What does your Presentation Appearance say about You?

Presentation Appearance sends a message

Your Presentation Appearance sends a Powerful Message

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

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

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

You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.  And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

“Ageless Rebel” battling the “Man”?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you are attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Bad Presentation Appearance

Presentation Appearance that Hinders not Helps

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

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

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

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

Presentation Appearance Contributes to Your Destiny

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.

This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.

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

The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message.

Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He is a superb dresser, as are all presidents. On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

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

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

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

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

Here are suggestions to ensure a minimum pleasing presentation appearance . . .

Great Business Presentation Sites

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

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

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

One billion?

Great Business Presentation Websites

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

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

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

Go ahead . . . take a look.

Click and enjoy . . .

Great Presentation Books

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

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

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

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

The List of Great Presentation Books

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

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

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

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

Quite a bit, actually.

The trick is to find the right book.

My Top Three Great Presentation Books

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

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

They advocate change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And My Book?

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

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

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

Become a Presentation Colossus for Executive Presence

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.  With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence . . .

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

The Paradox of Executive Presence

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

It’s a kind of self-sabotage that many engage in.

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

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.  He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height and employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

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

In short, we’ve worked on developing especially powerful executive presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.  How can you go about doing this?

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

How to Transition Between Speakers in your Business Presentation

Transition smoothly in your Presentation

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

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

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

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

Don’t Lose Your Message!

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

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

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

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

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

Transition Between Speakers Without Musical Chairs

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

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

Transition between Speakers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harmonize your Messages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touch the Cave Paintings for a Powerful Business Presentation

Touch your own cave paintings in your business presentation

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

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

It depicts your keen analysis of the recent successful hunt.

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

How would you deliver your hunting presentation?

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

Would you?

More likely, you’d take ownership.

Own the Business Presentation and Touch the Cave Paintings

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

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

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

Mastodon Business Presentation

Breathe life into your Business Presentation!

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

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

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

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

The Laser Pointer.

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

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

Don’t Self-Destruct!

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

Laser Pointer Presentation Destruction

Lose the laser pointer, Skywalker

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

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

Haven’t you?

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

Don’t do it.

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

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

How so?

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

Use 10,000 B.C. Technology

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

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

Now, I issue a caveat here.

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

But probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation Principles . . . the Third P

Seven Presentation Principles for Especially Powerful Presentations

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

There are seven of them.

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

These principles, in short, are you.

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

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

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

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

But they’re difficult secrets.

Difficult – because they require you to actually do something.

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

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

But that’s just not so.

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

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

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

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

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

Business Presentation Prep . . . The Second P

Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

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

Your task is to prepare the business presentation . . .

. . .  the right way.

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

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

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

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

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

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

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

Prepare the Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

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

Completely different.

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

How Different?

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

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

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

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

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

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

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

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

Numbers Trump All?

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

The more numbers, the better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation

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

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

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

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

I have found the following to be true:

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

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

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

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

Let’s shed that attitude.

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

Crank up Interest

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

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

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

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

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

Think about it.

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

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your slides are crammed with information.

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

You fail.

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

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Procrustean Solution

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

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

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

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

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

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

Here is your task now:

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

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

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

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

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

Especially Powerful Paucity

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

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

The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation Practice – The 1st “P”

Ensure Good Presentation Practice

Proper Presentation Practice Means an Especially Powerful Presentation

There is good practice and there is bad presentation practice.

Extremely bad presentation practice.

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

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

Bad practice is pernicious. It’s insidious.

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

How so?  Just this . . .

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

But what does it mean to “practice?”

Doesn’t everyone know how to practice?

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

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

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

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

Other than that, stay away from the mirror.

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

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

The armed forces are expert at practice.

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

Presentation Practice

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

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

We gain confidence.

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

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

The danger is avoided.

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

Confidence Replaces Fear

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

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

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

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

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

But it’s good nervousness, borne of anticipation.

It is not the same as fear.

