Stick Puppet Presenting? Upgrade to 3D!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crude Stick-Puppet Presenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #7 – Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion
Presentation Passion?

Do you have presentation passion?

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

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

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

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

Is it “world hunger?”  Or European soccer?

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

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

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

Is your Presentation Passion buried?

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

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

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

To exhibit genuine enthusiasm for the subjects of your shows.

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

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

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

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

On passion.

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

The team that helps him visualize a glorious future?

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

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

Centuries of Presentation Passion

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

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

            Brees and Kelley, 1931 

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

           S.S. Curry, 1895

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

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

You are the alchemist.

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

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

It’s your job to make it interesting

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #6 – Presentation Appearance

Professional Appearance
Presentation Appearance Matters

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

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

In a word . . . no.

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

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

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

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

The Upshot – Presentation Appearance

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

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

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

Is that “fair?”

It certainly is fair.

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

Tough.

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

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

or . . .

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

Presentation Appearance
Presentation Appearance is Part of Your Brand

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

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

But you blew the deal.  Without even knowing it.

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

How many opportunities pass you by?

How many great connections do you forfeit?

Your Choice . . . Choose Well

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

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

Presentation Appearance
Powerful Presentation Appearance conveys a Powerful Message

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

You are always auditioning.

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

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

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

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

 

Secret #5 – Remedy the Boring Presentation

Boring Presentation can be avoided
Movement is Secret #5

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

In like fashion, you can be visually monotonous.

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

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

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

The Right Movement

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss of Sleep for the Boring Presentation

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

Those in theater know this principle well.

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

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

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

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