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Stick Puppet Presenting? Upgrade to 3D!

Stick Puppet presenting
Eliminate Stick Puppet Presenting and you’re on your way to achieving personal competitive advantage

If experience is any guide for us, we can say that approximately 90 percent of our business presentations are delivered in 2-D fashion . . . stick-puppet presenting.

No, I don’t mean this literally in the sense that people become stick figures.

I mean that the typical business presentation is stripped of depth and breadth.

Stripped of humanity.  Stripped of the qualities that make it interesting, stimulating, and persuasive.

The potential richness, energy, vigor, and power that is provided by purposive movement is absent.

Crude Stick-Puppet Presenting

We are left with cutout figures, like stick puppets.  You’ve seen stick puppets.  They’re crude, flat little figures pasted onto sticks and then used in a child’s display to convey a story.

Rudimentary as it gets, the puppets shake and move up and down as someone voices dialogue from somewhere offstage.

Today’s business presentations are sometimes no better than stick-puppet presenting.  Call this the 2-D presentation.

Stick-Puppet Presenting is characterized by a zombie-like figure crouched behind a lectern, gripping its sides.

Or a speaker who reads from a laptop computer and alternately looks at a projection screen behind him, citing it verbatim.  If any movement occurs, it is unconscious swaying.  Or rocking, or nervous happy-feet dancing.

Stop stick puppet presenting for power and impact
Eliminate Stick Puppet Presentations

Perhaps there is a bit of pacing back-and-forth to fulfill some ancient advice mumbled to the speaker years earlier:  “Move around when you talk!”  And so the stick-puppet presenter wanders about the stage.

This is worse than no movement at all.  It adds one more irrelevant distractor to an already deteriorating situation.

But we want movement . . . the right kind of movement.  We want to accelerate from 2-D to 3-D presenting.  One powerful step in that direction is the addition of proper movement.

The addition of proper movement to your presentation can imbue it with energy, depth, richness, and enhanced meaning.

So in the next series of posts, we’ll analyze this component – “movement” on the stage in support of your presentation.

If you want to eliminate stick puppet presenting and receive a full-bodied explication of the transition from 2D to 3D presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Passion

Secret #7 – Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion
Presentation Passion?

Do you have presentation passion?

Do you invest your topic with energy and elan, regardless of whether it’s shampoo or sugar or ship-building?

What is it that fills you with the thrill of discovery, the adrenaline of newness?

What can compare with the natural high of applying yourself to a task that excites you?

What generates those endorphins?  What brings a smile to your face involuntarily?  What furrows your brow?

Is it “world hunger?”  Or European soccer?

Is it social injustice?  Is it political theory?  Is it comic book collecting? Chess?  Numismatics?  Tennis?  Travel to exotic locations?  Helping others solve problems?

Writing essays?  Fashion design?  Financial manipulations?  Reading  and then reflecting on a good book?

What’s your passion?  Do you even have one?

Is your Presentation Passion buried?

Likely as not, your passion has been buried under a ton of necessity, the debris we call the business of life.

f you find that your passion is buried, then this is the time to rescue it as one of the most potent factors in delivering your most powerful presentations.

Once you explore your own visceral feelings, your passion, it becomes that much easier to invoke presentation passion in your show.

To exhibit genuine enthusiasm for the subjects of your shows.

Can you generate presentation passion?  Of course you can.  Will it be “artificial” passion?  Of course not.  Passion is passion is passion.

presentation passion for power and impact
Especially Powerful Presentations all exhibit Presentation Passion

Unless you have passion for a subject and demonstrate that passion, you will always be at a disadvantage with respect to those who do.

If you are in competition with several other teams pitching a product or service to a company for millions of dollars – and there is no noteworthy difference in the quality or price of the service – then how does the potential customer decide?

On passion.

If he sees a real passion for the work in one team, if he feels the energy of a team driven to success and truly excited about the offering, don’t you think he’ll be inclined to the team that stirs his emotions?  The team that makes him see possibilities?

The team that helps him visualize a glorious future?

The team that shares his love and passion for his product or service and sees in you a shared passion for achieving something special in partnership?

Reread the previous paragraph, because it encapsulates so much of the presentation passion that is absent in presentations today, and so much of what is needed.

Centuries of Presentation Passion

Passion has served as a crucial element in verbal communication for centuries.  Here are two of my favorite quotations on its power:

“True emotional freedom is the only door by which you may enter the hearts of your hearers.”

            Brees and Kelley, 1931 

 “Earnestness is the secret of success in any department of life. It is only the earnest man who wins his cause.”

           S.S. Curry, 1895

Recognize in yourself the capacity for passion.  Recognize that you have the wherewithal to embrace even the most staid material, the “dullest” project.

Remember always that it is you who make it better.  You who invest it with excitement.

You are the alchemist.

Many times you hear an “interesting” presentation about an “interesting” topic.  It’s well-done, and it engaged you.

And you wonder why you never seem to get the “interesting” projects.

It’s your job to make it interesting

Have you ever admitted to yourself that you might be the missing ingredient?  That perhaps it is your task to invest a project with interest and zest?

That what makes a project “interesting” is not the topic . . . but rather the interaction between material and presenter.

Ultimately, it is your task to transform a “case” or business situation into an interesting and cogent presentation.  It’s your task to find the key elements of strategic significance and then to dramatize those elements in such a way that the audience is moved in powerful and significant ways.

And you don’t need an “interesting” case to do it.

You just need presentation passion.  More on how to develop especially powerful presentation passion here.