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

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

Perfect Presentation Practice

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

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

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

You want as much pressure as possible.

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

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

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

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

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

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

Of course not.

And neither should you.

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

How to Give a Finance Presentation

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

“Finance Presentations are different.”

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

“For us, the numbers tell the story.”

Finance Presentation Mysteries

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

They seem less subject to manipulation.

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

For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.

This illusion of certitude and precision exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, well . . . that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them in the coldness and hardness of objective numerical analysis when they give a finance presentation.Give a Finance Presentation

But this is an illusion.

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

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

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

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

How Not go Give a Finance Presentation

The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica.  It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.

In fact, many finance presentations devolve into basic meeting discussions about a printed analysis distributed beforehand.  The group of presenters merely stands while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of questions.

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

“Just the facts”

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

“Just the facts”

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

It achieves incredible bombast in just three syllables.

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”  Which facts?  Why these facts and not those facts?

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

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

“The numbers tell the story.”

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

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

Numbers, by themselves, tell no story at all.

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

The end result of these finance presentations shenanigans is an overall level of mediocrity and outright bad presentations.  If firms want nothing more than a group discussion about a handout, with the only thing distinguishing the  “presenters” from the audience is that they are standing, then so be it.

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

But whatever else it is, it is not a business presentation.

“Cut ’n’ Paste”

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

The display of these heinous slides is accompanied by a sweep of the arm and the awful phrase:  “As you can see . . . ”   The cause of this pathology is the rote transfer of your written report to a PowerPoint display, with no modification to suit the completely different medium.  The result?

Slides from the netherworld.

The Good News

In every obstacle exists an opportunity.

Because the bar for finance presentations is so low, if you give a finance presentation using the powerful principles that apply to all business presentations, your own shows will outstrip the competition by an order of magnitude.  This, of course, implies that your content is rock-solid.  Because it should be.

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

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

All of the presentation principles that we discuss here apply to finance presentations, particularly the parsimonious display of numbers and the necessity for their visual clarity.  If anything, finance presentations must be more attentive to how masses of data are distilled and displayed.

A situation statement must be given.

A story still must be told.

Your analysis presented.

Conclusions must be drawn.

Recommendations must be made.

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

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

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

Executive Presence for the Business Presenter

Executive Presence

Especially Powerful Executive Presence

Business Presentations are filled with paradoxes, especially where executive presence is concerned.

For instance, the Power Zone of presentation charisma . . . a place everyone wants to be, but where almost no one wants to go.

The charisma factor of executive presence is not so difficult to achieve, nor is it so mysterious as to be unfathomable.

Yet It always amazes me anew the reasons people concoct for not becoming powerful speakers and developing especially powerful executive presence.

The Power Zone of Executive Presence

The Power Zone is a metaphor for that realm of especially powerful business presenters, a place where  everyone is a capable, confident, and competent communicator.

Where every meal’s a feast and every speech kissed by rhetorical magic.

A place for larger-than-life presentation charisma.

A place where executive presence comes naturally.

Yes, you can go there.  And almost everyone claims they want to go to the Power Zone.

But even when people are told clearly how to reach the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma, most don’t go.

They find an excuse not to.

Disbelief . . .  Principle . . . Ideology . . .  Sloth . . . Disregard . . . Fear . . . even Anger.

They contrive the darnedest reasons not to, from ideological to lazy.

No Argument Here . . . Don’t go

In my presentations to various audiences, I am sometimes faced with the gadfly who knows better, sometimes vocal, oftentimes not.  The person who opposes what I say.  Usually for spurious reasons.

And it’s an exercise in futility for the gadfly.  I make no argument against the gadfly’s objections, whatever the source.

Because the choice to enter the Power Zone is personal and completely optional.

You need not step into the Power Zone if you choose not to.  I care not for the reason, and explanations aren’t necessary.

Presentation charisma is yours for the taking.  It’s entirely up to you.

