Your job interview presentation is probably the most important business presentation you ever make.
And you will do it frequently throughout your career, either for internal advancement in your corporation or as you move from firm to firm.
So how do you do it?
What are those job interview presentation secrets folks hide from you?
This is a superb slide show on the top 11 reasons why recent college graduates lose out on jobs. It comes from Mark O’Toole.
Job Interview Presentation Failure
Reasons range from not doing research on the company . . . to dressing for failure . . . to not knowing how to carry on a conversation . . . to demonstrating that you’re clueless about what you want to do.
Paradoxically, the job interview presentation is such a critical node in the skein of the young person’s business career, yet anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s given not nearly the time and attention it deserves. It’s a business presentation, crucial to your advancement.
Devote your energies to learning the basics.
This slideshow by Mr. O’Toole lays out the fact in unsentimental fashion. And in detail.
Build a Presentation with this simple business presentation structure: Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.
Every presentation – every story – has this framework.
Let me rephrase.
Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.
You should build a business presentation structure, whether individual or group, according to this framework.
Beginning . . . Middle . . . End
If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well. Your segment has this structure.
In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.
In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.
In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation. The first speaker delivers the beginning. The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.
The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”
Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.
This framework is not the only way you can fashion your business presentation structure.
You can be innovative. You can be daring, fresh, and new.
You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.
Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.
Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.
Build a Sturdy Business Presentation Structure
Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.
I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.
You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.
Please do so. But do so with careful thought and good reason.
And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.
One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends. You should Bookend your show. This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.
Hence, the term “Bookends.” And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.
Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.
Whether the presentation class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . . or Singapore . . . I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students everywhere with regard to their finance presentation PowerPoint—
“Finance is different.”
“We don’t do all of that soft-skill kumbaya presentations stuff.”
“For us, the numbers tell the story.”
Worshiping at the Altar of Numbers
Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways.
It’s almost as if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language, less subject to manipulation.
In a chaotic world, a spreadsheet exudes familiarity, a firm valuation offers comfort, an income statement serves as anchor.
For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.
This illusion of certitude and precision exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, well . . . that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them in the coldness and hardness of objective numerical analysis.
Finance presentations are somehow harder.
They appear more firmly rooted in . . . well, rooted in the very stuff of business.
Finance Presentation PowerPoint . . . Beware!
But this is an illusion.
Among other problems, the numbers on a spreadsheet are nothing more than proxies for the conditions that gave rise to them in the first place.
Yet folks create and sustain the myth that “The numbers tell the story.”
But the numbers tell no story.
They are mute.
They offer the illusion of precision. They offer fool’s gold to those who worship at the numbers altar.
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’re all subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast, demands that nettle us equally and indiscriminately during the business presentation process.
As with most things, there is bad news and good news in this slice of life provided here.
Finance Presentation Hell
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 crumble into little more than meeting “discussions” about a printed analysis distributed beforehand. They’re picked apart by Gotcha! jackals with nothing on their minds except proving themselves worthier than those who might be unlucky enough to be the presenter du jour.
Finance presentation PowerPoint shows seem to offer nothing save the opportunity for public posturing and one-upmanship.
A presenter or group of presenters stands and shifts uncomfortably while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of gotcha questions, usually couched to demonstrate the mastery of the questioner rather than to elicit worthy information.
Several presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life. But there’s hope.
Upcoming posts offer solutions to this common presentation conundrum.
I truly don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering students, but one power posing exercise that probably elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”
Picture this . . .
It consists of everyone rising to a standing position and striking a confident stance with feet shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.
This is a critical and powerful pose.
An awesome pose.
Now, visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”
Power Posing to Feel Especially Powerful?
“I feel especially powerful today!”
I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, indicating a robust and vibrant embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Which is . . . what?
Why do I engage in what, to some, might appear gimmicky or cute?
First, I don’t do cute. Second, power posing accomplishes several superb physiological goals that improve a range of characteristics associated with business presenting. Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.
In short, much of what we call body language.
We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message. Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.
For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures. Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message.
But it is essential for another equally important reason.
It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood, and it constitutes a secret that I’ve utilized with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.
Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.
Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:
“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.
The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …
Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”
We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language, and we ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.
Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience. They influence what you say and how you say it.
So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.
Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.
But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect? What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?
But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.
Turn Negative Energy into Positive
You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions. You can consciously affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.
This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.
Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.
This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”
No, there’s no catch.
And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.
Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Business would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.
A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.
In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence. The Harvard study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.
Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.
This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.
In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel. Power Posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery tremendously and in ways you’ve likely not imagined.
Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.
The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.
Square your shoulders.
Fix a determined look on your face.
Speak loudly and distinctly.
Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.
Seize the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.
We’ve all been there: an Excel spreadsheet smeared across a presentation slide and someone mumbling into a microphone while you check your email just to stay awake. It’s presentation hell. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In How to Be a Presentation God, Scott Schwertly shares effective step-by-step secrets for delivering transcendent presentations with an easy-to-implement approach focused on engaging content, personal storytelling and effective design elements — the holy trinity that leads to godly delivery.
