Category Archives: Confidence

The Especially Powerful Presentation – Malcolm X

especially powerful
An Especially Powerful Presenter

Malcolm X was a great presenter, and he would sting his audiences with a superb and especially powerful technique – powerful grabber lines.

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way.

Malcolm X could snap his audience to attention.  He compelled his listeners to sit up straight, to focus on his message.

You can do this several ways, too.

It’s up to you what method you choose, but it should fit your audience and your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line.  This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not just another canned talk.

One of the finest public speakers – or presenters – of modern times was the late Malcolm X.

Yes, Malcolm X was a great presenter, and his speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation, and then mobilize it with an especially powerful presentation call to action.

The Effects of Rhetoric

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator.  He drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  As such, they are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats.  To feel the repetition of key phrases.

And to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

And when you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases but repeating key words.

Malcolm X was a great presenter

You gain a sense of the gathering storm.

You almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.

With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

Bad presentations launch with a peppering of routine phrases.  The speaker grips the podium and a squinting at notes or jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.

Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.

Especially Powerful Technique

Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course leavens our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners.  He has laid out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He established a mood of confidentiality and rapport, and then makes a bold statement:

America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

Great Presenter with Power and Depth

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.

No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases: “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.  And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Most of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them . . . on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes . . . framing the issue in colorful language, and creating listener expectations that he will offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.

Mull this excellent example from Malcolm’s talk.  Ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation and builds to his call for action at the end.

For more on how you can use Malcolm X’s techniques to develop especially powerful business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.  Utilize the techniques therein to build steadily your personal competitive advantage.

Train of Thought

chin scratchYou’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.

That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.  It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt.

You can’t remember what to say.

Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.

Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.

You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the stance.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.

If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.

It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.

In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques to regain your train of thought:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement bails you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . . “In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult the especially powerful The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Executive Presence for Competitive Advantage

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence
Develop Especially Powerful Executive Presence for Personal Competitive Advantage

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 by choosing wisely, and then acting . . .

. . . and executive presence is a source of personal competitive advantage.

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.

Many folks engage in it.

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.

He tries 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.  He 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?

Review my short instructional video here on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance and an aura of Executive Presence . . .

Power Words for Presentation Confidence

Power Words!
End self-sabotage in your business presentations with Positive Power Words!

Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits and can be remedied by the ready application of Power Words.

I think you already know that we sabotage our own presentations more often than we like to believe.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.

We envision humiliation, embarrassment, and complete meltdown.

We concoct a destructive fantasy that we then dutifully fulfill.

The Negative Spiral Down Begins . . .

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the chief culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations.

It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?

Negative self-talk results in physical reactions.  We essentially talk ourselves into failure.

Nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.

Power Words
Replace Negative Self-Talk with Power Words

Moreover, our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates if we happen to be delivering a group presentation.

The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better . . . if at all.

We have, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.

How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?

Let’s try something different . . .

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body.  Visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition.

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.

Develop professional presence with power words
Positive Self-Talk with Power Words is an Especially Powerful Technique

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.

Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice.

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?

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.

Find more on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

I Recommend this Presentations Book

A bit of prelude . . .

Presentations Book
The Best Advanced Presentations Book in the World

I teach at a university business school in Philadelphia and have been coaching student presentations for years.

My own book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting addresses the needs of this particular niche audience.

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.

Examples?

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.

On making slides:

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.

On handouts:

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.

For specific guidance at the Business School level, consult my own Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Your Positive Presentation Attitude

A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation
A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation

Your positive presentation attitude is one of the most neglected aspects of your business presentation.

For any presentation, really.

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.

Isn’t it?

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.

Big difference.

Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude
Remember that as much as we want to believe that our superiors and our clients are mature and want to hear the “truth” – warts and all – human nature is contrary

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.

Uh-oh.

Anyone can use a sledgehammer.

Anyone.

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.

For more on shaping an especially powerful and positive presentation attitude that stays on point and helps to build your personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Posing

Power Posing
Power Posing Yields Presentation Confidence

I don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering business students, but one power posing exercise that elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

It consists of everyone standing up and then striking a stance of confidence and power.

Feet are shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Posing Personified

Then 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!”

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, which indicate a robust embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.

Second, the exercise achieves superb physiological goals that improve many characteristics associated with business presenting.

Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.  Power Posing.

Especially Powerful Body Language

Especially Powerful Posing
Power Posing Carries Gravitas

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, and power posing is some of the most effective body language you can use.

But it’s essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood.  It’s a secret that I’ve use 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.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

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.”

And if you aren’t satisfied with the narrative of a 19th Century social scientist you never heard of, then take the theory of Charles Darwin, who in 1872 was one of the first to speculate that your body posture can have an effect of generating emotions rather than simply reflecting them.

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.  On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions . . . .  Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.

So how does this relate to powerful business presenting?