Executive Presence and Presentation Appearance

Secret #6 – Presentation Appearance

Professional Appearance
Presentation Appearance Matters

Let’s move from the realm of what you do and say in front of your audience to the realm of how you actually appear to your audience – presentation appearance.

Likewise, let’s immediately dismiss the notion that “it doesn’t matter what I look like . . . it’s the message that counts.”

In a word . . . no.

This is so wrong-headed and juvenile that you can turn this to immediate advantage.  Adopt the exact opposite perspective right now to achieve incredible presentation competitive advantage.

But I’d wager that most folks your age won’t, particularly those stuck in liberal arts, for better or worse.

Much more dramatic to strike a pose and deliver a mythic blow for “individuality” than to conform to society’s diktats, eh?

Well, let those folks strike their blows while you spiff yourself up for your presentations, both in public and in private job interviews, and gain a superior competitive advantage.

The Upshot – Presentation Appearance

Here is the bottom line.  Your appearance matters a great deal, like it or not, and it is up to us to dress and groom appropriate to the occasion and appropriate to our personal brand and the message we want to send.

Presentation Appearance
Presentation Appearance is about setting yourself apart . . . in a way that sells yourself and your ideas to others

“Slob cool” may fly in college – and I stress may – but it garners only contempt outside the friendly confines of the local student activities center and fraternity house.

Is that “fair?”

It certainly is fair.

You may not like it.  It may clang upon your youthful sensibilities.

Tough.

You’re on display in front of a group of buyers.  They want to know if your message is credible.  Your appearance conveys important cues to your audience.  It conveys one of two chief messages, with no room to maneuver between them.

First, your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are:  sharp, focused, detailed, careful, bold, competent, prudent, innovative, loyal, energetic . . .

or . . .

Your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are:  slow, sloppy, careless, inefficient, incompetent, weak, mercenary, stupid.

Presentation Appearance
Presentation Appearance is Part of Your Brand

Moreover, you may never know when you are actually auditioning for your next job.

That presentation you decided to “wing” with half-baked preparation and delivered in a wrinkled suit might have held in the audience a human resource professional recommended to you by a friend.

But you blew the deal.  Without even knowing it.

Think.  How many powerful people mentally cross you off their list because of your haphazard, careless appearance?

How many opportunities pass you by?

How many great connections do you forfeit?

Your Choice . . . Choose Well

Granted, it’s up to your discretion to dress in the first wrinkled shirt you pull from the laundry basket, but recognize that you may be paying a price without even knowing it.

Your appearance on the stage contributes or detracts from your message.  So, as a general rule, you should dress one half-step above the audience to convey a seriousness of purpose.  For instance, if the audience is dressed in business casual (sports coat and tie), you dress in a suit.  Simple.

Presentation Appearance
Powerful Presentation Appearance conveys a Powerful Message

But beyond your presentation, you are always on-stage.

You are always auditioning.

And you are creating your personal brand one wrinkled shirt at a time, one exposed pair of boxers at a time.

Or . . . clean, professional, sober, serious, decisive, thoughtful, and bold.

Personal appearance overlaps into the area of personal branding, which is beyond the scope of this space, but two books I recommend to aid you in your quest for appearance enhancement are You, Inc. and The Brand Called You.

Both of these books are worth the price and filled with stellar advice to propel you into delivering Especially Powerful Presentations enhanced by a superb presentation appearance.

 

Boring Presentation

Secret #5 – Remedy the Boring Presentation

Boring Presentation can be avoided
Movement is Secret #5

We’re all familiar with the droning voice of the numbing speaker who rarely varies pitch, tone, or pace of a talk and who quickly loses us in monotony – and delivers the Boring Presentation.

In like fashion, you can be visually monotonous.

Visual monotony – either of repetitive constant movement . . . or of no movement whatsoever.

We know well the “rocker” and the “swayer.”

We know Mr. “busy-hands” and the “Foxtrotter,” who quicksteps in a tight little dance.  Perhaps you have seen the occasional great Stoneface, but he is a rarity today.

The Right Movement

Movement can enhance or cripple your presentation.  But you must engage the right kind of movement.

Before you begin agitated hopping about the stage willy-nilly, recognize that you should incorporate movement into your presentation for quite specific reasons.  Your movements should contribute to your presentation by reinforcing your message.

At the risk over over-alliterating, you should mesh your movements with your message.

Remember that every single thing you do onstage derives its power by its contrast with every other thing you do.  If you move all the time, like a constant pacing jungle cat, it becomes the equivalent of white noise, and your movements contribute no meaning whatever to your presentation.

In fact, your movements become a distraction, leeching energy and attention from your message.  It, too, becomes a form of visual monotony.

The Kiss of Sleep for the Boring Presentation

Likewise, if you remain stationary 100 percent of the time, the result is visual monotony.  You lull your audience into inattention, especially if you combine verbal and visual monotony in a single presentation – The Kiss of Sleep . . . for your audience.

Those in theater know this principle well.

In his very fine Tips for Actors, Jon Jory intones that: “Your best tool to avoid this dangerous state is variety.  Three lines of loud need soft.  Three lines of quick need slow.  A big dose of movement needs still.  Or change your tactics.”

So, think of movement as one more tool in your repertoire to evoke feeling from your audience and to convey a powerful and persuasive message.  And avoid the boring presentation.

The secret is not Movement alone . . . the secret is keen, decisive, proper, and exquisitely timed Movement.

Integrate your movement with your message for an especially powerful presentation.

Especially Powerful Presentation Drama

Secret #4 – Presentation Drama

Especially Powerful Presentation Drama
Presentation Drama

Class had ended, and I was giving final feedback for a group that had just presented their business case and did so without presentation drama.

