Category Archives: Confidence

Positive Presentation Attitude . . . Be Careful with Candor

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 criticism of current company policy is concerned.

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?

Positive Presentation Attitude for Personal Preservation

Honesty is important, sure.

But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor.  And we must 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.

If you say in your presentation that the current strategic direction of the company is dumb, you tread on thin ice when you convey that information.

In that way.

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.

These may be the people responsible for the bad situation in the first place.  They could be emotionally invested in a specific strategy.  They could be financially invested in it.

Uh-oh.

Wound Someone’s Ego, You Pay a Price

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.

And so . . . most times it pays to use a scalpel.

With lots of consideration and skill.

Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude
Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude

Remember that as much as we would like to believe that our superiors and our clients are mature and want to hear the “truth” – warts and all – human nature is contrary.

We’re easily wounded where our own projects and creations are concerned.

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 and needlessly doomed yourself.

Expect an also-ran finish in the competition for whatever prize is 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 and persuasive without being abrasive.  When you do, then 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 a 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.

Business Presentation Practice . . . the Third P

Engage in Powerful Presentation Practice
Engage in Powerful Presentation Practice

There is good presentation practice and there is bad presentation practice.

Extremely bad practice.

Awful practice.

But how can you say, Professor, that there is such a thing as “bad presentation practice?”

Aren’t you pleased that folks are at least . . . practicing?

Bad practice is pernicious.

It’s insidious, and at times can be worse than no practice at all.  It can create the illusion of improvement and yet be a prelude to disaster.

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

Practice is one of those words that we never bother to define, because each of us already “knows” what it means.

Certainly your professor thinks you know what it means, since he urges you to “practice” your presentation prior to its delivery.

But what does it mean to “practice?”  Doesn’t everyone know how to practice?

How do you practice?

Have you ever truly thought about it?  Have you ever thought about what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish with your practice?  Do you make the mistake of that old cliché and “practice in the mirror?”

Don’t practice in the mirror.  That’s dumb.

You won’t be looking at yourself as you give your talk, so don’t practice that way.

I say it again – that’s dumb.

The only reason to look in a mirror is to ensure that your gestures and expressions display exactly as you think they do when you employ them.  Other than that, stay away from the mirror.

Practice – the right practice, good practice, proper rehearsal – is the key to so much of your presentation’s success.  And your ultimate triumph.

The Russians have a saying much akin to one of ours.  We say “practice makes perfect.”  The Russians say “Povtoreniye mat’ ucheniya.”

It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

And it’s great advice.

Presentation Practice Leads to Victory

The armed forces are experts at practice.  Short of actual war, this is all the military does – practice for its mission in the most realistic conditions that can be devised.

And in doing so, the military arms our warriors with the confidence and skill necessary to accomplish the actual missions assigned to it.

Relentless Presentation Practice
Strive for Perfect Presentation Practice

Likewise, we must practice in the most realistic conditions that we can devise for ourselves, and in doing so we reduce our apprehension and uncertainty.

We gain confidence.

The nerves that go with public speaking are like the nerves a soldier feels as he walks through a minefield – he fears a single misstep will trigger an explosion.

But once the minefield is traversed a single time, the path is clear.  With a clear and predictable path, the fear evaporates.

The danger is avoided.

Confidence replaces fear.

Presentation Practice Eliminates Fear

Likewise, once you have practiced your talk, your fear dissipates.  Once you have practiced it exactly like you will deliver it, straight to completion without pause, then you will have reduced the unknown to manageable proportions.

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

Your way through the minefield is clear.  And the fear evaporates.

Does this mean that you won’t have butterflies before a talk?  Or that you won’t be nervous?  Of course not.  We all do.

Before every game, professional football players are keyed up, emotional, nervous.  But once the game begins and they take the first “hit,” they ramp-up confidence.

Likewise, a bit of nervousness is good for you.  It ensures your focus.  But it’s good nervousness, borne of anticipation.

It is not the same as fear.

And so we see that the key to confidence is knowledge and preparation.

We lack confidence when we are unsure. With every practice, we gain confidence. And all the while we rehearse diligently, remember this dictum . . .

Sear This into Your Mind

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

I mean this literally.

Stage your practices, both individually and as a group, as close to the real thing as you can.  Make it as realistic as you can.  If you can, practice in the room where you will deliver your show.

You want as much pressure as possible.