Every way you can think of.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language.  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.  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?

Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

Especially Powerful Positive Energy

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

Power Posing
Power Posing is an especially powerful component of Confidence and Charisma

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.

Consciously strike a pose that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.  This is power posing.

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 Management 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.  The Kellogg study early this year yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous that power posing can actually imbue us with power.

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 and yourself with professional presence.  If you want to acquire personal competitive advantage.

In our 21st Century vernacular, power posing means you should stand the way you want to feel.

Power posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery 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.

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

For more especially powerful guidance on power posing, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Presentation Paradox

Especially Powerful Presenting
Business Presentation Paradox . . . “I don’t want all those eyes on me!”

The presentation paradox afflicts many people:

“I want to give an especially powerful presentation . . . but I don’t like to be the center of attention.”

This is the presentation paradox for more people than you might imagine.

In fact, you may be one of them.

You dream of delivering a powerful business presentation.  An interesting presentation.  A presentation that sets everyone nodding.

A show that earns the accolades of the professor and your peers.

If you’re an executive delivering a report in the C-Suite, you note with satisfaction that no one surreptitiously checks email.

It’s a presentation that exhilarates you as a fist-pumping job well-done.

And yet . . .

Presentation Paradox Paralysis

And yet, you don’t want to be the center of attention.

You believe that you can get by with directing everyone’s attention to a screen behind you.  To slides filled with gibberish in tiny font.

If the room is dark enough, people may not even see you, and you think this is fine.

You see the disconnect here.

Delivering an especially powerful business presentation means changing what you do now . . . changing your behavior to achieve what you envision yourself becoming.

You actually must do something different to achieve different results.

To deliver an especially powerful business presentation means that you must become the center of attention.  In fact, you become the message itself, a sincere proponent of a position that you convey to an audience in animated and convincing style.

Presentation Paradox
Break out of the Presentation Paradox Prison

And yet this center-of-attention is the last thing that many business students want to be.

Many presenters would rather become part of the audience.

And some actually do.

They pivot to show the audience their backs.  Then they edge backward toward the audience, almost becoming part of the assembled listeners.

They assume the role of Slide-Reader-in-Chief.

Everyone reads the slides together . . . if they’re legible at all to the audience.  And this is an awful presentation, and you know it’s an awful presentation, and yet you do it anyway.

Why?  Why not change that?

Let’s break out of the presentation paradox prison today and adopt techniques that can hone our skills to a scalpel-like edge.  This won’t happen overnight, so let’s adopt one new thing each week and practice it to start building a personal competitive advantage.

You choose which technique out of many.  My recommendation?

This one . . . especially powerful self-talk.

Start now.

 

Presentation Preparation – The Second P

Presentation Preparation - the Right Way
The Right Kind of Presentation Preparation is Key

The right kind of presentation preparation lays the groundwork for spectacular performance.

Squeeze the most from your prep time, and try doing it this way . . .

Let’s say you are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations in a business presentation.

Your first 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?

Presentation Preparation for 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.  Here you apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Presentation Preparation
Presentation Preparation invests you with confidence

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 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?

They are different in 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’s 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.  You’re far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controlled.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

These differences between the written report and the business presentation are, to many people, insignificant.

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
Presentation Preparation?

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.

Business 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.

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 this way:

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 forge an especially powerful 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 manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience in our presentation preparation.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our minds 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 to find the nuggets.  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 more on Especially Powerful Presentation Preparation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Self-Talk

End self-sabotage in your business presentations

Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.

This is especially prevalent in our business presentations.

We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.  We envision humiliation, embarrassment, and complete meltdown.

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the chief culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations.

It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.  Moreover, our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates if we happen to be delivering a group presentation.

The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better . . . if at all.

There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.

How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body, and visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition.

I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques, and all of are one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Develop professional presence with confidence
Positive Self-Talk is an Especially Powerful Technique

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, and this ignorance means incredible uncertainty of performance.

Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

This fear of the unknown can drive up anxiety.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.

Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice.

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?

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.

With this kind of psychological commitment, we 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 is an essential part of your schema for preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.

Find more on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

OCCUPY . . . the Command Presentation Position!

Occupy the command positionWhen you deliver a presentation, one of the most important factors that figures into the success of your talk is whether you take the command presentation position.

Don’t follow the example of most after-dinner speakers or professors, who hide behind the lectern, shuffling notes, looking down, gripping the edges of the podium with white-knuckled fervor.

This is grotesque.

It induces your audience to doze, to drift, to check out.

Instead, seize the metaphorical high ground of the presentation terrain . . . the Command Presentation Position.

And this means that you shun the lectern.

The Abominable Lectern!

The lectern is an abomination.

If you happen to be a liberal arts student who drifted here by mistake, think of the lectern as The Oppressor or The Other.  It puts a barrier between you and those whom you address.