Not a bad group presentation by any means, but individual students needed work, and I like to give advice that young folks can carry with them beyond the classroom and on into the workaday world.

Not just advice, mind you, but nuggets that can confer personal competitive advantage for a lifetime.

As I briefed the presenters, a colleague entered the classroom and stood by, listening in.  He’s a smart man.  I respect him for his knowledge of finance.

A curious fellow, too.

Presentation Drama?

He took in my feedback as I advised students to eliminate a verbal gaffe called the “rising line” or the “verbal up-tic,” as I call it.  I was demonstrating this awful turn of voice.

The Verbal Up-tic or “uptalk” as it is sometimes called, is a verbal pathology that afflicts at least 50 percent of young presenters and is manifested by transforming simple statements of fact into questions.  The Brits call this the “Moronic Interrogative,” and you can probably guess that it is not a compliment.

By eliminating this awful verbal tic, you take a giant step toward presenting excellence.

My students packed up and left, and my colleague stepped up beside me.

Presentation Drama
Add Presentation Drama for More Power

“Well!  All this drama!  It looks and sounds like drama class.”

By now, I’m accustomed to the raised eyebrow of colleagues who look askance at some of the techniques I advocate.  It goes with the territory.  There is, after all, a kind of lock-step sameness in the faculty view of business presentations.

Deviations from the barebones structure are not appreciated nor are they recognized for the value they can add.

“You could well say that, Roger . . . there’s a big helping of drama here.  It’s much like putting on a show.  It’s why I call my presentations ‘shows’ and my students my ‘show-people.’”

Because this, in essence, is what visual and verbal communication is all about and how it differs drastically from written work.

“Showing”

It’s no accident that I use the word “show.”  This is what we do when we give a presentation . . . when we present.  We don’t deliver a presentation; we present.

The presentation is not something behind you on a screen.  The presentation is not on a whiteboard or butcher paper.  It’s not on a flip chart.

The presentation is you.

A large part of you is how you express yourself – your presence, your expression.  We are at our best when we incorporate presentation drama into our projects, and this is the catalyst that provides the grist for our expression and enthusiasm.

By drama, I do not mean the phony excitement and angst of “relationships” gone wrong, the depression of being brought low by a downer “text,” the anxiety of the “drama queen” or the pomposity of “King Drama.”

I mean the “dramatic situation.”

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.

You have drama inherent in any situation where there is conflict or the potential for conflict.

We in business, engaged as we are in competing to provide goods and services to our customers, are blessed with dramatic situations.

Business cases are chock full of drama – conflict, suspense, turning points, great decisions.  You simply must learn to recognize them and to bring them out.  It does not mean exaggerated behavior during your presentation, as noted by one of my favorite Speaking Masters of all time, Grenville Kleiser:

This is not a recommendation of paroxysms of feeling, wild gesticulation, tearing and combing of the hair with the fingers, violent pacing up and down the platform, and other manifestations of old-style oratory, happily now obsolete, but rather to suggest a power which, when properly used, will give life, variety, intensity, and color to the spoken message.

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.  These are what you strive for.

This theatrical aspect of presenting can, in theory, surely be overdone.  But given the staid status of business presenting, the danger of this in business presentations is nil.

I never see overdone business presentations, but I’d surely welcome one.

You can harness dramatic techniques to your business presenting style, and a number of books delve into this.  One of the finest books available on the subject is Ken Howard’s Act Natural, and I strongly urge its purchase if you are serious about taking your presenting power to a whole new level by incorporating presentation drama.

The speaking secret of expression is an advantage that should be yours and not just restricted as a privilege for those toiling in the theater or in film.

Remember that you have incredible power at your disposal in the form of expression that makes use of drama.

A curl of the lip.

A raise of one eyebrow.

Sincere furrows in the forehead.

A smile.

Speaking Master Joseph Mosher gave us one key secret to expression in 1928, and we would be wise to recognize his observation of the importance of the mouth and eyes.

[T]here is no one element of gesture which furnishes as unmistakable and effective an indication of the speaker’s thought and feeling as does the expression of the mouth and eyes.  The firm-set mouth and flashing eye speak more clearly than a torrent of words; the smile is as good as, or better than, a sentence in indicating good humor; the sneering lip, the upraised brow, or the scowl need no verbal commentary.

The secret power of presentation drama is yours for the taking.  You need only seize it to develop an especially powerful presentation.

occupy2

Secret #3 – Powerful Presentation Gesture

What is presentation gesture, and why do we worry about it at all?

It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation.

Presentation Gesture
Incorporate Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture for Competitive Advantage

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection.  From your volume.

From your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.

A scratch of the chin.

Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These are all gestures that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Destroy your presentation.

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This is a result of the presence of the speaker.

Presentation Gesture
What Kind of Presentation Gesture?

An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.  Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Whether the percentage is accurate or not, undoubtedly, gestures provide energy, and accent.

They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.

Especially Powerful Presentation Mastery

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:  “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

Gesture in your presentation should be natural. It flows from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.

Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.  You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose.  They can imbue your presentation with power.

On rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, “majesty of epic proportions.”

Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture
The Power of Presentation Gesture is always underestimated

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.

In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.  Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our presentations, we are left with aimless ejaculations that can distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are several of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.  These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

This is a habit many people develop 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 motions.

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.

The Power of Presentation Gesture

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

To add force to your 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 carries 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 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.

Look for more detailed analysis on the gestures available to you in this space in coming days.

Next up . . . Secret #4
Presentation Voice

Secret #2 – Your Presentation Voice

Your Presentation Voice
An Especially Powerful Presentation Voice

Your presentation voice is one key to an especially powerful business presentation . . . or a disastrous one.