One of the most prevalent and serious practice mistakes is to restart your presentation again and again when you make a mistake.  Do not start over when you make a mistake . . .

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

This should be common sense.  You must practice how you respond to making an error.  How you will fight through and recover from an error.  Then, if you stumble in your presentation, you will have the confidence and prior experience to weather the minor glitch because you will have faced it before.

Think of it this way.  Does a football team practice one way all week, and then employ a completely different game-plan on game-day?

Of course not.

And neither should you.

For more on Business Presentation Practice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Professional Appearance for Competitive Advantage

Professional Appearance
Professional Appearance Matters

Do you offer a professional appearance to your business presentation audience?

Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our physical appearance transmits messages to those around us.

Most certainly, the professional appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals.

This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your appearance sends a message to your audience.  And you cannot decide not to send a message to your audience.

You can’t tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.  And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

The “Ageless Rebel” Battling the “Man”?

What’s you message?  That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”  Do you offer an unprofessional appearance to make a statement of some sort?  If so, then you err grossly.  You pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

That price comes in the form of losing competitive advantage to your peers.  To your competitors, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys.  Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.  Here is an example of how important professional appearance can be to an organization.

Professional Appearance for Credibility

You can’t cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.  A message that emerges from a powerful presence.

This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even into the middle management years.

“I’m a rebel and exude confidence and independence!” you think, as you suit up in the current campus fashion fad.  The message received is likely much different:  “You’re a slob with no sense of proportion or clue how to dress, and I’ll never hire you.”

The best public speakers understand the power of professional appearance and mesh their dress with their message.

Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He’s a superb dresser, as are all presidents.  On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

And that’s usually the message he’s trying to convey in such dress: “Let’s get the job done . . . Let’s work together.”

Politics, Schmolitics . . .  He’s a Sharp Dresser

You will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.  Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, was also a sharp dresser.  Most presidents are, because image consultants know the power of a professional appearance.

They know the personal competitive advantage of an especially powerful appearance.

The lesson is that your dress ought to reinforce your message, not send conflicting signals.

Here are basic suggestions for ensuring a minimum pleasing appearance . . .

For more on an especially powerful and professional appearance, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

Bad Presentation? It’s Your Fault

Really bad presentation

That bad presentation is your fault.

You sabotaged it.

Screwed it up.

All of us sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.  And we do it through self-defeating behaviors.

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

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.

We envision humiliation, embarrassment.  Complete meltdown.

We Set Ourselves Up for Bad Presentations

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school.  That cliche is “I hate presentations.”  This culprit leads to awful presentations.  It undermines everything we strive for in business school presentations.

How can we build a positive presentation on such a spongy foundation?

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice.  Shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.

Moreover, our sour and weak attitude can infect our teammates if it happens to be a group presentation.  The negative spiral down means 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 negativity?

Do You Think Like a World-Class Athlete?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body.  Visualizing success is a technique they use to prepare for competition.  I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques.

All of these experts agree that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Let’s leave aside the specific techniques and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century.  Let’s just say now that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk.  Let’s give ourselves a fighting chance of success at delivering a good presentation.  Even a great presentation.

Bad Presentation
Stop Negative Self-talk and Fix that Bad Presentation

So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?  It could be the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation.  This ignorance means uncertainty of performance.

This ignorance and uncertainty breed fear.

It’s this fear of the unknown that drives up anxiety and can result in a bad presentation.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction.

And we can reduce uncertainty through preparation and by controlling 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 rely on 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.  It weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt.  And it ends in a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we focus.  We charge forward boldly, presenting with masterful aplomb and professionalism.  With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety.  We wring them dry from our psychic fabric.

We eliminate the bad presentation.

The right kind of preparation allows us to deal with unknowns that nettle us.

Positive self-talk is essential to preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.

Find more on how to eliminate the bad presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Develop Professional Presence

professional presence for competitive advantageProfessional presence in the business presentation is the source of its power.

I should say potential power.  For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited.

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.

Forfeiture of Power

Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.

What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.  It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice.  It’s what they sense on a subliminal level.  That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.

Here, Paulson describes the impact of professional presence.  Entire books have been written on how to develop professional presence, and I reference one here by Peggy Noe Stevens.

Professional presence is the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.

You become part of the message.  You exert your unique talents and strengths to create a powerful professional presence.