For many students, the lectern is a place to hide from the audience.

I recommend using the lectern only once, as a tool . . . and this is the occasion to walk from behind it to approach your audience at the very beginning of your talk.  This is an action of communication, a reaching out, a gesture of intimacy.

Do not lean upon the lectern in nonchalant fashion, particularly leaning upon your elbow and with one leg crossed in front of the other.

Fix this now.

Move from behind the lectern and into the Command Presentation Position.  In today’s fleeting vernacular, occupy the command presentation position.

The Command Position is the position directly in front of a lectern (or well to the side of the lectern, if it’s located on the wing of the stage) and 4-8 feet from your audience.  The Command Position extends approximately 4 feet to either side of you.  You are not a visitor in this space.

As a presenter or speaker, this is your home.  You own this space, so make it yours.  You must always perform as if you belong there, never there as a visitor.

Occupy it!

Occupy the command presentation position now for democracy, social justice, and an especially powerful presentation.  And personal competitive advantage.

For more sloganeering and outright good presentation advice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

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 . . .

Executive Presence for the Business Presenter

Executive Presence
Especially Powerful Executive Presence

Business Presentations are filled with paradoxes, especially where executive presence is concerned.

For instance, the Power Zone of presentation charisma . . . a place everyone wants to be, but where almost no one wants to go.

The charisma factor of executive presence is not so difficult to achieve, nor is it so mysterious as to be unfathomable.

Yet It always amazes me anew the reasons people concoct for not becoming powerful speakers and developing especially powerful executive presence.

The Power Zone of Executive Presence

The Power Zone is a metaphor for that realm of especially powerful business presenters, a place where  everyone is a capable, confident, and competent communicator.

Where every meal’s a feast and every speech kissed by rhetorical magic.

A place for larger-than-life presentation charisma.

A place where executive presence comes naturally.

Yes, you can go there.  And almost everyone claims they want to go to the Power Zone.

But even when people are told clearly how to reach the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma, most don’t go.

They find an excuse not to.

Disbelief . . .  Principle . . . Ideology . . .  Sloth . . . Disregard . . . Fear . . . even Anger.

They contrive the darnedest reasons not to, from ideological to lazy.

No Argument Here . . . Don’t go

In my presentations to various audiences, I am sometimes faced with the gadfly who knows better, sometimes vocal, oftentimes not.  The person who opposes what I say.  Usually for spurious reasons.

And it’s an exercise in futility for the gadfly.  I make no argument against the gadfly’s objections, whatever the source.

Because the choice to enter the Power Zone is personal and completely optional.

You need not step into the Power Zone if you choose not to.  I care not for the reason, and explanations aren’t necessary.

Presentation charisma is yours for the taking.  It’s entirely up to you.

Ideological Objections to Presentation Charisma

Your Executive Presence

The latest batch of objections I heard sprang from one woman’s ideology.

You heard right.

She apparently believed in au courant political philosophy that dictates how people should behave and react to others based on . . .

Well, based on what she believed to be right and proper.

Or what ought to be right and proper.

In short, rather than communicate with people in the most effective way possible, she wanted to do something else.

And if the audience doesn’t like it?  We, she’d then lecture her audience on why they’re wrong if they don’t like her way of presenting, whether based on appearance, voice, gestures, or movement.

She wanted to deliver presentations her way.

She wanted to blame her audience if they didn’t respond with accolades.  More . . . she wanted my affirmation that this was okay, too.

Just different.

That it was just a “different” way of presenting, if not altogether superior.

She complained that my presentation of techniques, skills, and principles that build presentation charisma “sounds like it’s from 100 years ago.”

And I say praise the Lord for that.

Presentation Charisma from 25 centuries of Practice

I draw on 2,500 years of presentation wisdom of Presentation Masters like Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Webster, Bryant, and Roosevelt, so I’m not doing my job well if it sounds otherwise.

The woman in question complained that the gestures seemed “too masculine” and that she would feel “uncomfortable” doing them as she believed they don’t look “feminine.”

I replied to her this way . . .

Don’t do it.  Just don’t.

“Don’t do them.  Don’t gesture this way.  Don’t do anything that makes you feel ‘uncomfortable.’  Don’t utilize gestures proven 100,000 times to be powerful and effective.  Go ahead, substitute what you know to be better.  Do exactly what you have been doing all along, and emerge from this lecture hall not having been changed one iota.  Not having learned a damned thing.  And then . . . you can wonder at how you have’t improved.  At all.”

But if you choose to go that route, do it with the full knowledge that you leave the competitive advantage you might gain just sitting on the playing field.  It’s there for someone else to pick up.

And all the ideology in the world cannot change that.

The principles of building charisma are gender neutral, and some folks have problems with that.  Too bad.  That’s the way it is.

Consult Alix Rister for a female perspective . . . that is to say, a professional perspective on how to build presentation charisma and executive presence.