Your voice and your appearance are the constants that pervade your presentation from start to finish.

Voice is one of the seven dimensions along which we measure the Power Presenter, and a strong, clear, confident voice is one of the seven secrets of powerful presenting.

Paradoxically, we take our voices for granted.

Because we do, this nonchalant attitude can undermine us and destroy all of our hard work.

But you can become quite a good speaker, a presenter whose voice exudes confidence and is welcomed by the ear.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser tells us that:

“If nature has not endowed you with a good speaking voice, you can do much toward acquiring one. The organs of speech can be trained, like any other part of the body, by assiduous attention and practice.”[1]

You can do many things to improve your presentation voice – your articulation, your power and range, your force and tone.

If you decide that you want to move to an advanced level of presentations and are drawn to improve your voice’s quality through study and practice, many books and videos and recordings are published each year to help you along.

Much of the best writing on voice improvement was produced in the years when public speaking was considered an art – between 1840 and 1940 – and the advice contained therein are about as universal and timeless as it gets.

The reality is that the human voice is the same now as it was 100 years ago (2,000 years ago) and responds to the proven techniques developed over centuries.

Ready to Change your Presentation Voice

It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being.

It’s an instrument with which you communicate.  You can sharpen your communication skills by developing a powerful presentation voice.  And because most people are oblivious of their own voices, simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality.

Working to improve it with the exercise will improve its quality dramatically.

Let’s consider here just two things you can do to improve your voice.  Nothing extreme at all.  And actually quite fun, if you approach it the right way.

Presentation voice
But . . . I love my presentation voice

We have two goals.

First, we want to rid your voice of the chronic crack and rasp.  It’s called vocal fry when it’s done intentionally to imitate reality TV personalities.  That crack and rasp is a symptom of meekness – no confidence.  Do you have this crack and rasp?  If not, congratulations and let’s move along.  But if you do . . .

“In addition to relaxing the throat muscles, the speaker should make a special effort to vocalize every particle of breath passing over the vocal cords.  There should be no wheezy leakage of air.”[2]

Push air across your vocal chords and complete your sentences.  Don’t trail off at the end of every sentence with a croaking sound like folks on Disney Channel.

Second, we want to deepen your voice.  Why?  Like it or not, deeper voices are perceived as more credible.[3]  A Stanford University study, one among many, gives the nod to deeper voices:

Our studies show that directions from a female voice are perceived as less accurate than those from a male voice, even when the voices are reading the exact same directions.  Deepness helps, too.  It implies size, height and authority.  Deeper voices are more credible.[4]

Now, should things be this way?  Is it “fair” that deeper voices have some kind of advantage?

Deeper Presentation Voice?  That’s not fair!

It’s no less fair than that some people are taller than others or larger or faster or rate perfect scores on the SAT.  It’s neither fair, nor unfair.  It’s simply the reality we’re dealt.  If you want to devote your life to fighting for “voice equality,” you have my support.  Have at it, and Godspeed.

If, on the other hand, you want to deepen your voice a bit so that you gain personal competitive advantage, then let us analyze what the deep-voice reality means to us.

It means that a deeper presentation voice is more desirable for presenting, regardless of who presents, male or female.  Now, the very fact that you are armed with that information empowers you.

When you decide to act on it, it adds to your personal competitive advantage.

Many simple and effective exercises exist to deepen and enrich your voice.

A simple awareness of your own voice-cracking should be enough to remedy that issue.  Record your voice, and listen critically.  A personal coach can help, or even a trusted confidante as concerned with voice as much as you.  Listen to each other, coach each other, and work together to achieve an improved voice.

No, your voice is not a sacrosanct.  Voice is the second secret – the second dimension along which speakers are assessed.

Work to improve your presentation voice and you’re on your way to an especially powerful presentation style.


[1] Grenville Kleiser, “How to Speak Well,” in Radio Broadcasting (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935) , 42-43.

[2] George Rowland Collins, Platform Speaking (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1923), 33.

[3] Suter, J. K. (2003). Der Eindruck vom Ausdruck–Einfluss paraverbaler Kommunikation auf die Wahrnehmung von Nachrichtensprechenden [The impression of expression – the influence of paraverbal communication on the perception of newsreaders]. Unpublished master’s thesis. University of Bern, Switzerland.

[4] Anne Eisenberg, “Mars and Venus, On the Net : Gender Stereotypes Prevail,” (The New York Times, 2000), http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rfrost/courses/SI110/readings/Cyberculture/Eisenberg.pdf

Ready position

Secret #1 (Part 2) – Your Ready Position

An especially powerful ready position
Your Ready Position

Your Ready Position.

Your ready position is the default stance you assume when giving your talk, when not emphasizing a point with movement and gesture.

Think a moment about how you stand while you give your talk.

I refer to the time when you’re not moving about the stage to emphasize this or that point.

This especially powerful ready position is your anchor, your life preserver in a storm. Your safe harbor.

Powerful . . . Confident . . . In command

When you stride to the stage, move to the command position in front of the lectern and facing the crowd.

Now, plant yourself as you would a paving stone in a garden.  Plant yourself firmly, as a stone, with feet shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed, shoulders squared.  Plant yourself as a deeply rooted Redwood.

Do not slouch or put more weight on one foot than on the other.  Point your toes slightly outward.  Neither slump, nor stiffen. Shoulders back, head up, expectant.

Do not allow your head to settle down betwixt your collar bones. This compresses your neck like a collapsed concertina.   It cramps your voice box and cuts the flow of air that you need to speak.

