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.

Bad Presentation Appearance

What does your Presentation Appearance say about You?

Presentation Appearance sends a message

Your Presentation Appearance sends a Powerful Message

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

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

Your 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.

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

“Ageless Rebel” battling the “Man”?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you are attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Bad Presentation Appearance

Presentation Appearance that Hinders not Helps

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.

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.

Presentation Appearance Contributes to Your Destiny

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 suggestions to ensure a minimum pleasing presentation appearance . . .

Book Cover

Great Business Presentation Sites

awful presentationYou have arrived at the most important website on the internet . . .

. . . on delivering the great business presentation in business school.

In fact, it’s the only site in the world in English devoted exclusively to business school presenting . . . and that’s out of almost 1 billion sites.

One billion?

Great Business Presentation Websites

The internet should reach the 1 billion website milestone by the end of 2014.  And while no other site focuses on the challenges of business school presenting, plenty of other sites offer superb advice on this or that aspect of delivering a great business presentation.

I’ve compiled a great many of the best presentation sites, and links to them appear on the right of this site’s home page.

So go up-top to the menu, click “home,” and then look for great links to great sites . . . on the right, in its own column.

Go ahead . . . take a look.

Click and enjoy . . .

Great Presentation Books

Great Presentation Books

Great Presentation Book“Best of” lists are always popular, and it’s really an obvious exercise, isn’t it, compiling a list of Great Presentation Books?

To recommend books chock full of presentation wisdom to hone our skill set!

Great advice to lift our presentation to what we all sometimes refer to as “the next level.”

And then the equally obvious thought occurred to me – that list already exists.

The List of Great Presentation Books

In fact, I’m certain that several lists are already out there making the rounds.

And so I do the next best thing in this space . . .

I offer you a list of the 35 best presentation books compiled and judged by giants in the field.  And another list of recent great presentation books offered by presentation guru Garr Reynolds.

I offer my own view of what I consider to be the top three presentation books.  Yes, you can learn something about business presenting from a book.

Quite a bit, actually.

The trick is to find the right book.

My Top Three Great Presentation Books

My personal favorites are Presenting to Win, by Jerry Weissman and Slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, The Story Factor, by Annette Simmons.

These three books, for me, capture the spirit, the art, and the craft of especially powerful business presenting.

They advocate change.

You must change how your deliver your presentations in ways that, at first, you may find discomfiting.  But they are changes that you must accept to become an especially powerful business presenter.

Great Presentation Books for 2014The Story Factor, in particular, is strong in transforming your presentations into sturdy narratives that capture an audience and propel your listeners to action.  Consult Annette Simmons for deep learning about the power of storytelling.

A fourth book does not appear on the list.  Actually, it does, but only in a modified form.

This powerful tome is Dale Carnegie’s The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking.  This is an “updated” version of his classic from mid-way the last century Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business.  In my view, the update strips much useful material from the book, and so I prefer the original.

You can find dozens of copies of the original classic for sale on ebay.  This, in my opinion, is the most useful public speaking book ever penned.

Great Presentation booksIf I were forced to choose one . . . this would be it.

And My Book?

My own book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, does not appear on this superb list of 35 books.  And so here I offer the most generous and self-aggrandizing interpretation possible . . . it just hasn’t circulated among the cognoscenti nearly enough to have created a buzz-worthy impact.

I know that you, as do I, eagerly await its appearance on next year’s “Best of” list.

Until then, enjoy the creme-de-la-creme of great presentation books as exemplified on the lists here!

Executive Presence

Become a Presentation Colossus for Executive Presence

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence

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 . . .

. . . it goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence.

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 that many engage in.

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 and attempts 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 and 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?

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

How to Transition Between Speakers in your Business Presentation

Transition smoothly in your Presentation

One of the least-practiced aspects of the group presentation is how you pass the baton – the transition between speakers.

Yet these baton-passing linkages within your presentation are incredibly important.

They connect the conclusion of one segment and the introduction of the next.

Shouldn’t this connecting link be as strong as possible, so that your audience receives the intended message?  So the message isn’t lost in a flurry of scurrying presenters moving about the stage in unpracticed, chaotic fashion?

Don’t Lose Your Message!

It sounds absurd, but group members often develop their individual presentation segments on their own.  Then, the group tries to knit them together on the day of the group show.  A formula for disaster.