Your Comfort is Irrelevant to Executive Presence

Comfort?  You don’t feel “comfortable” utilizing certain gestures?

Since when did our “comfort” become the sine qua non of everything we try?  Who cooked this  “comfort” thing up, and when did it gain currency?

Has any greater cop-out ever been devised?

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” doing something you’ve never tried before.

A baby feels anything but comfort as it springs from the womb and is forced to breathe air instead of amniotic fluid and faces the cold  of a delivery room.

A child feels anything but comfort as he learns the periodic table and the multiplication table or riding a bike or a new sport or meets new people and is forced to hear contrary opinions.

An athlete feels discomfort as she trains to develop skill, power, speed, and strength in the gym so as to perform at a superior level.

Does it feel “comfortable” to push forward and extend our capabilities into new and desirable areas?

You think developing Executive Presence and Charisma is easy and that you ought to wear it comfortably from the first minute?  It’s often a difficult process, but we certainly don’t accept “discomfort” as a reason not to do something necessary to achieve a goal.

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” speaking before a group if you’ve never done it before or done so with no success.

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” acting in charismatic ways.  Speaking with presentation charisma.  That’s the whole point of especially powerful presenting – expanding the speaker’s comfort zone to encompass powerful communication techniques that lift you into the upper echelon of business presenters.

Uncomfortable with Executive Presence?And drawing upon 25 Centuries of wisdom and practice to do so.

But some folks scoff at this.  It requires too much of them.

Or it conflicts with the way they think the world ought to work.  Or the Seven Secrets for Especially Powerful Presenting aren’t mystical enough for them.

Secrets ought to be . . . well, they ought to have something akin to magic sparkles, right?

You may find this somehow unsatisfactory and unsatisfying or in conflict with your own ideology or philosophy.  If you believe the answer should somehow be more mystical or revelatory or tied to the high-tech promises of our brave new world, then I say this to you:  “Go forth and don’t use these techniques.”

Don’t fume over this or that nettlesome detail.  It’s completely unnecessary.  No need to argue about anything.

No one compels you to do anything here.

And this is what is so infuriating for the habitual naysayers – complete freedom.  The freedom not to travel into the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma and Executive Presence.

I show you the way to the Power Zone, where you can be one of the exceptional few who excels in incredible fashion . . . but you can choose not to go.

If not, good luck and Godspeed with your own opinions and philosophies and endless search for presentation excellence located somewhere else.  Let 1,000 presentation flowers bloom!

But if you elect to draw upon the best that the Presentation Masters have to offer, then I offer congratulations as you step onto the path to Presentation Charisma.  The path toward that rarefied world of especially powerful Executive Presence.

For more on how to develop especially powerful executive presence, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Professional Presence
Malcolm X was a Great Presenter. No more powerful example of a superb presenter can be found

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way.  Malcolm X was a great presenter, and he used this technique better than most.

He could snap his audience to attention.  He compelled his listeners to sit up straight, to focus on his message.

You can do this several ways, too.  It’s up to you what method you choose, but it should fit your audience and your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line.  This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not just another canned talk.

One of the finest public speakers – or presenters – of modern times was the late Malcolm X.  Yes, Malcolm X was a great presenter, and his speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation, and then mobilize it with an especially powerful call to action.

The Effects of Rhetoric

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator.  He drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  As such, they are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases.

And to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

And when you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

Malcolm X was a great presenter

You gain a sense of the gathering storm.  You almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.

With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

Bad presentations launch with a peppering of routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.

Especially Powerful Technique

Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course leavens our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners.  He has laid out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He established a mood of confidentiality and rapport, and then makes a bold statement – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Power and Depth

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.

No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases: “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.  And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Most of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them . . . on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes . . . framing the issue in colorful language, and creating listener expectations that he will offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from Malcolm’s talk.  Ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation and builds to his call for action at the end.

For more on how you can use Malcom X’s techniques to develop especially powerful business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Win Your Case Competition

Win your case competition (every time)
Win Your Case Competition

In earlier posts, we examined the lead-in steps for your case competition preparation – now your team is on the cusp of delivering a business presentation to win your case competition.

Recognize that your presentation differs from the written report.

Accept that your presentation is a wholly different communication mode than your final written solution.

Treat it this way, and your chances that you win your case competition increase dramatically.

How to Win Your Case Competition

The analytical competency of most case competition teams is relatively even.

Your analysis is robust and your conclusions are sound, as should be with all the entries.

With this substantive parity among competing teams, a powerful and stunning presentation delivered by a team of confident and skilled presenters will win the day most every time.

Could be Big Money if you Win Your Case CompetitionIf a team lifts itself above the competition with a stunning presentation, it wins.

If you have reviewed the step-by-step preparation to this point and internalized its message, you understand that you and your teammates are not something exclusive of the presentation.

You are the presentation.

