presenter is so incredibly easy and the product of a few tips or steps, then why does the bar stay so low with regard to business presentations?

Why does our business landscape resemble a wasteland strewn with mind-numbing PowerPoint slides and populated with droning executive automatons?

Both views are not only wrong, but they can stunt your development as a top-notch business presenter.

Great presenters are neither born, nor are they easily made.

To learn how, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Stop your Presentation

How to Stop Your Presentation

Every person needs a life-preserver at some point in his speaking career, and one of the most important is how to stop your presentation.

Here I reveal the best way to . . . stop.

Yes . . . stop your presentation.

Stop Your Presentation Now

I’ve tossed this rescue device out many times to students in trouble during a presentation.

At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble, and having this rescue device near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course, even flirting with disaster.

Occasionally we must be reminded of this simple and yet especially powerful device that can serve us well near the end of our talk.

How to Stop your Presentation
Stop your presentation the right way and leave a lasting impression on the audience

When your talk winds down and you feel yourself suddenly spent . . .

When you begin to spiral out of control and can’t collect your thoughts . . .

When your pulse quickens and your mind goes blank . . .

Grasp for two words.

Your life-preserver.

“In conclusion . . .”

That’s it.  Just two words.

Magic Words . . .

These two words have rescued thousands of presenters before you, and they’ll rescue you as well.

“In conclusion . . .”

These two words work a magic on your psyche that is almost inexplicable in terms that a logical, reasonable person would believe.

As soon as you speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.  Your presentation opens up.  Speak these magic words, and suddenly you know what to say and do.

You confidently add another crucial phrase . . .

“In conclusion, we can see that . . .”

“In conclusion, our recommendation makes sense for reasons just given . . .”

“In conclusion, this means that . . .”

See how it works?  How incredibly easy it is to get out of the sticky wicket of a talk spiraling out of control!

“In conclusion” leads you out of the wilderness and back onto your prepared path.  It leads you to restate your thesis in concise manner and then . . .

. . . stop!

You’re done.

For more on especially powerful presentations, consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

Presentation Structure

Bookend your Business Presentation Structure

Presentation Structure
Bookending is a Powerful Presentation Structure Technique

Bookend your presentation structure to give the audience a satisfying experience.

You can bookend your segment of a group presentation, too.

“Bookend?”

What’s this bookending and why is it so important to audience response?

Bookending brings your audience full circle, in a sense.  You first hook your audience with an intense introduction, and at then at the conclusion of your presentation, you recapitulate.

This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.

Presentation Structure Begins with This

The First Bookend.

This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative.  This is your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.

Your grabber must startle and delight your audience.  An interesting fact, a controversial statement, a powerful phrase.

Presentation StructureAnd then you follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.

Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they are about to hear, start to finish.

One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:

“There’s a deal on the table.  Don’t take it.  Here’s why.”

That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well.  It pulses with power.  If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?

In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.

That’s your first bookend.

The Middle of Your Presentation Structure

Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.

Why three?

Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times.  We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.  Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.

Duty.  Honor.  Country.

I came.  I saw.  I conquered.

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.”

“The Three Little Pigs.”

“Goldilocks and the Nine Bears.”

See how the last sentence jars?  Try to craft your presentation to constitute three parts.  For instance:  Product Concept, Marketing Plan, Financial Analysis.  Something like that.

This three-part presentation structure can serve you well as a framework for most any presentation.

As you wind to a conclusion, you then construct your second and final bookend.

Recapitulation of your Presentation Structure

You say these words:  “In conclusion, we can see that—”  Then . . .

Repeat your original situation statement.  Hearken back to the original introductory anecdote, cue, or visual image that launched your presentation.

Finally, say:  “We believe that our presentation substantiates this.”

You come full-circle, so to speak, and the audience gains a sense of completeness.  This recapitulation of your theme knits together your segment into a whole.  Your audience appreciates the closure.

Rather than a linear march, where nothing said in your presentation seems to relate to anything that came before, you offer a satisfying circularity.  You bring your audience home.

You bring you audience back to the familiar starting point, and this drives home the major point of your talk in two especially powerful ways:  1) the outright repetition of your theme, cementing it in the minds of your listeners, and 2) the story convention of providing a satisfying ending, tying up loose ends, and giving psychological closure.