The result is a bumbling game of musical chairs and hot-baton-passing.

Imagine a sports team that prepared for its games this way, with each player practicing his role individually and the players coming together as a team only on the day of the game and expecting the team to work together seamlessly.

Sports teams don’t practice this way.  Serious people don’t practice this way.  Don’t you practice this way.

Don’t yield to the tendency on the part of a team of three or four people to treat the presentation as a game of musical chairs.

Transition Between Speakers Without Musical Chairs

This happens when each member presents a small chunk of material, and the presenters take turns presenting.  Lots of turns.  This ungainly dance can disconcert your audience and can upend your show.

Minimize the passing of the baton and transitions, particularly when each person has only three or four minutes to present.

Transition between Speakers!

I have also noticed a tendency to rush the transition between speakers.

Often, a presenter will do fine until the transition to the next topic.  At that point, before finishing, the speaker turns while continuing to talk, and the last sentence or two of the presentation segment is lost.

The speaker walks away while still citing a point.  Perhaps an incredibly important point.

Don’t rush from the stage.  Stay planted in one spot until you finish.

Savor your conclusion, the last sentence of your portion.  It should reiterate your Most Important Point.

Introduce your next segment.  Then transition.  Then pass the baton with authority.

Harmonize your Messages

Your message itself must mesh well with the other segments of your show.  Each presenter must harmonize  the message with the others of a business presentation.  These individual parts should make sense as a whole, just as parts of a story all contribute to the overall message.

“On the same page” . . .  “Speaking with one voice” . . .    These are the metaphors that urge us to message harmony.  This means that one member does not contradict the other when answering questions.

It means telling the same story and contributing crucial parts of that story so that it makes sense.

This is not the forum to demonstrate that team members are independent thinkers or that diversity of opinion is a good thing.

Moreover, everyone should be prepared to deliver a serviceable version of the entire presentation, not just their own part.  This is against the chance that one or more of the team can’t present at the appointed time.  Cross-train in at least one other portion of the presentation.

Remember:  Harmonize your messages . . . Speak with one voice . . . Pass the baton smoothly.  Transition between speakers with authority and confidence.

You can find more discussion on how to transition between speakers in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your key to personal competitive advantage in business school and beyond.

cave painting

Touch the Cave Paintings for a Powerful Business Presentation

Touch your own cave paintings in your business presentation

Take ownership of your business presentation and embrace 10,000 B.C. technology

It’s 10,000 BC, and you’ve painted a a detailed graphic on your cave wall for your upcoming presentation.

It depicts your keen analysis of the recent successful hunt.

Now, you offer to show it to your group, perhaps young hunters seeking valuable knowledge.

How would you deliver your hunting presentation?

Would you stand off to one side and gesture vaguely at your cave wall graphics as you give your presentation on how to take down a mastodon?

Would you?

More likely, you’d take ownership.

Own the Business Presentation and Touch the Cave Paintings

You’d step over to the wall and run your fingers over the colored lines.

You’d trace the outline of the images as you shared the story that the painting illustrates.  You’d use the graphic to bring your presentation to life.

Likewise, in your own business presentations today, when you interact with your PowerPoint slides, I suggest that you use 10,000 BC technology – you should  ”touch the cave paintings” to meld with your presentation.

Mastodon Business Presentation

Breathe life into your Business Presentation!

Take ownership of your business presentation, and touch the cave paintings you’ve created to flesh out and support your message.

Step to the screen when you’re ready to refer to a chart or a graph.  Orient us to what we’re about to see.  Explain the vertical and horizontal axes so that we can quickly grasp the data.

By stepping to the screen and gesturing, you enhance your participation in the presentation, becoming the animation for the slides under review.

And you preclude using one of the most heinous devices ever created that can destroy potentially outstanding business presentations.

The Laser Pointer.

Think of the Laser Pointer as a Presentation self-destruct button.

That’s right . . . self-destruct button.

Don’t Self-Destruct!

Even the best of us occasionally thumb that laser pointer self-destruct button built into most remote control clickers.

Laser Pointer Presentation Destruction

Lose the laser pointer, Skywalker

But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation, don’t you?

You’ve waited your entire life for the chance to legitimately use that laser pointer!

Haven’t you?