By now, you should be well on the way to transforming yourself from an average presenter into a powerful presentation meister.

You know the techniques of the masters.

You are skilled.  Confident.

You have become an especially powerful and steadily improving speaker who constantly refines himself or herself along the seven dimensions we’ve discussed:  Stance, Voice, Gesture, Expression, Movement, Appearance, and Passion.

Employ the Seven Secrets to Win Your Case Competition

When I coach a team how to win a case competition, the team members prepare all of their analysis, conclusions, and recommendations on their own.  Here are some tips how to do this.  Their combined skills, imagination, and acumen produce a product worthy of victory.

The team then creates their first draft presentation.

It is at this point that the competition is most often won or lost.

Powerful winning presentations do not spring forth unbidden or from the written material you prepare.  The numbers “do not speak for themselves.”

The “power of your analysis” does not win your case competition on its own.  You cannot point to your handout repeatedly as a substitute for a superb presentation.

Your case solution is not judged on its merit alone, as if the brilliance of your solution is manifest to everyone who reads it.

It is judged on how well you communicate the idea.

Powerfully.  Persuasively.

Each member of your team must enter the presentation process as a tangible, active, compelling part of the presentation.  And you must orchestrate your presentation so that you work seamlessly together with each other, with the visuals you present, and with the new knowledge you create.

You are performing, like a cast in a play.  Ensure everyone plays the part well.

For more deep secrets on how to win a case competition, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Case Competition Preparation . . . Step II

Business Case Competition Preparation is key to victory
Business Case Competition Preparation is key to victory

Phase 2 of your business case competition preparation begins when you’re issued the case.

Recognize that the nature of this case may differ from what you are accustomed to.

It could be more incomplete and open-ended than the structured cases you’ve dealt with before.

In fact, it could be a contemporary real-world case with no “solution.”  It could be a case crafted especially for the competition by the competition sponsor.

Business Case Competition Preparation

Your first step – your team members read the case once-through for general information and understanding.

You inventory issues.

You define the magnitude of the task at hand.

Here, you draw a philosophical and psychological box around the case.  You encompass its main elements.

You make it manageable.

Business Case Competition Preparation is your Edge
Business Case Competition Preparation Readies you for any Challenge

You avoid time-burn in discussions of unnecessarily open-ended questions.  Your discussion proceeds on defining the problem statement.

At this point, your expertise and skills gained in years of business schooling should guide you to develop your analysis and recommendations.

The difference in acumen and skill sets among teams in a competition is usually small, so I assume that every business team will produce analytical results and recommendations that are capable of winning the competition.  This includes your team, of course.

Victory or Defeat?

The quality of teams is high, and the output of analysis similar.  This means that victory is rarely determined by the quality of the material itself.

Instead, victory and defeat ride on the clarity, logic, power, and persuasiveness of the public presentation of that material.  I have seen great analyses destroyed or masked by bad presentations.

The Presentation is the final battlefield where the competition is won or lost.

And so we devote minimum time here on the preparation of your arguments.  Many fine books can help you sharpen analysis.  This post concerns how you translate your written results into a powerful presentation that is verbally and visually compelling.

We are concerned here with the key to your competition victory.

Here is your competitive edge:  While 95 percent of teams will view their presentations as a simple modified version of the written paper that they submit, your team attacks the competition armed with the tools and techniques of Power Presenting.

You understand that the presentation is a distinct and different communication tool than the written analysis.

Your own business case competition preparation distinguishes you in dramatic and substantive ways.  This translates into a nuanced, direct, and richly textured presentation.

One that captivates as well as persuades.

Cut ’n’ Paste Combatants

Many teams cut-and-paste their written paper/summary into the presentation, unchanged.  This usually makes for a heinous presentation that projects spreadsheets and bullet points and blocks of text on a screen.

These monstrosities obscure more than they communicate.  It is a self-handicap and a horrendous mistake.

Sure, at times you will see winning presentations that do this – I see them myself on occasion.  This usually happens for one of several reasons, none of them having to do with the quality of the visual presentation . . .

1) Substance trumps:  The business analysis and recommendation is substantially better than all other entries and overcomes deficiencies in presentation.

2) Mimicry:  All entries utilize Business Case Competition Preparation front-loads your competitive edgethe same defective method of cutting-and-pasting the final report onto PowerPoint slides.  This levels the playing field to a lowest common denominator of visual and verbal poverty.

Don’t present all the fruits of your analysis.

Too much information and too many details can cripple your initial presentation.  Remember – hold back details for use and explication during the Q&A period.

A parsimonious presentation should deliver your main points.

Deciding what to leave out of your initial presentation can be as important as deciding what to include and emphasize.

For in-depth training on the Case Competition, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Next . . . Phase 3

Express Yourself . . . the Right Way

Express yourself for personal competitive advantage

You communicate far more with your face than you probably realize, so be aware that how you express yourself can enhance or degrade your business presentation.

