Who is the World’s Expert on Business School Presentations?
Assuming that there is one.
And depending, of course, on what we mean by “expert” and what we mean by “world.”
Those quibbles aside, that expert would be me.
I’m the World’s Expert on Business School Presentations. At least that’s what Google says. And what Google says must be true, right?
If you’re a regular reader – and there must be millions – then this assertion comes as no revelation. If you’re a new reader, this assertion likely strikes you as, at bare minimum, bombastic and riven with hubris.
At moments when confidence is most needed, many athletes go to their “power words.”
These are words that help visualize success and victory rather than failure and defeat.
The words can be anything that the athlete has found to negate nervousness. It can be something as simple as mentally reciting “Power!” or “Victory!” at a crucial moment. Say, just before a critical service in a tennis match.
This technique works. And it can work for you.
I collaborate occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques and who affirm the utility of Power Words.
They assert that power words can affect performance in positive ways.
All of them are of one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.
Leaving aside the specific techniques for a later time and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century, let’s say here that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk.
We do this to give ourselves a fighting chance of succeeding at business presenting.
So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?
Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation. This ignorance can mean incredible uncertainty of performance.
Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.
This fear of the unknown drives up anxiety and results in stage fright. So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.
No, of course not, and we don’t even want to. instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that.
We leave to our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.
Envision Your Triumph
No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.
Envision this, instead – you deliver a tight, first-rate presentation that hits all the right notes, weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt, and ends in superb closure, a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.
When we take the stage, we focus mind on our intent, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb.
We mentally recite our chosen power words to squeeze out the doubts and anxiety, wring them dry from our psychic fabric.
The right kind of preparation allows us to deal capably with the handful of unknowns that nettle us.
Positive self-talk . . . power words . . . is an essential part of your schema for preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.
This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.
Begin with This . . .
The First Bookend.
This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative. This is your “grabber.”
It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.
Your grabber must startle and delight your audience. An interesting fact, a controversial statement.
A powerful phrase.
You then follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.
Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they will hear.
Start to finish.
One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:
“There’s a deal on the table. Don’t take it. Here’s why.”
That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well. It pulses with power. If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?
In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.
That’s your first bookend.
Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.
Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times. We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.
Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.
I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 2,000 volumes, going back to 1762. I buy presentation books even now, to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.
Most often, I am disappointed.
Until now . . .
Again, I say all of this by way of prelude, because I am not given to exaggeration at all.
Presentation Skills 201
What I say next, I utter with the sincerity born of many years laboring in the vineyards of bad presentations – Mr. Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is, page for page, the finest book on advanced presenting I have ever read.
Surely the most succinct.
It froths with superb and utterly essential advice on every . . . single . . . page.
Distilled into powerful instructional nodes, Mr. Steele’s book is spot-on again and again. I thought that I had seen and heard it all, given that I view and judge 300 individual and 75 group presentations each year – but not so.
Mr. Steele’s work is a reminder that there is always “one more thing” that each of us can learn to hone and improve our own presentation skills.
On rushing through your presentation:
One of the keys to sounding confident as a presenter is acting like you own the time. If you were told you have 15 minutes to speak, you want to act like you own those 15 minutes. Rushing makes you sound anxious to the audience. It undermines the confident image you want to project. You risk coming across like a nervous stage performer who expects the hook at any moment. Limiting your content takes the pressure off.
Presenters routinely assign the lowest priority to their live audience when preparing slides. They create slides to be their notes. Slides that are speaker notes can be anemic or crammed with too much content. Some presenters just need reminder notes, so they create slides with cryptic phrases that mean nothing to the audience. Others need the slide show equivalent of a script, so their bullet points are complete paragraphs in 10-point type. Either way, the slides are frustrating to an audience.
If you need a handout, realize that a good slide show is not a good handout – and a good handout is not a good slide show.
Money is Precious
I rarely recommend books in the presentation genre. This is one of those rare times.
I have found wisdom on every page of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand. I plan to reference it often as well as consult Mr. Steele’s website.
I recommend this presentations book to anyone who fancies himself or herself an outstanding presenter. You can do better, and Presentation Skills 201 is the perfect tonic to take anyone to a higher level of performance.
You build your talk in stages, and you make the case for your recommendation. Through all of this, the Rule of Three is the best method you can use.
Apply the Rule of Three . . . and apply it ruthlessly.
Here I offer controversial advice, and not every presentation guru will agree with it. But it forms the basis for an especially powerful presentation.
With it, you never go wrong.
What is this Rule of Three?
For a moment, let’s consider this “Rule of Three.”
This is always a successful method in structuring the staging portion of your presentation.
Rule of Three in presentations means selecting the three main points from your material and making that the structure for your show. Despite the fact that you may never have heard of the “rule of three,” it’s one of the most basic frameworks for public speaking.
It derives from something almost existential in the human psyche.