Ideological Objections to Presentation Charisma

Your Executive Presence

The latest batch of objections I heard sprang from one woman’s ideology.

You heard right.

She apparently believed in au courant political philosophy that dictates how people should behave and react to others based on . . .

Well, based on what she believed to be right and proper.

Or what ought to be right and proper.

In short, rather than communicate with people in the most effective way possible, she wanted to do something else.

And if the audience doesn’t like it?  We, she’d then lecture her audience on why they’re wrong if they don’t like her way of presenting, whether based on appearance, voice, gestures, or movement.

She wanted to deliver presentations her way.

She wanted to blame her audience if they didn’t respond with accolades.  More . . . she wanted my affirmation that this was okay, too.

Just different.

That it was just a “different” way of presenting, if not altogether superior.

She complained that my presentation of techniques, skills, and principles that build presentation charisma “sounds like it’s from 100 years ago.”

And I say praise the Lord for that.

Presentation Charisma from 25 centuries of Practice

I draw on 2,500 years of presentation wisdom of Presentation Masters like Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Webster, Bryant, and Roosevelt, so I’m not doing my job well if it sounds otherwise.

The woman in question complained that the gestures seemed “too masculine” and that she would feel “uncomfortable” doing them as she believed they don’t look “feminine.”

I replied to her this way . . .

Don’t do it.  Just don’t.

“Don’t do them.  Don’t gesture this way.  Don’t do anything that makes you feel ‘uncomfortable.’  Don’t utilize gestures proven 100,000 times to be powerful and effective.  Go ahead, substitute what you know to be better.  Do exactly what you have been doing all along, and emerge from this lecture hall not having been changed one iota.  Not having learned a damned thing.  And then . . . you can wonder at how you have’t improved.  At all.”

But if you choose to go that route, do it with the full knowledge that you leave the competitive advantage you might gain just sitting on the playing field.  It’s there for someone else to pick up.

And all the ideology in the world cannot change that.

The principles of building charisma are gender neutral, and some folks have problems with that.  Too bad.  That’s the way it is.

Consult Alix Rister for a female perspective . . . that is to say, a professional perspective on how to build presentation charisma and executive presence.

Your Comfort is Irrelevant to Executive Presence

Comfort?  You don’t feel “comfortable” utilizing certain gestures?

Since when did our “comfort” become the sine qua non of everything we try?  Who cooked this  “comfort” thing up, and when did it gain currency?

Has any greater cop-out ever been devised?

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” doing something you’ve never tried before.

A baby feels anything but comfort as it springs from the womb and is forced to breathe air instead of amniotic fluid and faces the cold  of a delivery room.

A child feels anything but comfort as he learns the periodic table and the multiplication table or riding a bike or a new sport or meets new people and is forced to hear contrary opinions.

An athlete feels discomfort as she trains to develop skill, power, speed, and strength in the gym so as to perform at a superior level.

Does it feel “comfortable” to push forward and extend our capabilities into new and desirable areas?

You think developing Executive Presence and Charisma is easy and that you ought to wear it comfortably from the first minute?  It’s often a difficult process, but we certainly don’t accept “discomfort” as a reason not to do something necessary to achieve a goal.

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” speaking before a group if you’ve never done it before or done so with no success.

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” acting in charismatic ways.  Speaking with presentation charisma.  That’s the whole point of especially powerful presenting – expanding the speaker’s comfort zone to encompass powerful communication techniques that lift you into the upper echelon of business presenters.

Uncomfortable with Executive Presence?And drawing upon 25 Centuries of wisdom and practice to do so.

But some folks scoff at this.  It requires too much of them.

Or it conflicts with the way they think the world ought to work.  Or the Seven Secrets for Especially Powerful Presenting aren’t mystical enough for them.

Secrets ought to be . . . well, they ought to have something akin to magic sparkles, right?

You may find this somehow unsatisfactory and unsatisfying or in conflict with your own ideology or philosophy.  If you believe the answer should somehow be more mystical or revelatory or tied to the high-tech promises of our brave new world, then I say this to you:  “Go forth and don’t use these techniques.”