Your facial expressions can reinforce your message, confuse your audience, or detract from your message.

Yes, there is something called bad expression, and at its worst, it can generate hostility in your audience.

Look no further than the accompanying photo to absorb the lesson of how our expressions can enhance our presentation . . . or cripple it.

Express Yourself with Brio

A thorough knowledge of how our expressions can lift our talk or derail it is essential to becoming a powerful business communicator.

The problem of bad expression has plagued speakers for centuries.  Some of our earliest writers on oratory lamented the poor expressive skills of the folks who take to the stage to speak.

Quintilian was a great Roman teacher of oratory in his time, and he’s influenced many generations of public speakers since the recovery of his classic manuscripts in the 15th Century.

Perhaps you’ve not heard of Quintilian?  It’s time you did.

Expression in Presentation for 1,900 Years

Quintilian published his monumental Institutes of Oratory at the end of the 1st Century AD, and it continues as a powerfully influential treatise on presentations today.  It’s rich with insight and practical instruction.  Take this passage on expression:

[The teacher] will have to take care that the face of his pupil, while speaking, look straight forward; that his lips be not distorted; that no opening of the mouth in moderately distend his jaws.  That his face be not turned up, or his eyes cast down too much, or his head inclined to either side.  The face offends in various waysl.  I have seen many speakers, whose eyebrows were raised at every effort of the voice.  Those of others I have seen contracted.  Those of some even disagreeing, as they turned up one towards the top of the head, while with the other the eye itself was almost concealed.  To all these matters, as we shall hereafter show, a vast deal of importance is to be attached.  For nothing can please which is unbecoming.

Express Yourself in Presentation

Would that our modern instructors of presentations would take a moment to share even the most modest of insights offered by great orators such as Quintilian.

He remains relevant and incisive after 1,900 years on the need for coordinated and thoughtful expression, and a great many other timeless techniques.

That’s staying power.  And a heckuva personal brand.

And as he notes with respect to expression, nothing can please which is unbecoming.  Your facial expression should reflect your spirit.  It should reveal your heart and your soul, and if it does, you’ll avoid appearing “unbecoming.”

Your face should transmit sincerity and earnestness consonant with your words.  So I urge you in your presentations to express yourself in ways “becoming” . . . smile often . . . frown sparingly . . . stare never . . . question occasionally . . . and show sincerity throughout.

To continue exploring how to express yourself in ways that enhance your personal brand and personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

What We Don’t Know about Business Presentations

“What we don't know”

In 2002, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was widely ridiculed for his “what we do not know” convolution that tended to confound his critics.

But when analyzed, his succinct turn of phrase showed that his critics had much to learn.

Just as we have much to learn about business presentations.

What We Don’t Know . . .

Rumsfeld said this:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Without going too deeply into the philosophy behind it all, let’s simply note that this construction dates back to Confucius . . . and perhaps earlier.

Broken down, it can be stated this way:

There are things we know.

There are things we do not know.

There are things we know we do not know.

There are things we do not know we do not know.

Much insight is bound up in this matrushka doll of logic.

In fact, lurking within this formula is a key to our business success, to our differentiation, to our personal brand.  Understanding what we don’t know.

Rumsfeld’s trope is simply a call for humility and recognition that false certitude can be far more harmful than healthy skepticism.  No, we don’t know at all.

In fact, there may be a great deal of what we know that isn’t so.

Take, for example, the following two experiences of people who have a fundamental misunderstanding of their own abilities.

“These Pictures Just Didn’t Come Out”

Photography – good photography – is a skill.  The framing and composition of superb photographs is not “natural” or intuitive.

And yet, the vast majority of us believe that we can take spectacular photos.  A professional photographer who worked for me years ago was tickled by a co-worker who believed he was an excellent photographer, even as evidence to the contrary was abundant.

She told how he repeatedly engaged in a fantasy.

His latest batch of photos of a reception would come in, and his coworkers would gather ’round him.  He would thumb through the photos one at a time, and he would cast many of them aside peevishly.

“These pictures just didn’t come out,” he’d say with a shake of the head.  “They just didn’t come out,” and he would invariably imply that some mechanical malfunction had ruined his photos.

What we don't know can make us look dumb
This picture just didn’t “come out.”

Or hazy weather.

Or bad karma.

Anything but his own lack of skill.

Through it all was his inability to actually see and understand that the “picture did not come out” because of the most obvious reason in the world:

He did not know how to take photographs.

In fact, he was terrible.

But he claimed that out-of-focus, poorly framed, underexposed, overexposed photos were the result of some external problem, not his own lack of skill.  This type of hubris borne of blissful ignorance has its counterpart in the innocence of children.

Who’s the teacher?  That depends on your perspective . . .

A tennis instructor friend of mine tells the story of working with a six-year-old child.