At this point, let your hands hang loosely at your sides . . . (in a moment, we’ll give you something to do with your hands).

Walking and pointing and looking and eye-contact?  Forget it for now.

Forget it all for now.

First, you must seize control of yourself and adopt your strong, basic stance and make it your habit.

You must control all of those little tics and habits and nervous gestures that leech the strength from your presentation.  The tics and habits that telegraph your nervousness and lack of confidence.

What tics and habits, you say?  Every young presenter has at least some of them and the ready position can help remedy the following pathologies.

Do Not cross your leg in front of you while you balance on the other.  This “standing cross” is more prevalent, for some reason, among female presenters than among males.  Some males have this habit as well.  This is a particularly debilitating movement from both the standpoint of the audience and for you.  It projects instability.  And it makes you feel unstable.

Do Not cock your hip to one side – this is called a “hip-shot.”  Again, this action undermines your foundation.  This hip-shot posture degrades your presentation in multiple ways.  It shouts nonchalance.  It denotes disinterest and impatience.  It cries out to the audience a breezy bar demeanor that is completely at odds with the spoken message you want to convey.

Do Not engage in little choppy steps.  This side-to-side dance is common.  It telegraphs nervousness.

Do Not slump your shoulders.  Few things project lack of confidence like rounded shoulders.  Slumping shoulders can be a reflexive response to nervousness that leads to a “closed body position.”

Again.  Stand in one place, your feet comfortably shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward.  Arms at your sides.

Your Foundation – Your Ready Position

Your goal at this point is to maintain a solid physical foundation.  To project an image of confidence to the audience and to imbue yourself with confidence in point of fact.  You begin to do this with your stance – solid and confident.

Now here is the most important guidance for your Foundation “Ready” position.

Stand as described, and place your left hand in your pants pocket, out of the way.  This position should be your default position.  Putting the hand in your pocket gets it out of the way and keeps you out of trouble.  Moreover, it projects confidence.

If you have no pocket, ease your left hand a bit behind you and to the side.  No, not in a military posture, but enough to disengage it.  If you are left-handed, of course disengage your right hand.

And, no, it is not “unprofessional.”  This position carries a multitude of positives and no negatives.  You never go wrong with this position.

It imbues you with confidence and keeps you copacetic.  To your audience, it projects competence, confidence, reassurance, and sobriety:  “Here is someone who knows his/her stuff.”

This is your Ready Position.

Especially Powerful Ready Position
Your Ready Position Communicates Power

Everything else you do flows from this position.  Practice your two-minute talk from this position and do not move.

Stop!

Stop and think.  When you are ready to make a point that is crucial to your thesis . . .  When you are ready to shift subjects or major ideas . . . then

Then, step to the left while addressing the people on the left flank. Talk to them.  Then, step to the right and address those on your right.  Hold open your hands, palms up.  Walk toward your audience a step or two. Look them in the eyes. Speak to individuals.

Then, step back to the center and retake your ready position.

Let your movements emphasize your points. When you gesture to a portion of the audience, step toward them in a kind of supplication.

And always always, always go back to the ready postion.  I have seen dozens of young speakers transformed into capable, confident speakers by virtue of this alone.

How is that possible?  By removing the doubt associated with “How will I stand.”

This powerful and stable ready position imbues you with confidence, your first step toward building positive energy within yourself.

The Ready Position — it’s your safe harbor in a sea of presentation uncertainty.

cuddy

Secret #1 – Power Posing for a Winning Stance

Stance-214x300
An Especially Powerful Stance is One Key to Delivering a Great Presentation

You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation, and an especially powerful technique is to utilize “power posing” as the basis of your stance.

Stance is the first of our Seven Secrets to especially powerful presenting and is fundamental to projecting your strong image.

Let me preface with assurance that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But at the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, which has been researched and popularized by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?

Have you ever consciously thought about it?

What is my pose?  Sheepish?  Mincing?  Unsure?  Domineering?  Awkward?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others non-verbally.

You send messages to those around you.  Folks around us take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

Presentation Power
Power Posing at its Finest

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.

Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just what is the message you unconsciously send to people?

Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  Your listeners form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

This has always been true.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?  Melt-down?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Call this defeatist behavior non-power posing.

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.

Another effect is in play, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

Especially Powerful Power Posing
Plant yourself like a paving stone

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.

It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.

We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic, and this is the secret at the core of power posing.

Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.  Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Amy Cuddy’s Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.  This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders.

Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly, firmly, and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

So what is a confident posture?

Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

For any structure to endure, we must build on strength.  And I mean this both in the metaphorical and in the literal sense with regard to business presentations.

You must not only project strength and stability, you must feel strength and stability.  The two are inseparable, and a moment’s thought reveals to you why.

For an especially powerful presentation
Power Posing Projects Confidence

Consider the confident speaker.

To appear unstable and fearful before an audience, a confident speaker must take a conscious effort to strike such a weak pose.  Likewise, it would take a conscious effort for a person, who has planted himself firmly in the prescribed confident posture, to feel nervous, uncertain, or unsure of himself.

The key is to adopt the confident pose and maintain it relentlessly against all of the body’s involuntary urges to crumple and shift, to equivocate and sway.

The point and the goal is to establish a foundation that exudes strength, competence, and confidence.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.  It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

This strong personal foundation is your ready position, your standard posture for your presentation.  It serves as the foundation for everything else to follow.

For elaboration on power posing for confident stance and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

The second part of Secret #1 appears tomorrow . . .

Book cover SUPER

7 Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations

Especially Powerful Presentations
The Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations are right here

Could there be anything more tantalizing than especially powerful presentation secrets?