Think about this for a moment.
Something magical suffuses the number three. We tend to grasp information most easily in threes.
Consider these examples:
Stop, look and listen – A well–known public safety announcement
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare
Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar
“Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill
“Faith, Hope and Charity” – The Bible
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – the Declaration of Independence
“The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood Western
“Duty – Honor – Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur
The Rule of Three in presentations is a standard structural model advocated by many presentation coaches. And with good reason. It’s a powerful framework, incredibly sturdy. Think of it as a reliable vessel into which to pour your superb beverage.
With the rule of three, you can – literally – never err with regard to your presentation structure.
Here’s an Example . . .
Offer substantiation for your thesis and ultimate recommendation in three main points.
Strip down all of your convoluted arguments, all of your evidence, all of your keen analysis to the three major points that you believe make your case.
Let’s take an example.
Say that we begin show with our introductory situation statement and ultimate recommendation, and we give three positive reasons for our chosen course of action: “ . . . this presentation demonstrates that this course of action is the best use of scarce resources among the alternatives, is fiscally sound, and serves as a basis for rapid growth.”
These three factors serve as your basic Rule of Three structure for the middle of your presentation.
Most efficient use of resources over other expansion alternatives
Financial Analysis of the projected acquisition
Projected returns and growth rate
Does this mean that other information is not important? Of course not.
It means that you’ve selected the most important points that make your case and that you want to rivet in the minds of the audience. The Rule of Three in presentations means that you select the major facts not to be “comprehensive” in your presentation, but to be persuasive in your presentation.
With respect to subsidiary points that appear in your written analysis, you have the opportunity to address those issues in a question and answer session to follow your show.
Maintain a positive presentation attitude, especially if you offer criticism.
Especially where it concerns criticism of current company policy.
Especially when your team must convey bad news.
For instance, that the current strategy is “bad.” Or that the current executive team is not strong enough.
In student presentations, I sometimes see that students take an adversarial attitude. A harsh attitude. This is the natural way of college students, who believe that this type of blunt honesty is valued.
Honesty is . . . well, it’s refreshing.
Presentation Attitude for Self-Preservation
Honesty is important, sure.
But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor. Let’s be clear on the difference between the two.
Honesty means you tell the truth. Candor means you spill your guts about everything that’s on your mind in the bluntest way possible.
If you say in your presentation that the current strategic direction of the company is dumb, you tread on thin ice.
Remember that you can express honesty in many ways.
Presentation prudence suggests that we learn a few of them. Use the right words to convey the bad news to the people who are paying you.
In the audience may be the people responsible for the bad situation in the first place. They could be emotionally invested in a specific strategy.
They might be financially invested in it.
Anyone can use a sledgehammer.
But if you use one, know that the receiving end of that sledgehammer isn’t pleasant and that you should expect reciprocation somewhere down the line.
Wound an Ego, You Pay a Price
Most times it pays to use a scalpel.
With lots of consideration and skill.
We’re easily wounded where our own projects are concerned, right?
So, if you attack the current strategy as unsound, and the person or persons who crafted that strategy sit in the audience, you have most likely doomed yourself.
Expect an also-ran finish in the competition for whatever prize at stake. Whether a multi-million dollar deal. Or simply credibility and good judgment.
It takes skill and finesse to fine-tune your work.
To deliver a fine-tuned presentation.
Learn to deliver a masterpiece of art that conveys the truth, but with a positive presentation attitude that is constructive without being abrasive. When you do, you will have developed incredible personal competitive advantage through the vehicle of your presentation skills.
That is, after all, why they’re called skills.
Your presentation will effervesce. It will join the ranks of the especially powerful.
So remember that tact and a positive presentation attitude is as important to your presentation as accuracy.
Internalize that lesson, and you’re on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations that persuade more than they insult.
Business School Presentations – this site – opens a entirely new world to you and your presentation endeavors. Here, we demystify the business presentation, clear away the fog of indecision.
In the process, you can become not just a good presenter, but a great presenter. An especially powerful presenter who can declaim to audiences of 4 to 4,000 . . . with power, confidence, and competence.
Stay with us . . . come back often . . . check out the many speaking resources I link to in the left-hand menu . . . embrace the cornucopia of Presentation Wealth.
. . . launch your quest to obtain personal competitive advantage to last a lifetime.
You’ve seen the silhouette of a man beside a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus, or a Brontosaurus. The silhouette provides you a frame of reference so you understand the physical dimensions of something new and strange.
You can compare the size of a man with the new information on dinosaurs.
Likewise, we want to provide a frame of reference so that our audience understands the results of our analysis.
We provide a comparison as a baseline.
For instance, if you are talking about financial performance, and you have selected an indicator (such as ROI, or yearly sales revenue growth, or something similar), don’t simply present the information as standalone. Compare your company’s financial performance against something else.