You have to admire the chutzpuh of children, who, in their innocence, are unaware of the larger world and oftentimes unaware of their role as students in this world, subject to the instruction of teachers.

Upon starting the first tennis lesson, the child quietly watched the tennis pro demonstrate the basic forehand.  Then, the child boasted to her: “This is how I hit the ball.”

And the youngster proceeded to demonstrate the proper technique to the tennis instructor, as if the two of them were accomplished tennis pros simply sharing pointers with each other.

The child was blissfully ignorant of the depth and breadth of the game of tennis.  So the child speaks with a confidence and easiness that betrays that ignorance.

Honest ignorance in this case.

And what a wonderful confidence it is, the confidence of a child.  A superb tennis instructor works with this raw confidence and molds into it an actual expertise and respect for the game without destroying it.

When you hear people dismiss public speaking as “easy” or a “cinch” or something that they’ll “wing” in their next class, remember the phrases . . .

“These pictures just didn’t come out.”

This is the way I hit the ball.”

Many folks are simply ignorant of the depth and breadth of the public speaking domain.

So they wax eloquently and ignorantly about it, believing it to be something that it is not. Easier than it is.

Especially Powerful Presenting – What we don’t know

Powerful presenting is actually the judicious application of high-order skills of gesture, voice, movement, style, focus, elocution, and even intuition.  This concept is alien to the “Easy Presenting” group.

Moreover, the very nature of these skills is foreign to them.

The skill set of the advanced and effective presenter is much akin to that of the actor, and these skills would seem irrelevant to someone with only a superficial understanding of the art of presenting.

After all, business is serious, right?  Wheareas mere “acting” is . . . well, frivolous.

Acting is talent-based, right, with no role for learned techniques?  Hardly.  Acting coach Anita Jesse zeroes-in on the basic skills necessary to powerful acting, and they are as easily applied to the art of powerful presenting:

Almost any proficient actor will tell you that expertise [in acting] depends upon a short list of basic skills. Those building blocks are concentration, imagination, access to emotions, listening, observation, and relaxation.

Concentration, imagination, access to emotions, listening, observation, and relaxation. These are the qualities necessary to an actor’s powerful performances, and these are likewise qualities essential to the power presenter.

They are elements of Personal Presence, and they are essential to the delivery of an especially powerful presentation.

For more on learning what we don’t know we do not know about especially powerful presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Public Speaking Passion for Power and Impact

If you don’t enjoy what you do every day, you’re doing the wrong thing . . . and if you don’t have public speaking passion, you probably ought to reconsider.Public Speaking passion for power and impact

You’re in the wrong line of work.

Likewise, if you can’t get excited about your presentation topic, showing public speaking passion, it’s likely that you shouldn’t be presenting at all.

Remember, there’s no such thing as an inherently “interesting topic.”

As an especially powerful business presenter, it’s your job to invest your topic with a distinctiveness and verve that captures your audience.

You Provide the Public Speaking Passion

Interest is something that you do.  You invest your presentation, regardless of the topic, with power, zest, verve, bravura, and excitement.

One powerful technique at your disposal is “passion.”

This means to embrace your topic.  Regardless of whether you personally believe it to be interesting.  Your task is to take a topic – any topic – and turn it into a masterpiece of public speaking passion.

Whether your subject is floor polish, chocolate milk, or bed linen, you create a presentation that holds your audience rapt.

You seize your audience by the metaphorical lapels, and you don’t let go.

Tough?  Yes.

Because Presenting Isn’t Easy

Which is why business presenting is not the cakewalk that many people try to portray it.

Passion is your solution.  Public Speaking Passion is a powerful tool to create masterful presentations that sway your audience.  To make your listeners feel.

To compel your listeners to act.

Passion and enthusiasm, energy and brio can overcome so much that is otherwise wrong with today’s business presenting.  In fact, there is so little of this done today, that demonstrating presentation passion can become an important component of your personal brand and the source of personal competitive advantage.

Have a look at my short video on passion . . .

For more on public speaking passion and professional presence consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Banish Presentation Stage Fright!

stage fright
Banish Stage Fright Forever!

After reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about hand-wringing over presentation stage fright, well . . .

. . . if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now.

When we speak of presentation stage fright, we confront the battle within ourselves as we face the challenge of our presentation.

It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.  And we want self-confidence to win.

But confidence is one of those elusive qualities.

It’s almost paradoxical.  When we have confidence, it’s invisible.  And when we don’t have it, it’s all too apparent to us.

Confidence in public speaking is hard to come by.  Or so we think.  Let’s back into this thing called confidence.

Confidence Conquers Presentation Stage Fright

Think for a moment of what I call the “Trip Test.”

Have you ever stumbled on the sidewalk, your toe catching an impossibly small defect in the concrete, enough to trip you up?  You stumble and stagger a bit. And then . . .

. . . and then do you glance quickly around to see who might be looking?