Because everyone loves secrets.

Dark secrets.

Sweet secrets.

Secrets to tickle the fancy.  Secrets to gain the upper hand.

And not just one secret . . . but seven of them!

 7 Secrets of Power Presenting

Today we launch the seven secrets of especially powerful presenting.  These 7 Secrets promise to launch you to personal competitive advantage in an ever more challenging job market.

Especially powerful presentation techniques are coming to you over the next two weeks, one every-other-day, right here in your Especially Powerful Presentations Blog.

Have these secrets heretofore been hidden from you?

They certainly don’t appear in your business communication textbooks.  Face it . . . has anything good ever come out of a business communication textbook?

So where do these secrets come from?

They reside in the collective wisdom of more than 2,500 years of history.  This is the link that you share with every great speaker that history has seen fit to remember – you share their humanity.  And this is why their secrets speak to us across the mists of time.

Cicero in 50 BC?

You in 2015 AD?

More than two millennia separate you from the Roman Republic’s greatest orator, so what could you possibly have in common with a man half-a-world away and 2,000 years ago?

Here’s the link

Especially Powerful Presentations
History is Filled with Especially Powerful Presentations

Perhaps Cicero spoke to the Roman Senate during the last days of the Roman Republic, while you now speak to your Business Capstone class with PowerPoint on the screen behind you . . . but you both share a core necessity.

You share the necessity to convince your audience by using a handful of reliable tools that have not changed in two thousand years.

For our purposes, the greatest orators in history are still alive with respect to their techniques, their tools, their words, and their abilities to sway audiences.

Demosthenes

Cicero

Quintilian

Patrick Henry

Frederick Douglass

William Jennings Bryan

Daniel Webster

Abraham Lincoln

What could these long-gone people possibly say to you to help you become a superior presenter here in the 21st Century?

All of these orators and many more utilized the highly refined and powerful secrets of elocution, declamation, debate, and oratory to command the stage and to sway audiences.  They were the superior presenters of their day.

Their techniques and tools comprise the 7 Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations.

Tools of the Best

The best speakers of the past 50 years use and have used these Secrets – 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 secret techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.  They wouldn’t be secrets any longer.

So they let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.

Not a chance.  Techniques, practice, personal branding . . . and 7 Secrets.

Especially Powerful Presentation Techniques
An Especially Powerful Presentation is not the exclusive province of the famous

You begin to learn these Seven Secrets over the next 14 days.

They are the secrets utilized by every great orator until the age of television, radio, and the computer rendered them lost to the vast majority of us.  They faded from use, supplanted by technology in the mistaken belief that technology had rendered you, the presenter, superfluous.

And so presenting as a skill has withered.  Until now.

These secrets do not appear in today’s textbooks, and they appear only in partial form in many trade books.  Many students don’t even know about them.  They think great presenting is alchemy, magic, or a product of superior talent.

Many don’t reach the point at which you read these words right now.  Many who read these words this second sneer at them with a world-weary sigh.

But a tiny minority reads on.

A tiny minority will join me tomorrow, and the next two weeks . . .

And that select few will begin to acquire the power, dexterity, energy, and charisma to grow into a bold presenter – at home on the stage, at ease with yourself, and facile with the material.  You will become a fabulous business presenter.

With each post, the door opens on a new Secret, and you are presented with a challenge.

Master these Seven Secrets, which form the Seven Pillars of your personal speaking platform, and you will soar higher in the business world than you possibly could have imagined.  And your career will soar farther and faster than you ever thought possible.

I hope that you are in that tiny minority that continues to read.

Let’s meet here in a couple of days for Secret #1.

Business Presentation Structure

Build Your Business Presentation

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Exudes Power

Build an especially powerful Business Presentation with this simple structure:  Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every superb story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

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

You should build a business presentation, whether individual or group, according to this structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

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

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

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

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

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

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Convinces

This framework is not the only way you can build your business presentation.

You can be innovative.  You can be daring, fresh, and new.

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

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Build a Business Presentation to Withstand the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

It’s an especially powerful structure, and I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.  But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

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

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

To learn more on how to build an especially powerful business presentation that has power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Best Business Presentation books

Best Business Presentation Books of the Year!

One of the Best Presentation books of 2013
Best Business Presentation Books

It occurred to me to compile a list of the best business presentation books for readers of this blog so as to launch an especially powerful new year.

It’s really an obvious exercise, isn’t it?

“Best of” lists are always popular.

And could be better than a compendium of the best 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 Best Business 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’ve sifted through I offer you a take from a fellow by the name of Dan Roam.  Earlier this year, Dan offered his own perspective on what makes for great presentations, and I share that with you here.

I’m a fan of anyone who wants to improve our public speaking skills and does so in an entertaining and accessible way.  Dan does this well, so have a look . . . and consider his recommendations on the best business 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.

Top 3 Best Business 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 actually change the way your deliver your presentations in ways that, at first, may discomfort you.  This should be an obvious point, but it escapes many folks.

We say we want to improve, but almost all of us really want to keep on doing what we’re already doing . . . and be told that it’s fine.

But if our presenting is unsatisfactory, then we really must change.

And these are changes that you must accept to become an especially powerful business presenter.

Best Presentation Books for 2013
Best Presentation Books . . . this one on PowerPoint Slides

The 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 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.

Best Business Presentation books
Best Presentation Book on Storytelling

If I were forced to choose one . . . this would be it.  And My Book?

My own The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, does not appear on any list of best business presentation books, and I’m sure that’s just an oversight.

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.

Forward to 2015 . . . may you feel especially powerful and experience only good gestalt!