Don’t fume over this or that nettlesome detail.  It’s completely unnecessary.  No need to argue about anything.

No one compels you to do anything here.

And this is what is so infuriating for the habitual naysayers – complete freedom.  The freedom not to travel into the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma and Executive Presence.

I show you the way to the Power Zone, where you can be one of the exceptional few who excels in incredible fashion . . . but you can choose not to go.

If not, good luck and Godspeed with your own opinions and philosophies and endless search for presentation excellence located somewhere else.  Let 1,000 presentation flowers bloom!

But if you elect to draw upon the best that the Presentation Masters have to offer, then I offer congratulations as you step onto the path to Presentation Charisma.  The path toward that rarefied world of especially powerful Executive Presence.

For more on how to develop especially powerful executive presence, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

Don’t Be a Business Presentation Snipper!

Presentation snippers

I often hear business presentation sentence snippers.

Snippers have a verbal tic – they snip the ends of sentences during a business presentation.

You’ve probably heard these presentation snippers, too – they pinch the ends of sentences.

This is an unfortunate verbal tic.  Tics can drag us down.

And it’s the elimination of these verbal tics that separate great speakers from good speakers.

Don’t Be a Snipper!

If you are looking for tangible evidence of individual tics and habits that bring speakers down to the level of, well . . . to the level of sounding amateurish, this is one of those clear cases.

The phenomenon that I speak of is the staccato voicing of the last word of a sentence.

Sometimes the voice drops, just like that of a child reading sentences from a story book.  Each sentence is a great accomplishment, and the child celebrates by dropping the voice and snipping the last word.

As if each sentence is a story in itself.

Snip your sentences?For whatever reason, many folks who speak from a script or who read aloud become snippers.  They cut the last word of a sentence short.  As if in a race to get to the next sentence.

As if each sentence stands alone, unconnected to the sentences to follow.

One good source of bad speaking technique is to listen to commercials that feature “everyday people” giving testimonials.

Folks become snippers when they read from a script or speak memorized passages.

Tune in to this.

Make it a habit to listen closely to speakers you admire, but also the speakers who, for whatever reason, you do not like.  Ask yourself why you like one speaker and not another.

Why all the Snipping?

Why do people snip their sentences?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s an unconscious desire to voice the period at the end of a sentence?

Perhaps it’s to get a quicker breath to start the next sentence, so that there is a little silence as possible between sentences?

You can acquire an additional patina of professionalism by simply not doing this.  Refuse to snip.  Refuse to be a snipper.

Give full voice to every word in your sentence.  Especially the last one.  Don’t draw it out unnaturally, but certainly don’t snip it off.

Regardless, I believe that it’s incredibly important to the speaker who wishes to become a great presenter to be aware of the pathology.

But you may not agree.

This may seem unimportant to you.  Do you scoff at this?  Are you a snipper and believe that it’s something too small, too unimportant to consider?  Are you unaware whether you do this or not, and do not care one way or the other?

If so, then you handicap yourself with a bad habit whose cumulative effect over the course of any single presentation yields an impression on the audience.  That this is an amateur speaker.

If so, then continue down that path.  Good luck and Godspeed!

But your audience will be the ultimate arbiter, and it will judge you.

As with so many of the tics and habits and quirks of bad public speaking, the audience may not recognize them individually.  But they know that they’re in the presence of the mundane and of the average.

If you wish to improve your business presenting in ways great and small . . .   If you want to correct repetitive tics that drag you down, like barnacles slowing a ship, then listen to yourself.

And correct the problem.

For more on identifying and correcting bad habits, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Audience Engagement – Don’t Just Talk at Folks

How to engage your audience

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

Are your “listeners” checking iPhones every few seconds?

Texting?

Chatting in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks while you deliver your presentation?  Some call this the MEGO syndrome . . . Mine Eyes Glaze Over.