It’s an elegant technique that can pay big dividends in terms of audience response.

Try it.

For more especially powerful presentation structure tips like this, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your essential companion throughout B-School.
Presentation appearance for personal competitive advantage

An Especially Powerful Presentation Appearance

Presentation Appearance - one source of personal competitive advantage
Your presentation appearance transmits a message throughout your show

Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our presentation appearance transmits messages to those around us.

Most certainly, the appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals.  This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your presentation appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.

You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.

And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

Your Presentation Appearance . . .

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”

If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

That price comes in the form of ceding competitive advantage to your peers, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.

Are you the “ageless rebel” battling the “Man”?

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys.  Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.  This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.

“I’m a rebel and exude confidence and independence!” you think, as you suit up in the current campus fashion fad.  The message received is likely much different:  “You’re a slob with no sense of proportion or clue how to dress, and I’ll never hire you.”

The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message.  Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.

On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

And that’s usually the message he’s trying to convey in such dress:  “Let’s get the job done . . . Let’s work together.”

Politics, Schmolitics . . .  He’s a Sharp Dresser

You will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.  The messages must mesh.

The lesson here is that your dress ought to reinforce your message, not offer conflicting signals.

Here are some basic suggestions for ensuring a minimum pleasing appearance . . .

For more on creating an especially powerful presentation appearance, as well as the other six elements of your personal style, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

They Don’t Get It . . . and That’s Good for Me

Competitive Advantage
They don’t get it . . . one source of your competitive advantage

WARNING!

NEGATIVE ENERGY AHEAD!

“They don’t get it . . . they never will . . . and that’s good for me.”

That’s what one young man said to me after a talk during which two young ladies walked out in a huff.

They walked out, and Ron was utterly delighted.

They left, because I called them out on their rudeness of continuously and ostentatiously texting during a presentation.

“Their ignorance . . . My Competitive Advantage”

They walked out, because I wasn’t speaking to “their needs,” and the seminar was a “waste of time.”

They walked out for the same reason that some women walk out when they hear a talk by legendary CEO Jack Welch.  Generally speaking, this type of walk-out isn’t there to learn anything new to begin with, but rather to get confirmation for what they already believe they know.

Again, generally speaking, this type of walk-out wants validation for what they already believe . . . they want a familiar sermon that externalizes blame, that places the onus for their self-perceived status as somewhere outside themselves.

So they search for someone who tells them what they want to hear.  And for a sermon that likely will do them no good whatever.

And in this case, they walked out, because I wasn’t saying what they wanted to hear.

Likewise, if folks in my audience think they’ve “heard all this” and “this goes against everything I’ve learned about public speaking,” well then off you go!

Good Luck and Godspeed!

Good luck and Godspeed to you in whatever other 90-minute activity that will remain memorable for the rest of your life.

“They don’t get it,” Ron said.  “They’ll keep on doing what they’re doing, never improving.  That cuts the competition for me.  And that is good for me.”

You see them in every walk of life . . . folks who stop learning.  Folks encrusted with cynicism.  Folks who cannot grant that perhaps their hauteur is not warranted, who cannot see that their grandeur is not as lustrous as they believe, who lost their last shreds of coachability in high school and who elevate mediocrity to a virtue.

Folks who just don’t get it.

We don’t have nearly enough time to cater to them, to “have a conversation” about presenting.

If folks believe they already know how to present . . . already believe that there is nothing left to learn . . . believe that their actual performance matches what they believe they already know . . . then I encourage people not to attend my seminars, or to leave if they stumble in by mistake.

Again . . . Good luck and Godspeed!

Negative Energy May Leave Now

I’ll even pay them a dollar at the door as they exit.  Off you go!  The sooner, the better.

Why?

Because their time is valuable and they should not waste it in activities they believe won’t benefit them.  Fair enough.

And we can proceed without the burden of angry cynicism and negative energy in the room.  That’s fair as well.

Everyone wins!

We who remain learn much about the business presentation enterprise.  And we achieve that sublime seminar state where naysayers and crabby folks have taken their troubles elsewhere and the atmosphere is more malleable and capable of producing the magic that occurs in what I call “good gestalt.”

Great things happen when smart people gather for a common purpose.

For more on good gestalt and becoming an especially powerful business presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

McTips? No way!

McTips, anyone?