You become charismatic.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background.  Now we have naked information overflow.  We see pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with this.  They don’t mind becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background.  And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.  They don’t want to be compared to you and your extraordinary presentation skills.  They would rather compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.  Terms other than professional presence.

Become an automaton, and you cede important personal competitive advantage.

You become like everyone else.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.  Without that champion – without that powerful professional presence – a presentation is an empty shell.

It becomes an incredibly bad communication exercise and an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.

The Secret of Professional Presence

Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.  Gone is the skilled public speaker, an especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, and convincing.

Gone is Quintilian’s ideal orator:  “The good man, well-spoken.”

We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter.  A presenter commanding the facts and delivering compelling arguments.  A presenter using all the tools at his or her disposal.

This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.

You can fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd.  Or you can seize the moment.  You can develop your presentation skills to contribute to a charismatic professional presence.

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter with a premium personal brand?  Why not seize the incredible personal competitive advantage of professional presence?

To develop professional presence through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Respect Your Audience for Presentation Power

Respect your audience and your earn their respect
Respect your audience and you earn their respect

Always speak to the people in your audience in ways that move them – respect your audience.

Speak to your listeners in their language and to their needs.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

“Respect Your Audience” Seems Easy

That’s the paradox.

We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.

We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear.  We speak in language that gives us comfort.

Then we blame the audience if they don’t “get it.”

Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why folks have gathered to hear the message.  Often, a business presenter may offer an off-the-shelf message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it.  She ignores the precept respect your audience.

The Curse of Hubris

Paradoxically, this occurs often when men and women of power and accomplishment address large groups of employees or conference attendees.  Infused with the power and sometime hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.

But it doesn’t.

They don’t prepare.  They offer standard tropes.  They rattle off cliches.  They pull out blandishments.  And they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.

What he says and the way he says it, whatever it was, becomes gospel.

But the presentation emperor has no clothes.  He does not follow the precept of respect your audience.

Contempt?  Close to It

What we actually witness from presenters of this type is a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by speakers disregards the audience.  It shows contempt for the time of people gathered to listen.

For instance, last year a successful young entrepreneur spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea and then pitching that idea to venture capitalists.  His idea was tremendously successful and, as I understood him, he sold it for millions.

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.

What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

Just a few moments’ thought makes clear how pedestrian this is.  What does it truly mean?  You need a millionaire entrepreneur to tell you this?

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.  Did this fellow follow the respect your audience mantra?  I think not.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.

It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.  And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  Speak to your listeners as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

We gain by following the respect your audience mantra.

Conversely, we all can learn from the people we meet and the speakers we listen to, even the bad ones.

For more on how to respect your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Personal Competitive Advantage in Business Presentations

Appearance for Personal Competitive Advantage
Cultivate a Powerful Image for Personal Competitive Advantage

Let’s move from the realm of what you do and say in front of your business presentation audience to how you appear to your audience . . . an important source of personal competitive advantage.

Your appearance can cultivate this advantage.  So right now let’s dismiss the notion that “it doesn’t matter what I look like . . . it’s the message that counts.”

This is so wrong-headed and juvenile that you can turn this to immediate advantage.  You can adopt the exact opposite perspective right now and steal a march on the competition.  Most folks your age won’t go that route, particularly those stuck in liberal arts.

It’s much more dramatic to deliver a mythic blow for “individuality” than to conform to society’s diktats, eh?

Take the Smart Fork

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

Here is the upshot.  Presentation appearance matters a great deal.  It’s up to us to dress and groom appropriate to the occasion and appropriate to our personal brand and to the message we want to send.

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

Is that “fair?”

It’s fair for Personal Competitive Advantage

It certainly is fair!  You may simply not like it.  It may clang upon your youthful sensibilities.

But here’s the deal . . .   You’re on display in front of a group of buyers.  They want to know if your message is credible.  Your appearance conveys cues to your audience.  It can convey one of two chief messages, with little wiggle room between them.

Personal Competitive Advantage can be yoursFirst, your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are:  Sharp, focused, detailed, careful, bold, competent, prudent, innovative, loyal, energetic . . .

Or . . .

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

Moreover, you may never know when you are actually auditioning for your next job.  So it pays to burnish your personal brand all the time to achieve the much-coveted personal competitive advantage.

That presentation you decided to “wing” with half-baked preparation and delivered in a wrinkled suit was awful.  It might have held in the audience a human resource professional recommended to you by a friend.  But you blew the deal.  Without even knowing it.