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

How to Engage Your Audience in Your Presentation

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley (me) on how to engage your audience.  An audience that may seem disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Here, I identify a remedy for you – the secrets of how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.  How to engage your audience for power and impact.

Here also are several tips on how to energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

The bar is so low with regard to business presentations that just making a few corrections of the sort discussed here can elevate your delivery tremendously.

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation produces Executive Summaries of many of the world’s great business books.  You can review CKC’s site at www.summary.com

CKC also offers great short courses at no charge.  This includes my favorite on business presentations, this one.

There is, of course, much more to delivering a powerful presentation.  Conscientious presenters attend to all seven dimensions of the presentation – voice, expression, gesture, appearance, stance, passion, and movement.

Great speakers also leaven their presentations with poignant stories.  Great speakers connect emotionally with their audience.

For more on especially powerful presentations and how to engage your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Up-talk Makes You Sound Insecure . . . and More Bad Things

uptalk

I’ve cautioned against up-talk in this space for several years as a career-killer.

It makes you sound clueless, full of doubt, unsure of even the most basic facts.

Up-talk is the habit of inflecting all of your sentences up at the end, so that everything you say sounds like a question.

Even declarative sentences sound like questions.

Now, research in Britain by Pearson Education substantiates the bad news for the world’s up-talkers.

Up-talk:  Ugh!

Want a promotion? Don’t speak like an AUSSIE: Rising in pitch at the end of sentences make you sound ‘insecure’

  • Inflections added to the end of sentences are called high-rising terminals
  • The language trait is common in Australian and American accents
  • As a result, the trait is also known as Australian Question Intonation (AQI)
  • UK publisher Pearson surveyed 700 men and women in managerial roles
  • More than half said if a Briton used AQI it would hinder their prospects
  • While 85% said the trait was a ‘clear indicator of insecurity’

Read more Here in the Daily Mail.

Put POW in Your Powerful Business Presentations

Powerful Business Presentation

Do you know how to begin a presentation?

Do you?  Really?  Does your intro have Pow?

Consider for a moment . . .

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

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

Do you back into Your Business Presentation?

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

Do you shift and dance?

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

Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?  Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?

Here’s an example of a Lame Start

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Wal-Mart case. The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years. She spoke in monotone. She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

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

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

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

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

Random Facts!

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

Random facts.

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

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

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

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

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

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

This is key to setting up a Powerful Business Presentation.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear. It’s the reason you and your audience are there. What will you tell them?  The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

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

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow! It focuses everyone on the topic. Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk. Don’t tip-toe into it. Don’t be vague. Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

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

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

No . . . no . . . and no.

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

Try starting this way:

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

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.  No metaphorical throat-clearing.  No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

State the reason you’re there.

Put the Pow in Powerful Business Presentations!

How to Deliver a Powerful Business Presentation

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.

A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position three ways. How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse. Our recommended response?

Aggressive growth. We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

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

We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our intro to include our recommendation.

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

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.  Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

Interested in more? Click here. 

Business Presentations Video Short Course

Business Presentations video courseI’m gratified to be working with Soundview Executive Summaries again, and this new product of theirs is impressive.

Soundview is moving briskly onto the cutting edge of online learning.  SoundviewPro launched today, and it’s a powerful business model that delivers great value.

Here’s how it works . . .

Business Presentations Video Instruction . . .

I’ve joined a number of other instructors to provide instruction in areas of expertise — mine, one hopes, is business presentations.  Here’s the short promotional business presentations video . . . and no, as much as the still shot might suggest it, I’m not going through a facial transformation scene.

              

The description for my own business presentations video course appears here:

Far too many business presentations feature a speaker that could easily be part of the background. Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D. will put you in the command position and teach you to be (rather than give) your presentation.

Ridgley packs weeks of learning into six strategically designed classes that cover everything a business presenter needs to know. You’ll learn how to structure your message, the correct way to create visuals that match your critical points, and how to deliver a story that is as mesmerizing as it is memorable.