Especially Powerful PresentationsWith regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people.  For descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”

“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become an especially powerful and superior business presenter.

Neither is remotely accurate.

And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters.  Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways and completely self-serving.

Here is why . . .

We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do.  If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.

Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful presenters.

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.

That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.

That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.  That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills.

It’s an excuse for us not to persevere.  Why bother to try?

Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types to do the heavy presentation lifting?  The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . . or unambitious.

The Second View . . . Presentation McTips!

The second view is the opposite of the first.

This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap.  So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”

McTips?Has the presentation landscape changed so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?

I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!  Have the demands of the presentation become so weak that great presenting can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Hardly.

In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.

In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.

On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.

The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”  You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?

The Third View – The Power Zone

There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.

This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way.  Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.

In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence. Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance. The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.

The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!”  Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.

One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task.  So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way.  Bon  voyage!  I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.

But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . .  “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”

Then . . . Take the Red Pill

Then you can read on to the
next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity.  For the truth is in the Power Zone, and once there, you will never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom.  It is completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting.  It’s your choice.

You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute.  Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . .  only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.

McTips?  No way!

A method that transforms you.

Choose the Red Pill.  Step boldy into the Power Zone.

The Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become a great presenter, with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.  If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough, or believing you are good enough when you’re actually not.

Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique.  A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking.  This history informs the very best presenters and their work.  You dismiss it only to your great loss.

No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking.  In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.

But what you can and should do is this:  Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter.  When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you.  You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.

An especially powerful presenter.

Now, you have no other real excuse.  It’s totally up to you.

For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.

pow

Presentation Pow!

Presentation Pow! can hook your audience
Presentation Pow is a Superb Way to Think of your Presentation Opening

Most students don’t know how to begin a presentation.

That’s not profound, you say?  You may, in fact, believe that it’s outright false.

Of course you know how to begin a presentation, right?

What kind of fool does this guy think I am?

But do you?  Really?

Does your intro have Presentation Pow?

Consider for a moment . . .

Do you begin confidently and strongly?

Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, 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?

TURTLE, BOX, MALE, HEAD, LEG 2Do 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 you?

No Presentation Pow . . .

This lack of Presentation Pow is exemplified for me by an example I experienced several years ago.

I was viewing a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Sears 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 60 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.

I waited for her main point.  As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

Presentation Pow is your Key
Random Facts Destroy Presentation Pow

It dawned on me that she had no point.  The linking thread would never come.

At the end of her segment, I asked her:

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Sears 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.

Random facts.

She was giving “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.  Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously, and has since progressed to graduate school.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say at the beginning is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?

Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about.  When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your introduction.  Here, you present the Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.  What will you tell them?

The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!

It focuses everyone on the topic.  Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk.  Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign.  Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Presentation Pow for Especially Powerful Presentations
Presentation Pow for Especially Powerful Presentations

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2009 and increase our market share by another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid. No “random facts.”

No wasted words.

No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

State the reason you are there.  Clearly and directly.

Put the Pow in Power!

Now, let’s add more Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“As we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position in three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now determines Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.  We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember that in any story, there must be change.  The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.  We must explain this change.

We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our introduction with Presentation Pow to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

Interested in more? Click here. 

Presentation Change is difficult

No Presentation Change? No Hope . . .

Presentation Change is difficultOne of the biggest disappointments I experience as a presentation coach is watching potential go unrealized because of stubbornness against presentation change.

An inability to change.

A disinclination to accept coaching.

A refusal to recognize improvement is needed.

No Presentation Change . . . No Improvement

And possibly the worst tendency of all:  A proclivity to redefine what one already does as somehow acceptable rather than to change behavior in ways to become truly excellent at a skill.

This last proclivity – redefinition – pops up in the expected ways.  Unfortunately it appears quite often, especially in our current zeitgeist, which is loath to offer criticism of any sort and is equally eager to validate any behavior that carries “strong feeling.”

If that “strong feeling” can be attributed to “culture” in some way, then there is almost no hope for improvement.  None.

How can there be improvement when shortcomings can be redefined as “difference,” coupled with wheedling others to “respect difference.”

So poor presenting is transformed into someone else’s problem.  The entire audience’s problem, in fact.

But What About . . . ?

Several years ago, in a lecture on “charisma,” I had just related the elements of charisma to an audience.  I had given examples and had launched into a doable program of how most any speaker can develop charisma.  That’s when a young woman asked me:  “What about ‘quiet charisma?'”