What chutzpuh, if nothing else.
I think not.
If presenting were that easy, wouldn’t we have a whole lot more “presentation gods” striding our corporate corridors?
That said, I recognize that much of the hype in such headlines is simply to get folks to read the piece.
And the over-promise of a headline does not obviate the fact that likely some good advice might be buried somewhere inside.
You simply must dig for the gold . . . and then do something with it.
Presentation Tips Gold
Here is one such article, in which the author details the struggles of his son giving his first major talk in front of hundreds of investors. We all respond well to uplifting stories. Stories in which the hero overcomes great odds.
And those of us in the business presentation enterprise face great odds with every presentation. And if we don’t recognize the stakes for what they are and prepare accordingly . . . we have already lost the game.
As with most such pieces, it over-promises. The title alone gives it away:
How To Go From Being a Disaster—To a Great Speaker
You know or you should know that you don’t go from disastrous speaking to becoming a “great speaker” from reading one article on presentation tips.
But . . .
This article does offer powerful and effective advice grouped into eight points to get you on your way.
As with most of these things, the article is fun to read and satisfying.
We read. We nod. Scratch the chin.
“I can do that,” we think.
But to follow the advice, ahhhh . . . that is the rub!
It requires behavior changes, and this is the most difficult thing for people to do.
I have seen it time and again in my classes . . . students know the information. They internalize it. They receive instruction.
But nothing happens.
They don’t change.
They continue plying their unconscious bad habits, even when those habits are pointed out and become part of the realm of the known.
What about those ubiquitous articles that offer “presentation tips” to help improve your business presenting?
I hate ’em.
Even so, I sometimes relent . . . and give a tip.
In fact, I’m often asked for “quick tips” to improve a presentation or a speech, and I invariably oblige . . . even though I’m philosophically opposed to the “McTips” school of presentation instruction.
Why do I relent?
A hasty presentation McTip can sometimes offer the exact solution needed. Often, all it takes for a fine speaker to vault to the next level is the correction of a tic or bad habit.
These tics affect us all, and they’re like barnacles on a ship, slowing us down. They prevent us from reaching our full potential.
And so, I acknowledge that sometimes a single “tip” can make a powerful difference in the presenting trajectory of an individual person striving to tweak his delivery in a meaningful way.
So here’s a tip.
Here’s a “McTip” for the Day
We all engage in a particular debilitating phrase. We’re all guilty of it at some point. This phrase is like a leech, fastened onto our presentation, sucking the lifeblood from us.
No, not a lot of blood.
That’s why it’s so insidious. It seems so harmless.
It sucks not a lot of energy. But one leech leads to another. And soon . . .
Well, let’s not dwell on the horror.
Instead, just stop saying it.
Stop saying this power-leeching phrase:
“As I said before . . .”
That’s it. And it’s insidiously mundane, isn’t it?
Nondescript. Seemingly harmless.
Don’t Say It! Just Don’t!
I know how this phrase creeps in. It ambushes me at times.
Deep into our presentation, we glance at the screen and we begin to make a point. Then suddenly, we realize with horror that–
We already said it.
Our minds furiously spin . . .
In a flash, our imaginations suppose that the audience is filled with Gotcha! types who are poised to leap to their feet and point accusing fingers at us, shouting “You already said that!”
So we reflexively qualify what we say by telegraphing that, indeed, we said it already: “As I mentioned before–”
“As I said before–”
Or someone else on our team already said it: “As my colleague already mentioned–”
This drags down your presentation with every utterance of this putrid phrase. This putrid phrase, in fact, adds no value whatever, and it detracts significantly from presentation flow.
It’s a distraction.
More Presentation Tips . . . ?
It upends audience attention, sending their minds back to some previous point in the presentation that they missed any way.
Go ahead and say it again. And again. And again.
Say it in different ways. Say it in the same way.
Hammer home your main points with repetition and emphasis.
And never, ever announce that you’re repeating yourself.
With regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people, and none of these people seems truly to want to become an especially powerful business presenter.
For sake of descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”
“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become a powerful business presenter.
Neither is remotely accurate.
And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters. Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways.
Here’s why . . .
We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do. If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.
Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful business presenters.
The First View
The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility. That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain. That Malcolm X was simply blessed with eloquence and power. That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.
If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills. The plateau of presentation excellence is forever denied us.
Thus, it becomes an excuse for us not to persevere.
Why bother to try?
Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types to do the heavy presentation lifting? The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . .
. . . or unambitious.
The Second View
The second view is the opposite of the first.
This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap. So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”
He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”
Has the presentation landscape eroded so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?
I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!
Have the expectations of the presentation become so unexceptional?