Do you feel shame of some sort?  If not shame, then . . . something that gives you to mildly fear the judgment of others?  Even strangers.

Or do you stride purposely forward, oblivious to others’ reactions, because they truly don’t matter to you?  Recognize this trip test as a measure of your self-confidence, your conception of yourself.

Recognize that you don’t need the validation of others in what you do.  Consciously purge yourself of the debilitating need for approval.

The fear of judgment.

Presentation Stage Fright Begone!

This doesn’t mean to act in ways immature and self-indulgent.  It means charting your own course with your internal moral and professional compass and having the strength of mind and purpose not to yield to kibitzers, naysayers, and kneejerk critics.

Now, bring that strength of mind and purpose to the realm of business presentations.

For some reason you fear your audience.  The audience is your bogeyman.

But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say.  And 99.9 percent of them mean you well.

Confidence pushes out presentation stage frightThey want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.  They are pulling for you.

Yes, even your fellow students want you to succeed.  They want to be entertained.  Please entertain us, they think.

They are open to whatever new insight you can provide.  And they know, for a fact, that they will be in your same place many times during their careers.  They are fellow-travelers in the business presentation journey.

And so confidence is yours for the taking.

Confidence is not a thing.

It cannot be grasped or packaged or bought.  It’s a state of mind, isn’t it?  It’s a feeling.  When we get right down to it, it really is just the mental context within which we perform.

What does it really mean to be confident?  Can you answer that direct question?  Think about it a moment.

See?

Seize Confidence for Yourself!

We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action.  Our confidence – or lack of confidence – provides us the context of our activities.

Is it certitude?  Is it knowledge?

Is it bravery?  Is it surety?

Think of the times when you are confident.  You might be confident at playing a certain sport or playing a musical instrument.

It could be any familiar activity.

Confidence is largely the absence of uncertainty.  For it’s uncertainty that makes us fearful.  That, and the dread of some consequence – embarrassment or ridicule.

Many people do fear speaking before an audience, rational or no.

And it’s been that way since public speaking gained enough stature to warrant the first school of public speaking in 450 BC under the Greek scholar Corax of Syracuse.

Centuries of Presentation Stage Fright

This presentation stage fright has made its way down through the ages.  It’s paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you.  And generations of speakers have tackled this fear.

George Rowland Collins is an old master who recognized the phenomenon in 1923 and its awful effect on the would-be presenter . . .

The very first problem that faces the average man in speech-making is the problem of nervousness.  To stand up before an audience without a scrap of paper or a note of any kind, to feel the eyes of dozens and even hundreds of people upon you, to sense the awful silence that awaits your own words, to know that you must depend upon yourself and yourself alone to hold the audience’s attention is as trying a task as it is possible to undertake.  Most men find the task too great and shun it religiously.  Those who do attempt it, voluntarily, or involuntarily, testify to the severity of the physical and mental suffering it involves.

The solution to presentation stage fright?  How have centuries of speakers successfully tackled this bete noire?

Reduce your uncertainty.

Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps:  PrinciplesPreparationPractice.  Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence, and we’ll talk about the Three Ps in days and weeks to come.

They are so utterly essential to Power Presenting that they bear repetition and constant reinforcement.  They are the cornerstone upon which you build your style, your confidence, your performance pizzazz.

Principles, Preparation, Practice

The 7 principles of presenting offered here at Business School Presenting™ – the “secrets” of the masters – are grouped under Stance, Voice, Gesture, Movement, Expression, Appearance and Passion.

Each of these deserves its own chapter and, indeed, has its own chapter in my book The Official College Guide to Business School Presenting.

Prepare your talk, then practice your talk at least 4 times, exactly as you will deliver it – without stopping.

When you apply the Three Ps, you reduce uncertainty.

You possess the facts.  You are prepared.  You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice.  You rehearse.

There is, of course, an element of uncertainty.  Uncertainty grips you, because you cannot control everything or everybody, and this causes a tinge of anxiety.

But that’s fuel for your creative engine.

By controlling the 90 percent that you can, you are more than ready to handle the 10 percent of uncertainty that awaits you.

So the key for you is to control what you can and to dismiss your fear of the rest.  Recognize that this fear is what makes you human, and it is this humanity that gives us commonality with all the public speakers and presenters who have come before us.

And it is their advice that we heed to our improvement.

For instance, master J. Berg Esenwein from 109 years ago:

Even when you are quaking in your boots with the ague of fear, and your teeth fain would beat “retreat,” you must assume a boldness you do not feel.  For doing this there is nothing like deep stately breathing, a firm look at the dreaded audience . . . .  But do not fear them.  They want you to succeed, and always honor an exhibition of pluck.  They are fair and know you are only one man against a thousand.  . . .  Look at your audience squarely, earnestly, expressively.

And banish presentation stage fright forever.

Interested in more on how to eliminate presentation stage fright?  Consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting here.