Say what?

“You know, quiet charisma.”

She was serious.

Charisma requires presentation Change“No, I don’t know,” I said.

“There is no such thing.  You have something in mind, obviously, and you are attempting to describe it, certainly, but whatever else it is, it is not charisma.  Moreover, it is the exact opposite of the type of behavior we have talked about for the past 30 minutes.”

The young woman wanted charisma . . . but she did not want to develop the traits of charisma.

She wanted charisma, perhaps, but she wanted it on the cheap.

She wanted to be told that what she was already doing was charisma.  She wanted to hear that her current performance was somehow “okay.”

I’m okay . . . you’re okay . . . we’re all “okay.”

She wanted me to redefine her own behavior as “charismatic” when it, in fact, was not.

This type of phony validation is all too frequent in our modern world of nonjudgmental-ism, where for some, improvement is almost an impossibility because every suggestion is viewed as an insulting challenge to someone’s humanity.

And So We See No Presentation Change.  None.

Instead, the result is soothing assurance akin to the awarding of a T-Ball participation ribbon . . . to everyone, regardless of performance.

Unfortunately for the precious and rough-hewn, the business world is not as charitable as is the local T-Ball league.

The solution?

Humility.

That, and recognition that all of us can improve by embracing tested techniques, some of them proven over the course of two thousand years.  In fact, great business presenting is a journey that never really ends, because we always must try new methods while steadily sharpening our mettle on the ones we embrace.

In other words, we must be willing to change what we do to reflect acquired knowledge.

Don’t seek phony validation, which is like wearing a medal for valor without demonstrating valor.  Seek, instead, the wisdom that leads to especially powerful presentation change.

For the road to especially powerful presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

presentation power

The Open Secret to Presentation Power

Presentation Power can be Yours
Presentation Power is within your Grasp

I deal with two large groups of people – let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!” – who seem unaware of the open secret to presentation power.

“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become an especially powerful and superior business presenter.

Neither is remotely accurate.

Blind to the Open Secret to Presentation Power

And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters.  Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways and completely self-serving.

Here’s why . . .

We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do.  If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.

This is true of business presentations as well, where the easy out is always available.  Delivering a powerful presentation is within our reach, but . . .

Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful presenters.

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.

That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.

That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.

That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills.

It’s an excuse for us not to persevere.  Why bother to try?  Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types with all that presentation power to do the heavy presentation lifting?

The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . . or unambitious.

The Second View

The second view is the opposite of the first.

This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap.  So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”

The Open Secret of Presentation PowerHas the presentation landscape changed so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?  I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!

Have the demands of the presentation become so uninspired and limp that great presenting can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Hardly.

In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.

In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.

On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.

You Must Deliver the Presentation Power

The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?

The Third View – The Presentation Power Zone

There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.

This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way.  Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.

In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence.

Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance. The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.

The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

 

Blue Pill . . . Forget Presentation Power

Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!”  Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.

One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task.

So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way.  Bon  voyage!  I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.

And you abdicate the opportunity for presentation power that is within your grasp . . .

But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . .  “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”

Then . . . Take the Red Pill

Then you can read on to the Presentation Power is within your graspnext brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever stripped of the excuse for mediocrity.

For the truth is in the Presentation Power Zone, and once there, you will never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom.  It’s completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting.

It’s your choice.

You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute.  Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . .  only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.

A method that transforms you.

Step boldly into the Presentation Power Zone

The Presentation Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become a great presenter, with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.  If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough, or believing you are good enough when you’re actually not.

Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique.  A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking.  This history informs the very best presenters and their work.  You dismiss it only to your great loss.

No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking.  In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.

But what you can and should do is this:  Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter.  When you enter the Presentation Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you.  You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.

An especially powerful presenter.

Now, you have no other real excuse.  It’s totally up to you.

For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.

Bad Gesture

Stop that Bad Gesture Finger-Play!

Bad Gesture
Stop Bad Gesture Finger-play . . . Now!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit.

Or two . . . or three.

Take gesture.

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 gesture 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 Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”  This nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of  mediocrity.

Many people develop bad gesture unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.

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.

Stop Bad Gesture Now!

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.

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.

Make them count.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad gesture habit in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

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