ScroogeTheMusical_1930

Business Scrooge? Not a Chance!

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

Indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

Scrooge is commonplace, but not here.

It’s Time for Mind-Clearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One student speaks up.

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

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

Nods around the room.

Broad smiles.

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

“Who?”

“Oliver . . . Wendell . . . Douglas.”

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

Search for the Authentic

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

Green Acres.  I explain.

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

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

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

Hank Kimball.The business scrooge myth

Mr. Haney.

Sam Drucker.

Eb.

Frank Ziffle.

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

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

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

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

Students seem to expect it.

High Expectations

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

“I suppose that no one in this classroom has seen Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan?  And if you have, I’m betting you completely missed the theme of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of Utilitarianism expressed by Spock throughout the film.  Never mind the obvious references to Melville’s Moby Dick?”

“Is this class Global Strategic Management, Professor?”

Again, those naturally autocratic tendencies assert themselves.

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

I snap my fingers.

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

Silence.  No movement.

“You know.  This writing trope.  This muse.

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

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

Time to disabuse them, time to explode their fantasies.

“There is no muse.”

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

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

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

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

“But my English prof said—”

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

Gasp.

The myth of business scrooge

“You must know only one thing.”

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

Pause.

“You must know only one thing.”

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

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

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

The Muse Whispers “There is No Business Scrooge”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are silent, and they watch me.

The Incantation . . .

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

They are magic words!

An incantation!

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

I have their attention now.  They are rapt.

Will I win them over this time?  Can I break through?  Can I help them make the leap from soaring idealism to mundane responsibility?

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

Groans.

They’ve heard this before.  They sound disappointed.  Cheated.

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

“I love the value chain, Professor!”

“Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operations!  That’s the ticket for me.”

And yet another!

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

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

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

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

The Value Chain!  Inbound logistics, Operations, Outbound logistics, Sales and Marketing, and Service.

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

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

But then . . .

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

I woke up.

I awoke from a dream.

A Sweet, Impossible Dream

It was nothing but a sweet dream.  Students excited at the prospect of writing a paper on value chain analysis . . . on identifying a company’s core competency and developing a strategic plan to gain sustained competitive advantage based on that competency . . . students who loved the value chain . . . who could see the art and creativity demanded of the accountant and financial manager.

Who could see the beauty in efficient operations management.

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

It was all a sweet dream.

cruel dream.

I awoke to a cold, winter world where idealistic students still sleepwalk and irresponsible students still party and wiseacre students still wisecrack with a tiresome world-weariness and faux freshness.  Who write with an undisciplined lackadaisical casualness that drives me to distraction.

It is the little things that do this.

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

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

“What’s this?”

“A gift, Professor.”

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

“Won’t you open it now?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Does it really matter, Professor?”

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

“Merry Christmas!”

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

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

Because I offer others a piece of my world.

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

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

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

 

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A Treasure of Presentation Wisdom . . .

Presentation WisdomYou have arrived at the most important website on the internet . . .

. . . on delivering the especially powerful 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?

Presentation Wisdom 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.

Presentations of all sorts, in fact.

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

So do have a look at these superb sites to hone your skills and vault yourself into the top 1 percent of especially powerful business presenters.

Go ahead.  Don’t wait . . . take a look right now.

Click and enjoy . . .

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Especially Powerful Break in Spain!

Even the most dedicated of business presenters must refresh occasionally, and so I do . . . in Spain.

On the lookout here for the occasional tidbit to pass along.  Until such time . . .

. . . Vaya con Dios!
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Bad Presenting . . . the Business Ritual of Pain

Are Bad Presentations necessary?
Break the Painful Business Ritual

Is there some law, somewhere, that dictates that business presentations must constitute a painful business ritual?

Boring.

Barren.

Bereft of Excellence.

Given the number of long, dull, pedantic, repetitious, confusing – bad – presentations I see both inside and outside of the business school, I suspect there must be.

This dullness seeps into the consciousness.  It numbs us, and begins to legitimize itself.  It’s like a business ritual . . . a ritual of pain.

Corporate America seems addicted to this ritual.

And yet a conspiracy of silence surrounds bad business presentations and those who give them.

The Ritual of Pain is Ubiquitous

Bad Business Presentations are everywhere . . . and because they are everywhere, we think that bad business presentations must be legitimate.

They must be the norm.  They must be bad, because that’s just the way it is.

And this bad presentation business ritual perpetuates itself, like some kind of awful oral tradition . . . like a ritual.

You see a bad business presentation that some people praise as good.  It looks like this . . .

Some Vice President from a visiting company stands in front of you hiding behind a lectern.  He reads from slides with  dozens of bullet points taken from a written paper and pasted onto PowerPoint slides.  He alternates looking at a computer screen and turning to look at a projection screen behind him.  He rarely looks at you.

A Wasteland On the Screen

Unreadable spreadsheets appear.

Legions of tiny numbers march in cadence on the screen.

The presenter reads slide-after-slide verbatim, his head turned away from you.

The slides themselves are unintelligible.

It’s a bad presentation, and you can’t remember a damn thing except the three texts you received during the presentation as you checked your iPhone between yawns.

Given this familiar exercise in bad presenting, you could legitimately ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”

If bad business presentations are the norm – if this is the business ritual – you scratch your chin and perhaps you think “That’s not hard at all.”

I can be as bad as the next person.

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

Cobble something like that together, and you think you have a business presentation.  And why wouldn’t you think that?

It seems to have all the elements:  A speaker-reader of slides (you), a PowerPoint display on the screen with writing on it, some numbers, and a 10-minute time slot to fill with talk.