Think.

Don’t Eliminate Yourself from Contention

How many powerful people mentally cross you off their list because of your haphazard appearance?  How many opportunities pass you by?  How many great connections do you forfeit?

Granted, it’s up to your discretion to dress in the first wrinkled shirt you pull from the laundry basket.  But recognize that you may be paying a price without even knowing it.The Brand called your for Personal Competitive Advantage

Your appearance on the stage contributes or detracts from your message.  So, as a general rule, you should dress one half-step above the audience to convey a seriousness of purpose.

For instance, if the audience is dressed in business casual (sports coat and tie), you dress in a suit.  Simple.

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

Both of these books are worth the price.  They contain the right kind of advice to propel you into delivering Powerful Presentations enhanced by a superb professional appearance.

For more on developing especially powerful personal competitive advantage by way of your business presentations, consult my own book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Business Case Competition – Winning

Business Case Competition for Personal Competitive Advantage

I helped to judge a series of business presentations in a business case competition earlier this week, and I offer here several observations.

The case in question involved financial analysis and required a recommended course of action.

In terms of presentation substance, I find these types of finance-based competitions of high caliber, with fine-grained and sophisticated analysis.

And I expect it . . . these are top-notch MBA students with work experience and especially powerful motivation to not only invest in a rigorous MBA program but to put their skills to the test publicly in the fire of business case competition.

The Finance Business Case Competition

My colleagues, who specialize in the wizardry of finance, ensure that no idle comment goes unchallenged, no misplaced decimal escapes detection.  That no unusual explanation goes unexplored.

At the higher-level finals competition, this fine-toothed comb catches few errors . . . because few errors exist to be caught.  These are top-notch students, imbued with a passion for the artistry of a company’s financial structure and operations.  Along this dimension, the teams are relatively well-matched.

But stylistically, much remains to improve.

And if you believe that  “style” is somehow unimportant, you err fatally with regard to the success of your presentation.

By style, I mean all of the orchestrated elements of your business presentation that combine to create the desired outcome – emotional involvement with your message, a compelling story, and acceptance of your conclusions – all explained in an especially powerful way that transmits competence and confidence.  And in this sense, style becomes substance in a business case competition.

So, while the substantive content level of the top teams in competition is often superb, style differentiates the finest from the rest and can determine the competition winner.

To enter that top rank of presenters, note these common pathologies that afflict most teams of presenters, both MBA students and young executives.

1)  Throat-clearing

I don’t mean actual clearing of the throat here.  Unfortunately, many teams engage in endless introductions, expressions of gratitude to the audience, even chattiness with regard to the task at hand.  Get to the point.  Immediately.  State your business.

Deliver a problem statement . . . and then your recommendation, up-front.  With this powerful introductory method, your presentation takes on more clarity in the context of your already-stated conclusion.

2)  Lack of confidence

Lack of confidence is revealed in several ways, some of them subconscious.  Uptalk, a fad among young people, undermines even the best substance because of its constant plaintive beg for validation.  Dancing from foot to foot, little dances around the platform, the interjection of “you know” and “you know what I mean” wear away the power of your message like a whetstone.

3)  Unreadable PowerPoint slides

The visuals are unreadable because of small fonts and insufficient contrast between numbers/letters and the background.  Ugly spreadsheets dominate the screen to no purpose.  This sends the audience scrambling to shuffle through “handouts” instead of focusing attention on the points you want to emphasize.  You have created a distraction.  You have created a competitor for your attention that takes focus off your presentation.

4)  Ineffective interaction with visuals

Rare is the student who interacts boldly with his or her slides.  Touching the screen, guiding our eyes to what is important and ensuring that we understand.  Instead, we often see the dreaded laser pointer, one of the most useless tools devised for presentation work (unless the screen is so massive that you cannot reach an essential visual that must be pointed out).

The laser pointer divides your audience attention three ways – to the presenter, to the slide material, and to the light itself, which tends to bounce uncontrollably about the screen.  I forbid the use of laser pointers in my classes as a useless affectation.

I have said that the business case competition no time for modesty or mediocrity.

The Business Case Competition is your chance to demonstrate a wide range of corporate business skills in a collaborative effort.  You receive recognition, valuable experience, sometimes monetary reward, and perhaps an open door to corporate employment.

Work on correcting the most common errors, and you have started the journey to competition excellence.