You’ve pictured yourself be-suited and commanding the room . . . standing back, perhaps with a jaunty posture, as you sweep the screen behind you with the little bobbing speck of red light.  The meekest among us is invested with bombast and hauteur by even the most inexpensive laser pointer.

Don’t do it.

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

The laser pointer is 21st century overkill technology.  It distances you from your presentation message at the exact moment you should meld yourself with it.

How so?

If something is so crucially important on your slideshow – perhaps a graph or a series of numbers – that you must direct audience attention to it, then step into the presentation.  Gesture to the data with your hand.

Use 10,000 B.C. Technology

Merge yourself with the data.  Step into the presentation so that you, in essence, become the animation that highlights your points of emphasis.  Don’t divide audience attention between you, the data on the screen, and a nervously darting red speck.

Instead, concentrate your audience focus on your major points, touching the screen, guiding us to the facts and figures you want us to internalize.  It’s a cave painting, so run your hands over the cave wall.  Show us what you want us to see with your hand.

Now, I issue a caveat here.

If the screen behind you is so high that you cannot reach it, then you might be justified in using the pointer.

But probably not.

Instead, if you want to highlight or draw attention to your points of emphasis, then utilize the highlighting animation available on most multimedia platforms.

If you’re uncertain what I mean by this, have a look at this brief video:

Nothing is more gratuitous in modern business presenting than the laser pointer.  And few things more irritating than the laser pointer presentation.

Rid yourself of this awful affectation today.  Pledge never to deliver another laser pointer presentation in your business life.

Instead, run your hands over the cave wall, touch the cave paintings to meld with your presentation and communicate with your visuals in especially powerful fashion.

For more on Business Presentations, consult my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Seven

Presentation Principles . . . the Third P

Seven Presentation Principles for Especially Powerful Presentations

Overarching the craft of developing an especially powerful presentation is the guidance provided by the “Three Ps,” and the last of of these Ps provides a solid foundation of powerful business presentation principles.

There are seven of them.

These Seven Principles of Especially Powerful Presenting constitute the building blocks of your presentation persona.  And you’ll not find a PowerPoint slide in sight.

These principles, in short, are you.

Stance . . . Voice . . . Movement . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Appearance . . . Passion

Elsewhere, I’ve characterized these principles as “secrets.”  Like any secret, it’s only a secret if you don’t know it.

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

They are secrets.  In fact, they could be the most open secrets that mankind has ever known.

But they’re difficult secrets.

Difficult – because they require you to actually do something.

They require you to modify your behavior in ways to take advantage of what has been discovered about public speaking and presenting over the past 2500 years.

I think that perhaps when we think of a secret, we tend to equate it with magic.  We automatically believe that there is some magic involved that will help us circumvent hard work.

But that’s just not so.

The good news is that these secrets actually are secrets that truly work.  They also constitute the dimensions along which we can gauge our speaking ability and judge how much we improve.

This is the most important aspect of these business presentation principles – they allow us to tear away the veil from those who pose as merely talented and to understand this beast called The Presentation.

Now, let’s plot our dimensions on a 7×7 Chart.

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

Take, as an example, the chart below, which is labeled across the top with our seven dimensions and along the vertical axis with a seven-point scale of value:

Unacceptable, Below Average, Average, Good, Very Good, Superior, Professional.

The chart plots the seven dimensions against a seven-point scale and provides a thorough evaluation of the presenter’s level of skill.  From the chart, we see that this speaker carries a professional-grade stance and is superior with his gestures.

All other dimensions indicate work is needed.  The advantage of this chart, is that it disaggregates your various speaking tasks so that you can manage them.

It parses them, so that you can identify your weaknesses in a logical and comprehensive way.  It also informs you of your strengths, so that you may build upon them.

Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact
Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact

The upshot is that this Third P of Especially Powerful Presenting – Business Presentation Principles – guides us to master the Seven Secrets, to transform ourselves into truly adept presenting instruments.  To put us at home in front of any audience and able to connect across a range of subjects and and in a multitude of venues.

Elsewhere, I have addressed the Seven Secrets in detail, and we’ll revisit them again soon.

For now, let’s remember that the especially powerful presenters of the past 50 years have used basic presentation principles – Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King.

They don’t announce that they’re using techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.

They simply let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.  Not a chance.