Have our senses become so numb that we must accept the lowest common denominator of presenting, the notion that adequate presentation skills can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”
Perhaps they have, today, but in an earlier time, respect for the powerful business presenter was near-universal.
In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.
In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.
On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.
The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.
So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”
You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.
Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?
The Third View – The Power Zone
There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.
This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way. Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.
In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence. Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance.
The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.
The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!” Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.
An excuse not to become an especially powerful business presenter.
One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task. So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way. Bon voyage! I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.
But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . . “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”
Become a Powerful Business Presenter
Then you can read on to the next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity. For the truth is in the Power Zone.
Once there, you’ll never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.
You cannot go back.
That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom. It is completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting. It’s your choice.
You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute. Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . . only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.
A method that transforms you.
Choose the Red Pill. Step boldy into the Power Zone.
The Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.
To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.
If you already carry this view, that’s superb. If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough to become a powerful business presenter, or believing you already are a powerful business presenter . . . when you’re actually not.
Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique. A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking. This history informs the very best presenters and their work.
You dismiss it only to your great loss.
No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking. In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.
But what you can and should do is this: Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.
You actually can become a capable presenter. You can become a great presenter, who delivers especially powerful business presentations.
When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge. This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.
You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you. You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.
An especially powerful presenter.
Now, you have no other real excuse. It’s totally up to you.
For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.
This is not strictly a post on presentations, although I suppose the topic could be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to encompass it – rather it’s a caveat to maintain control over your identity, both online and in the real world.
Some time in the past six months, I became one of those proverbial victims of ID theft you hear about.
I found this out from the IRS. But strangely enough, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience hearing from these good folks.
The IRS informed me that someone had begun filing duplicate tax returns for me going back three years . . . of course, seeking refunds.
They have sorted things out, apparently, and I’m on notice.
Then I discovered my email account had been hacked . . .
And then my website – this website . . .
And then my Facebook account . . .
One must roll with the punches received . . . and learn valuable lessons.
Learn from my unfortunate experience and lock up your ID!
But wasSteve Jobs really a great presenter? Did he really have secrets that you can use? And can you learn how to be “an insanely great” presenter from this book?
No . . . no . . . and . . .
Well . . . on that last point, you can learn to become a pretty good presenter from this book.
But not from Steve Jobs.
The Extraordinary Jobs
Steve was a visionary and an extraordinary entrepreneur many times over. He grew tremendously since the early days when he thought that his self-absorbed bombast gave him license to insult Microsoft and Bill Gates mercilessly.
He emerged as a celebrity CEO, a man who loved the limelight and whose strong and quirky personality guaranteed him a following among a certain segment of the American populace.
On an absolute scale, Steve was a slightly above-average presenter.
Remove Steve’s high-tech prop that the entire wonk-world was waiting to see, and remove the employee/early adopter audiences that cheered his every eye-twitch, and we are left with a shabbily dressed average sort of fellow given to aimless pacing and whose high-pitched voice grates a bit on the senses with its “ummms” and “ahhhhs.”
Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs? Just one . . .
You and I know that there is only one reason that Steve Jobs was on that stage and one reason that he has a book purporting to reveal the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs.
It’s not for his presenting skills.
While Jobs himself was not someone whose presenting skills deserve emulation, he is obviously the subject of the book because of his built-in audience, and so we must deal with that.
Dismiss it, in fact. But the book does have a gem.
The gem of the book is the author.
The author of the Jobs book is Carmine Gallo, who is an extremely polished and superb presenter and presentation coach, and he embeds solid presenting nuggets throughout the book. Carmine is, in fact, a much better presenter than Jobs was on his best day. Have a look . . .
But even Carmine is not perfect. He begins by gushing at Jobs’s stature as a presenter that is almost embarrassing in its lavish excess: “Steve Jobs is the most captivating communicator on the world stage . . . He is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller!”
But . . . well, we’re selling books here, and hype is understandable. I’d probably gush, too, if given a similar opportunity, so let’s give Carmine a pass on this one.
But one great danger that I see from this type of gushing is that we can begin to think of the presenter as hero. And what better hero than the great Steve Jobs?
All of us would like to be the hero of our presentation, wouldn’t we? And we are sorely tempted to put the focus on our product and ourselves.
No. Don’t do it.
Your Audience is the Hero
There is room for only one hero in the presentation, and that hero is not you.
The hero is in the audience, and you are there to help your audience become heroic. As with all presentation instruction, you can ignore or accept what you choose, and this point is no different.
You can try to be the hero. Or, you can focus on your audience and its needs and its desires.
And make your audience members heroes of a sort.
In sum, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs offers a reasonable exposition of presentation methods that can benefit us all, but recognize that these methods have nothing to do with Steve Jobs and they do not help us become “insanely great” presenters.
But there is good news for you on the presentation front. The best news in all of this is, in fact, great news.
With dedication, coachability, and the right method, virtually anyone – and I mean anyone – can become a better business presenter than Steve Jobs.