See The Complete Guide to Business Presenting for an entire chapter on winning case competitions.

Winning the Business Case Competition

The Business Case Competition builds skillsTomorrow, I judge a series of presentations in a business case competition.

This is where students bring to bear all of their business acumen in a public demonstration of their abilities to collaborate across a range of sub-disciplines in business.

This includes finance, marketing, operations, accounting, and strategy.

It is a tough but necessary rite of passage for the best of students.  I look forward to the presentations and will review them in this space later in the week.

As a precursor, let me explain the concept of a business case competition and its parameters.

The Business Case Competition

The business case competition is an event in which business teams deliver business presentations, competing against other teams in front of a team of judges.  Teams display how quickly, thoroughly, and skillfully they can ingest a case, analyze it, and then present their conclusions and recommendations to a panel of judges.

Business case competitions vary greatly in the details, and they are quite similar to business plan competitions.  They do have a standard format and purpose.

The idea behind such competitions Business Case Competition Question and Answeris to provide a standard case to competing teams with a given time limit and then to rate how well the teams respond with analysis, recommendations, and a presentation of same.

Each team is judged independently how well it handles the assigned case and presents its analysis and recommendations.

All teams compete under the same conditions of time limit and specific rules.

Competitions can be internal to the Business School or involve teams from several different schools.

At times, teams engage in several rounds of competition, with the final round typically judged by outside company executives.

No Time for Modesty or Mediocrity

The Case Competition is your chance to demonstrate a wide range of corporate business skills in a collaborative effort.  You receive recognition, valuable experience, sometimes monetary reward, and perhaps an open door to corporate employment.  The competition is a showcase for your skills.

You can also win anywhere from $1,000 to $75,000 in a single business case competition.

Click for more information on how to deliver Especially Powerful Business School Presentations and learn the key secret techniques of how to win the business case competition.

Improve Your Speaking Voice

Improve your speaking voice for powerful presentations
Improve your speaking voice for powerful presentations

You can improve your speaking voice to become a first-rate business presenter, but you must first accept that you can and should improve it.

Some folks get skittish and think the voice they have now is somehow “natural” and should not be tinkered with.

No, your voice isn’t  “natural” in any meaningful sense.  In fact, its qualities are likely the result of years of chaotic development and influence from many factors.

Why not seize control of that development process and begin to improve  your speaking voice today?

Improve Your Speaking Voice

Face it – some voices sound good and others sound bad.  And all sorts of voices fit in-between.

Here are some of the most awful and yet ubiquitous problems that plague speakers.

Let’s call them “verbal tics.”  They are nothing more than bad habits born of  unconscious neglect and chaotic voice development over years of influence from sources as disparate as television, radio, parents, and peers.

They eat away at your credibility.  Recognize them as corrosive factors that leech your presentations of their power.  They are easily corrected.

Here are four deal-breaking verbal tics . . .

Vocal Fry – This unfortunate verbal gaffe comes at the end of sentences and is caused by squeezing out insufficient air to inflate the final word of the sentence.  The result is a grinding or grating sound on the last word.

Primarily a phenomenon that affects females, its most famous male purveyor is President Bill Clinton, whose grating voice with its Arkansas accent became a trademark.  Clinton was so incredibly good along the six other dimensions by which we adjudge great speaking that he turned his vocal fry into an advantage and part of his universally recognizable persona.

This tic is likely a manifestation of 1970s “valley girl” talk or “Valspeak.”  Vocal Fry is manifested by a creaking and grating on the last word or syllable.

It actually appears to be a fashionable way to speak in some circles, pinching off the last word of a sentence into a grating, grinding fade.  As if a  frog is croaking in the throat.  As if someone has thrown sand into the voice box.

When combined with “cartoon voice,” it can reach unbearable scale for an audience.

Verbal Down-tic – This is also called the “falling line.”  This is an unfortunate speaking habit of inflecting the voice downward at the end of every sentence, letting the air rush from the lungs in a fading expulsion, as if each sentence is a labor.

The last syllables of a word are lost in breath.  The effect is of exhaustion, depression, resignation, even of impending doom.

The Verbal Down-tic leeches energy from the room.  It deflates the audience.  In your talk, you have too many things that must go right than needlessly to create a gloom in the room.

Verbal Sing-Song – The voice bobs and weaves artificially, as if the person is imitating what they think a speaker ought to sound like.  Who knows what inspires people to talk this way, usually only in public speaking or presenting.

