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

Transition smoothly in your PresentationOne 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?

You forfeit tremendous personal competitive advantage if you ignore this seemingly small aspect of your presentation.

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

This happens when each member presents a small chunk of material, and the presenters take turns presenting.  Lots of turns.

This ungainly dance disconcerts 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.