How can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting business presentation regardless of your audience?
To deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?
You must become a 3-D presenter.
Now, this means several things, including how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage, but a major component is the exercising of your mind.
And I talk about that here.
Three D Presentations
It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.
Yes, it’s a process of becoming learned in new and wondrous ways.
Think of it as enlarging your world. You increase your reservoir of material.
And you’re able to connect more readily with varied audiences and deliver an especially interesting business presentation.
You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area. By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.
And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.
Expand Your World to Give an Especially Interesting Business Presentation
By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or allows you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.
By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty.
By rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.
Read a book outside your specialty.
Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.
We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world, forgetting that other fields can offer insights.
For myself, while teaching in at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business, I also sit in on other courses such as one sponsored by nearby Temple University: the History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”
How does this help in preparing my own classes? Thoughts, linkages, ideas, concepts, cross-disciplinary leavening.
That’s the beauty and potential of it.
It enriches my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue in 3-dimensional fashion. They are connected to the “real world” – textured, deep, and richer than they otherwise would have been.
It will do the same to help you develop your own interesting business presentations, and it will likely aid in your developing into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.
For more on how to give interesting business presentations, click HERE.
But how can you say, Professor, 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, and at times can be worse than no practice at all. It can create the illusion of improvement and yet be a prelude to disaster.
Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror
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 practice? 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.
I 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 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.”
And it’s great advice.
Presentation Practice Leads to Victory
The armed forces are experts 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.
And in doing so, the military arms our warriors with the confidence and skill necessary to accomplish the actual missions assigned to it.
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.
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.
Confidence replaces fear.
Presentation Practice Eliminates Fear
Likewise, once you have practiced your talk, your fear dissipates. 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 . . .
Sear This into Your Mind
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?
You are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations. Your task is to provide a report and then prepare the business presentation.
. . . to prepare it 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.
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. You present your conclusions to an audience.
Your presentation is a completely different product than your written report. Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.
Your 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.
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.
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.
These many differences between written and oral reports 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?”
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 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.
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, your job is to sift through the mountains of information available, 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.
Overarching the craft of developing an especially powerful presentation is the guidance provided by the “Three Ps,” and the first of these Ps provides a solid foundation of powerful business presentation principles.
The first P is Principles, and 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.
Elsewhere, I have characterized these principles as “secrets.”
Business Presentation Principles are Secret?
They are secrets. In fact, they could be the most open secrets that mankind has ever known.
But they are difficult secrets.
They are difficult, because they require you to actually do something. 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 separates them out, 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.
The upshot is that this First 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 I’ll revisit them again soon.
For now, let’s remember that the especially powerful presenters of the past 50 years have used these Secrets – Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. They don’t announce that they’re using secret techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.
They simply let you believe that they were gifted with special talents. Not a chance.
The term “hero” may be overused in our modern age, and we rarely hear it used in the realm of business – as in “business heroes.”
But if we consider that a hero is someone who strives against great odds and achieves something extraordinary that betters the lives of thousands – if not millions – of people for subsequent generations, then certainly there is room in the pantheon for explicitly business heroes.
Because of immense wealth creation, employment for millions of workers, a panoply of incredibly useful products at prices the average person can afford and which are sold in convenient locations.
Business Heroes Create Wealth
The heroic efforts of entrepreneurs and managers over generations have generated fabulous wealth in our free enterprise system, resulting in the richest and most advanced societies the world has ever known.
Societies in which the lower middle class live lives of luxury that King Edward in 1901 could only imagine . . . and envy.
For too long, the critics of business have dominated the narrative about commerce. From the sidelines, they have dictated the terms of the conversation. Dictated from seats of comfort constructed from the minds, hearts, risk and innovation of those engaged in wealth creation.
From Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas to Karl Marx to Barack Obama, those who do not understand what goes on inside the business black box of wealth creation nonetheless presume to declaim on how business should be conducted. On how it should be hamstrung.
On how wealth should be confiscated. On how that wealth should be “distributed.”
It’s time now for a new narrative, replete with Business Heroes.
If you have spent any time at all in this space, you already know about the “Seven Secrets of Power Presenting.”
Now, you might be head-scratching and wondering how the “Seven Secrets” mesh with the “Three Ps of Business Presenting.”
A fair question.
Implement the Three Ps of Business Presenting
The “Principles” referred to are the Seven Secrets, the pillars of your transformation into an especially powerful presenter.
Learning and improving on the Seven dimensions of power presenting is essential to your presentation quest in a broadest sense. You don’t improve on the seven dimensions of presenting overnight . . . it requires application and adoption of the proper habits of behavior.
This may appear intuitive, but too often I see students who appear to understand the seven secrets but do not apply them for a host of reasons. Perhaps good reasons, in their own minds.
And yet, the choice cripples them in their presentations.
When it comes to individual presentations, you must apply your principles. And this means preparation.
It means practice.
Don’t assume that you know what I mean by preparation and practice, because we likely have different conceptions of both, and I’m betting you’ll like the results you get from the approach presented here.
So, settle in . . . and for the next couple of days, we will explore the Three Ps of Business Presenting and how their assiduous application can transform you into the Especially Powerful Presenter that you always knew you could be.
Her now-famous 2010 Harvard study of MBAs demonstrates conclusively that we can, indeed, control our emotions to a certain extent with regard to our delivery of business presentations.
In short, we can make ourselves feel confident and powerful . . . just by striking a powerful pose.
This is heady stuff, and Dr. Cuddy herself explains the process in the video below.
Power Posing Works
Dr. Cuddy’s findings are revolutionary to the extent that she substantially confirms a theory of emotions developed more than a century ago and since discarded for supposedly more au courant notions. Psychologists William James and Carl Lange conceived of a new way of understanding our emotions and how they work.
They reversed the prevailing dynamic this way . . .
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.
So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that, 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 engage in power posing and create our own confidence?
Power Posing can Create Confidence?
But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.
And Dr. Amy Cuddy’s research proves it. Have a look . . .
Dr. Cuddy offers powerful instruction for us in the realm of nonverbal communication and in the area of self-motivation and inculcation of power-generating behavior.
But . . .
There are aspects of this video that are instructive in verbal communication as well.
As a caveat, lest we learn other less salutary lessons from the video, I call attention to aspects of Dr. Cuddy’s unfortunate verbal delivery.
This is not to gratuitously disparage Dr. Cuddy, for I am one of her biggest fans, and I advocate her approach to power posing whenever and wherever I speak.
Let’s learn a few things about verbal delivery from the video.
Three Tics to Eliminate
First, her voice often collapses at the end of sentences into a growl-like vocal fry. This results from pinching off the flow of air before finishing a sentence, delivering the last syllables in a kind of grind.
Second, Dr. Cuddy engages frequently in uptalk. This is a verbal tic that pronounces declarative sentences as if they are questions or as if they are statements in doubt. It consists of running the last word or syllable in a sentence up in tone instead of letting it drop decisively. The difference to the ear is dramatic, with uptalk conveying self-doubt, indecision, a quest for validation.
Third, Dr. Cuddy unconsciously laces her talk with words such as “like” and “you know” as filler. Perhaps to maintain a steady drumbeat of verbiage? Who knows the reason people use these crutches.
Eliminate these fillers from your own talks to gain power and decisiveness. Instead of fillers, use silence. Develop the technique of pausing instead of filling every second of your talk with noise.
And so . . . learn the lessons of power posing and engage them in your presentations to imbue them with energy. But eliminate the verbal tics that can leech away that energy from your talk.