You’ll even learn the vital mechanics of presenting that are too often overlooked: posture and movement, voice techniques, hand gestures and how to interact with your visuals. In an entertaining course loaded with historical examples, you will discover that great business presenters aren’t born; they’re made. This is your opportunity to make yourself the next marquee speaker.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

•The importance of the Power Zone.

•A foolproof presentation structure.

•The power posture that projects confidence.

•How to transform an ordinary slide into an extraordinary visual.

•Why it is essential to make your audience the hero of every story.

Go to:  www.soundviewpro.com to sign up for Soundview’s Business Presentations video course . . . it’s free.

The course is based on my business presentations book and has loads of visuals and supplementary materials available in addition to the videos.

“What’s the job market like?” That’s the Wrong Question

How about make your own Job Market?Asking “What’s the job market like?” is the wrong question.

Let’s say you get an answer.

What, exactly, will you do with the answer?  Hmm?

What?

It’s reminiscent of the young man who came to me for advice on getting his MBA, and his first question was “What are the hot jobs?”

“Hot jobs?  I don’t understand your question, exactly.”

“I ask about the hot jobs, so I can move into that concentration,” he said.  He was serious.

That’s a foolish approach, and I told him so.  It’s like chasing a will-o’-the-wisp.  You expend energy, money, time.  Fruitlessly.  Or for extremely meager fruit.

Dump the “Hot Jobs” Approach

First, I don’t know what the “hot jobs” are or even what a “hot job” might consist of.  Perhaps a field that has a temporary shortage of skilled candidates?  If so, that shortage gets filled mighty quick.

Second, it gets filled mighty quick because there is no a lack of folks who latch onto the “hot jobs” mantra and swarm.Make your own Job Market

Third, if you base your studies on someone’s assessment of the “hot jobs,” you could end up in a program that you hate.

To top it off, when you graduate, that “job” might no longer be “hot.”

What a fine fix that would be, eh?

Make Your Own Job Market

In retrospect, I’m less critical now than I was at the time of such a question.  Yes, it’s a dumb question if the purpose is to guide your study.

A much better question is “How can I create personal competitive advantage so that I win in whatever kind of market exists?”

It’s become almost cliche to “do what you love.”  But there’s a good reason why successful people say this.

I recommend pursuing your passion and make it your goal to become the best at it in the entire world.  Is that a foolish goal?  Exaggerated ambition?  Hardly.

Within the bounds of a chosen profession, there is always room for the woman or man driven by passion and a thirst for self-improvement.  At the firm level, it can be called becoming “a category of one.”  I direct you to the book by Joe Calloway of the same name.

Calloway’s book demonstrates how firm’s can move their brands from the commodity column into the premium brand column.  You can do the same with yourself and your passion.

Become a Category of One

Let’s take the topic of cosmetic industry supply chain management.  I’m not jazzed by this topic, but I guarantee that somewhere, someone is.  And that person should chase that profession insanely, becoming the finest cosmetic industry supply chain manager in the world, in both the micro and macro sense: learned in the industry, knowledgeable of the major players, and steeped in the intricacies of the specialty.

Relentless focus and study sharpens you like a surgical instrument.  And as your skills increase, the number of your viable personal competitors begins to fall off.

You increase your value to potential employers . . . you speak with far greater knowledge and surety than someone more superficially educated.

And it is this way that you find your calling.  This is how you find your “blue ocean.”

It is here that you find your job market . . . not the job market.

Forget about pursuing the “hot jobs” of the moment, like the herd.

In all of this, in every bit of this, you can add value to your personal warehouse of skills by becoming a superb presenter.  Every firm and every profession lacks great presenters.

Become that Category of One and showcase your skills as a powerful and competent presenter.  Here’s how . . .

 

 

The Ultimate Business Presentation?

I hate business presentations can destroy your motivation

You don’t hate business presentations?

You feel reasonably confident, competent, and thoroughly satisfied with your presenting skills?