Bad Business Presentations are the career kiss of death
Stop giving bad business presentations!

But what you actually have is something awful – just awful.

You don’t know what you want to accomplish . . . or why.

You have no idea what you should say . . . or why.

And you don’t view yourself as benefitting from the process in any way.  Instead, you see it as something painful.  Because it is painful.

The Business Ritual of Pain.

Let’s repeat, so there’s no misunderstanding . . .  just awful.

This business ritual is painful and awful because of the way it’s been explained to you.

Because the explanations are incomplete.  Because you never get the whole story.

Teaching you how to deliver a cogent, competent, powerful business presentation is always someone else’s job.

This can be a problem.

A problem because your career often hinges on how well you can present.  And if you present badly, you needlessly handicap yourself.

I Feel Your Pain

Sure, there are “presentation”courses.  But it seems that the good folks who actually provide you some sort of presenting instruction in school are often disconnected from your business courses.

They teach you “How to give a speech” or “How to introduce yourself.”  But you don’t have the opportunity to engage in a complex group business presentation.

Oftentimes, these folks aren’t even in the business school.  They can’t show you how to incorporate business content into your presentations – tools like the SWOT, value chain analysis, financial analysis, PEST, Competitive Intelligence, and such like.

And on occasion, professors in your business can seem indifferent to this business ritual.

For most of your professors, presenting is secondary.  This makes sense, as each faculty has a specialty or functional discipline he or she is charged with teaching.  Business “Presenting” is no one’s functional discipline, and so it goes un-addressed, orphaned to expediency and neglect.

It is the same in the corporate world.  Your presenting woes are the same woes that scourge the American business landscape.

Boring, dull, numbing . . . all of this is equated wrongly with “serious.” We get the bad business presentation as the standard.

The Business Ritual in Corporate America

I attended a business conference on the west coast not long ago to watch the Business Ritual in all its ignominy.

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

It seemed that no preparation and no practice had preceded these presentations.

Papers shuffling in the audience, because handouts were given prior to the talk.

This is more common than you might imagine.  Communications consultant Andy Goodman conducted major research on the issue in 2005, surveying more than 2,500 public interest professionals and asking them to evaluate their presentation viewing experiences.

He then codified responses to this business ritual.

The average grade public interest professionals gave to the presentations they attended was C-.  The average grade given to the visuals that respondents observed in presentations they attended was also C-.

When asked to recall presentations they had seen over the last few months, survey respondents said they were more than likely to see a bad business presentation as to see an excellent one.

This is the current state of presentations in corporate America and in business schools.  Is it uniformly bleak?  No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.  I have seen a sufficient number of fine presentations to understand that, somewhere, superb instruction holds sway.

Or, at the very least, young people whose early development has trained them for the stage have found their way to the business platform.  Good for them.  But for the most part, it is as I have described here.

And this presents a magnificent opportunity.

Now that you understand the situation and why it exists, it’s time for you to join the ranks of especially powerful presenters.  Becoming a superior presenter means gaining incredible personal competitive advantage that is difficult to imitate.

By investing your presentations with passion, emotion, and enthusiasm, you deliver especially powerful shows with persuasive power.  Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time to revamp your business ritual.

Time to end the business ritual of pain.

Interested in more on fixing bad business presentations?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

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Especially Powerful Self-Talk

End self-sabotage in your business presentations

Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.

This is especially prevalent in our business presentations.  We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.  We envision humiliation, embarrassment, and complete meltdown.

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the chief culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations.  It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.  Moreover, our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates if we happen to be delivering a group presentation.

The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better . . . if at all.

There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.  How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body, and visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition.

I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques, and all of are one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Develop professional presence with confidence
Positive Self-Talk is an Especially Powerful Technique

Leaving aside the specific techniques for a later time and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century, let’s say here that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we can give ourselves a fighting chance of succeeding at business presenting.

So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?

Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation, and this ignorance means incredible uncertainty of performance.

Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

This fear of the unknown can drive up anxiety.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.

Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice.

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?  No, of course not, and we don’t even want to . . . instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that.  We leave to our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.  Envision this, instead – you deliver a tight, first-rate presentation that hits all the right notes, weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt, and ends in superb closure, a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we focus mind on our intent, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb.

With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety, wring them dry from our psychic fabric.

The right kind of preparation allows us to deal capably with the handful of unknowns that nettle us.

Positive self-talk is an essential part of your schema for preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.

Find more on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Uptalk Girl

Especially Powerful Voice

Powerful Voice for Competitive Advantage
Especially Powerful Voice

Not many of us readily accept suggestions on how to improve ourselves, particularly when it comes to highly personal aspects of our very being that impact our presentations.

For instance . . .

Your voice.

There’s nothing sacrosanct or “natural” about your speaking voice.  Your voice is the product of many years of development from numerous influences, many of which you may be unaware of.

Develop an Especially Powerful Voice

Why not evaluate your voice today?  See if it gets the presentation job done for you.

Does your voice crack?  Does it whine?  Do you perform a Kim Kardashian vocal fry at the end of every sentence?  Does it tic up at the end of every sentence for no good reason?

Do you lard your conversation with nonsensical filler such as “whatever,” “umm,” “totally,” and “like” hundreds of times per day?

Why not change for the better?

It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being.  It is an instrument with which you communicate.

You can sharpen your communication skills by improving your voice.  Simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality. Working to improve it will improve its quality dramatically and build your voice into an especially powerful skill for personal competitive advantage.

Let’s consider here several things you can do to improve your voice. Nothing extreme at all.  Have a look . . .

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.

© 2011-2015 Business School Presenting All Rights Reserved

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