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

For all three Ps and a complete distillation of Business Presentation Principles, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

thoughtful

Business Presentation Prep . . . The Second P

Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

You are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations in a business presentation.

Your task is to prepare the business presentation . . .

. . .  the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

Your group has produced a written analysis.  It’s finished.

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.

And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.

They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.

Prepare the Business Presentation

Apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Your task is clear.  It’s time to present your conclusions to an audience in the most direct and cogent manner possible.

And in this task is embodied a verity for you to internalize.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?  But they are different.

Completely different.

It is different in exactly the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.

How Different?

It is different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

In short, you are in a high-risk environment and you are vulnerable, far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controllable.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

These many differences between the written report and the business presentation are, to many people, seemingly invisible.  Or, at least, they are not considered significant.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

And this is why those same folks believe that delivering a presentation is “easy.”  It consists of little more than cutting and pasting a written report’s points onto a half-dozen cramped slides, and then reading them in public.

As absurd as this might appear in print, it actually has currency.  People believe this, because they’ve not been told otherwise.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

The more numbers, the better.

The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide . . . the better.

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.

It’s wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Part of your preparation is the crafting of clear, compelling, and on-point graphics that support your message . . . not obscure it. Rid your presentation of chart junk. Zero-in to achieve what I call über focus.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Perhaps you’ve said that?  I’ve certainly heard it.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting or not is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.  Cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you.

Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting” topics.  But what’s an “interesting” topic?

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.  And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

Moreover, it is your job to presenting an especially powerful and scintillating presentation, regardless of the topic.

Face it.  If you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t prepare any differently for an “interesting” topic than you would for a “boring” topic.  You simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience or client.

Let’s shed that attitude.

Great presenters recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They invariably craft an interesting presentation whether the topic concerns tenpenny nails or derivatives or soap.

Crank up Interest

How do you generate interest?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions:

[I]nterest is, generally speaking, strongest in old things in new settings, looked at from new angles, given new forms and developed with new facts and ideas, with new light on familiar characters, new explanations of familiar phenomena, or new applications of old truths.

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

You put it off as a daunting task.  Or you put it off because you believe you can “wing it.”  Or you lament that you don’t have an “interesting topic.”

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here as you prepare the business presentation?

Think about it.

How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

“How can I fit X amount of information into this limited time?”

In your own mind, the objective is not to communicate clearly to your audience. Your only objective is to “fit it all in.”  And if you “achieve” this dubious objective, then in your mind you will have succeeded.

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively.

And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum.

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.

You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

The result is less than stellar, and you end up trying to shovel 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound pail.  And this result is predictable.

Your slides are crammed with information.

You talk fast to force all the points in.  You run over-time.

You fail.

You fail to deliver a star-spangled presentation for lack of proper preparation.

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

Take the Procrustean approach when you prepare the business presentation.  This approach is named after Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology.  The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the myth thusly:

He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it.  If they were too tall to fit his bed, he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes’ own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.

Surely Procrustes was a villain, what with sawing off people’s legs or stretching them to fit an arbitrary standard.  In modern-day parlance, it has retained its negative connotation with the term “Procrustean solution.”

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture.

A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

But in this case, let’s give Procrustes a break.

Your Procrustean Solution

Take a Procrustean approach and make a better presentation.  Consider this:

We have no choice in the length of our presentation.  It’s four minutes.  Or five minutes.  That’s our Procrustean Bed.  So let’s make the most of it and manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our mind and judgment to select what should be in our show and what should not be in our show.

And if you find the decision of what to include too difficult, then let’s do even more Procrustean manipulation.  Pick only three major points that you want to make.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

Here is your task now:

Pick three points to deliver in 4-5 minutes.  If you must deliver an entire SWOT, then select one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat.

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.

They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.

The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

You want the audience to remember how you massage the data, analyze it, and arrange it.  You want the audience to remember your conclusions.

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.  You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

You reduce the static and white noise so that the communicative signal can be heard.

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus so the nuggets can be found.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you?

Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand?

Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, you sift through mountains of information, synthesize it, compress it, make it intelligible, then present it in a way that is understandable and, if possible, entertaining.

Digest this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover how to Prepare the Business Presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Practice

Presentation Practice – The 1st “P”

Ensure Good Presentation Practice

Proper Presentation Practice Means an Especially Powerful Presentation

There is good practice and there is bad presentation practice.