Excellent!  I congratulate you and suggest that you pass Business School Presenting along to a buddy who might profit from it.

But if you are like most of the 1.3 million English-speaking business school population worldwide, you have muttered I hate presentations more than once.

And you probably have issues with your business school and its treatment of presentations.  That’s why you’re reading this blog.

One in 600 Million?

Of an estimated 600 million websites worldwide, this is the only site devoted exclusively to business school presentations.

I could be wrong about that, and I hope that I am.

Even if this is a lonely outpost today, we know that as quickly as the online community responds to the needs of its users, that could change tomorrow.  I trust you’ll let me know, so that I can link to these nooks and crannies of the web that may hold secrets that we all need.

But right now, this instant, I do believe that this is it.

Think of this place as your Official College Guide to Business School Presentations.

Don’t hate Business Presentations!

I believe, and you may agree, that business school students need credible, brief, and direct resources on presenting  – solid information and best practices, not vague generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”  In short, you want to know what works and why.

You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.

You want to know what is just opinion and what, if anything, is carved in stone.

You’ll find answers here to the most basic of questions.

  • What is this beast – the business presentation?
  • How do I stand? Where do I stand?
  • What do I say? How do I say it?
  • How do I reduce 20 pages of analysis into a four-minute spiel that makes sense and that “gets it all in?”
  • How should we assemble a group presentation? How do we orchestrate it?
  • Where do I begin, and how?
  • How do I end my talk?
  • What should I do with my hands?
  • How do I conquer nervousness once and for all?
  • How can I tell “what the professor wants?”
  • How do I translate complicated material, such as a spreadsheet, to a PowerPoint slide so that it communicates instead of bores?

 2,500 Years of Presenting

Business School Presenting answers every one of these questions and many more that you haven’t even thought of yet.  You may not like the answers. You may disagree with the answers.

Fair enough.  Let a thousand business presentation flowers bloom across the land.  Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.

Or not.

But know that I offer here the distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets, developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.  Folks who certainly did not hate presentations . . .

Cicero, Quintilian, Demosthenes, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama  – all find their places in the pantheon of the most powerful presenters of all time.

They all have drawn upon the eternal verities of presenting.  In turn, they have each contributed their own techniques to the body of wisdom.  You find those verities here.

I hate business presentations!

On the other side of things, I’d like to hear your own business presentation stories from your campus that illustrate challenges particular to your school and academic concentration.

The various subdisciplines in business – finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, and such like – have their special needs, even as they are all tractable to the fundamental and advanced techniques of powerful presenting.

So think deep.

Consider the personal competitive advantage that can be yours when you develop world class business presentation skills.

And learn not to hate business presentations by consulting my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

No Business Scrooge Here


No such thing as business scrooge
When 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 it with clarity and precision and vision.

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, 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 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.

 

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Professional Presence

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter. No more powerful example of a superb presenter can be found

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way.  Malcolm X was a great presenter, and he used this technique better than most.

He could snap his audience to attention.  He compelled his listeners to sit up straight, to focus on his message.

You can do this several ways, too.  It’s up to you what method you choose, but it should fit your audience and your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line.  This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not just another canned talk.

One of the finest public speakers – or presenters – of modern times was the late Malcolm X.  Yes, Malcolm X was a great presenter, and his speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation, and then mobilize it with an especially powerful call to action.

The Effects of Rhetoric

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator.  He drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  As such, they are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases.

And to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

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

Malcolm X was a great presenter

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

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.

With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

Bad presentations launch with a peppering of routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.

Especially Powerful Technique

Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

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

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

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

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

He established a mood of confidentiality and rapport, and then makes a bold statement – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Power and Depth

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.

No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases: “Very serious problem.”

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

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.  And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

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

Most of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them . . . on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes . . . framing the issue in colorful language, and creating listener expectations that he will offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from Malcolm’s talk.  Ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

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

For more on how you can use Malcom X’s techniques to develop especially powerful business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.