Extremely bad presentation practice.

But how can you say, Professor Ridgley, that there is such a thing as “bad presentation practice?”

Aren’t you pleased that folks are at least . . . practicing?

Bad practice is pernicious. It’s insidious.

It can create the illusion of improvement and yet be a prelude to disaster.

How so?  Just this . . .

Practice is one of those words that we never bother to define, because each of us already “knows” what it means.  Certainly your professor thinks you know what it means, since he urges you to “practice” your presentation prior to its delivery.

But what does it mean to “practice?”

Doesn’t everyone know how to practice?

How do you practice?  Have you ever truly thought about it?  Have you ever thought about what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish with your presentation practice?

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

Do you make the mistake of that old cliché and “practice in the mirror?”  Don’t practice in the mirror.  That’s dumb.  You won’t be looking at yourself as you give your talk, so don’t practice that way.

Let me say it again – that’s dumb.  The only reason to look in a mirror is to ensure that your gestures and expressions display exactly as you think they do when you employ them.

Other than that, stay away from the mirror.

Practice – the right presentation practice, good practice, proper rehearsal – is the key to so much of your presentation’s success.  And your ultimate triumph.

The Russians have a saying much akin to one of ours.  We say “practice makes perfect.”  The Russians say “Povtoreniye mat’ ucheniya.”   It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

The armed forces are expert at practice.

Short of actual war, this is all the military does – practice for its mission in the most realistic conditions that can be devised.

Presentation Practice

And in doing so, the military arms our warriors with the confidence and skill necessary to accomplish the actual mission.

Likewise, we must practice in the most realistic conditions that we can devise for ourselves, and in doing so we reduce our apprehension and uncertainty.al missions assigned to it.

We gain confidence.

The nerves that go with public speaking are like the nerves a soldier feels as he walks through a minefield – he fears a single misstep will trigger an explosion.

But once the minefield is traversed a single time, the path is clear.  With a clear and predictable path, the fear evaporates.

The danger is avoided.

Likewise, once you have practiced your talk, your fear dissipates.

Confidence Replaces Fear

Once you have practiced it exactly like you will deliver it, straight to completion without pause, then you will have reduced the unknown to manageable proportions.

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

Your way through the minefield is clear.  And the fear evaporates.

Does this mean that you won’t have butterflies before a talk?  Or that you won’t be nervous?  Of course not.  We all do.

Before every game, professional football players are keyed up, emotional, nervous. But once the game begins and they take the first “hit,” they ramp-up confidence.  Likewise, a bit of nervousness is good for you.  It ensures your focus.

But it’s good nervousness, borne of anticipation.

It is not the same as fear.

And so we see that the key to confidence is knowledge and preparation.

We lack confidence when we are unsure.  With every practice, we gain confidence.  And all the while we rehearse diligently, remember this dictum . . .

Perfect Presentation Practice

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

I mean this literally.  Stage your practices, both individually and as a group, as close to the real thing as you can.  Make it as realistic as you can.

If you can, practice in the room where you will deliver your show.

You want as much pressure as possible.

One of the most prevalent and serious practice mistakes is to restart your presentation again and again when you make a mistake.

Do not start over when you make a mistake . . .

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

This should be common sense.  You must practice how you respond to making an error. How you will fight through and recover from an error.

Then, if you stumble in your presentation, you will have the confidence and prior experience to weather the minor glitch because you will have faced it before.

Think of it this way.  Does a football team practice one way all week, and then employ a completely different game-plan on game-day?

Of course not.

And neither should you.

For the next two Ps of Business School Presenting, return in coming days or consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Give a Finance Presentation

How to Give a Finance Presentation

Finance Presentations for Competitive AdvantageWhether the finance presentations class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . .  I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students on how they should give a finance presentation . . .

“Finance Presentations are different.”

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

“For us, the numbers tell the story.”

Finance Presentation Mysteries

Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways, as if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language.

They seem 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 when they give a finance presentation.Give a Finance Presentation

But this is an illusion.

And 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.

We are all subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast.  These 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.

How Not go 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.  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 merely stands 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.

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

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 a business presentation.

“Cut ’n’ Paste”

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.

The Good News

In every obstacle exists an opportunity.

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.  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.

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