It’s an affectation, and if you find yourself affecting a style or odd mannerism because you think you ought to, it’s probably wrong.

Uptalk – This heinous affectation is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.”  Uptalk is an unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked.  If you could choose only one thing to change to improve your speaking voice, this would be it.  Uptalk is so corrosive to credibility that correcting this one pathology can transform a weak presentation and how it is received by a skeptical audience.

It radiates weakness and uncertainty and conveys the mood of unfinished business, as if something more is yet to come.

Sentence after sentence in succession spoken as if questions.

You create a tense atmosphere with the verbal up-tic that is almost demonic in its effect.  This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness.

At its worst, your audience wants to cover ears and cry “make it stop!” but they aren’t quite sure at what they should vent their fury.

In certain places abroad, this tic is known as the Australian Questioning Intonation, popular among young Australians.  The Brits are less generous in their assessment of this barbarism, calling it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.

Speech coach Susan Miller superbly describes these speech pathologies and offers remedies for both vocal fry and uptalk here.

These are the tics and gaffes that destroy our presenting.  Recognizing them is half-way to correcting them

For more tips to improve your speaking voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

King, Jobs, Aristotle and the Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long history

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

Aristotle . . .

These three quite different men shared a respect for the power of the spoken word.

The power to persuade.

What is Rhetoric?  Do We Care?

Twenty-three centuries ago, Aristotle gave us the means to deliver powerful business presentations.  The best speakers know this, either explicitly or instinctively.

We all owe a debt to Aristotle for his powerful treatise on persuasive public speaking Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the function of discovering the means of persuasion for every case.  These means of persuasion are delivered as a form of art.  Aristotle identified the three necessary elements for powerful and persuasive presentations – the ethos or character of the speaker, the attitude of the audience, and the argument itself.

The persuasive presentation

And the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

First, rhetoric can prevent the triumph of fraud and injustice.  Second, it can instruct when scientific argument doesn’t work.  Third, it compels us to act out both sides of a case.  When you can argue the opposite point, you are best armed to defeat it.  Finally, it is a powerful means of defense when your opponent attacks.

As modern college texts wallow in the fever swamp of “communication theory,” Aristotle’s Rhetoric offers us a crystalline tool of power and efficacy – a sure guide to the proper techniques in business presenting.

Modern Persuasive Presentations

Two men as different as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs understood the power of rhetoric to inspire people to action.  Dr. King for the transformation of society . . . Steve Jobs for the revolutionizing of six different technology industries.

Dr. King used one particular rhetorical technique that has become the touchstone of his legacy – his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” during his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  This technique is called the anaphora.  It involves the repetition for effect of a key phrase during a presentation.  Dr. King ensured that the Dream of which he spoke would be the emotive catalyst for action.

The anaphora is part of what Aristotle recognized as art in rhetoric and is an advantage that rhetoric has over straight “scientific” expository speech in calling people to action.

Dr. King recognized the emotive power of rhetoric, and it is this power that can move listeners to action when pure logic cannot.

The persuasive presentation

A Different Venue

Steve Jobs, too, utilized the technique for a different purpose, a much more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.  For example:

“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle.”

The anaphora is just one example of an especially powerful rhetorical technique.  It can imbue your business presenting with persuasiveness.  And there’s more . . . so much more available to you.

Business Presentation expert Nancy Duarte provides a comprehensive list of 16 rhetorical devices that Jobs used for his business presentations.  Devices that you can use as well.

When we understand the power of rhetoric and how that power is achieved, it transforms us into more capable and competent business presenters.

Perhaps not as transcendent as Dr. Martin Luther King, but certainly especially powerful presenters in our own bailiwicks.

For more on the persuasive presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Gangnam Style Presentation

Gangnam style Presentation Can elevate your own show
Gangnam Style Presentation is extreme, but instructive

Here’s a presenter who carefully follows the Three Ps of business presenting and quite obviously succeeds at his performance in a Gangnam Style Presentation.

The Three Ps, of course, are:  Principles . . . Preparation . . . and Practice.

The presenter calls himself Psy.

In this Gangnam Style presentation, Psy engages the Seven Secrets of presenting – the principles of Voice, Expression, Gesture, Appearance, Stance, Passion, and Movement – for a stunning performance.  Note that the acronym formed by those seven words is appropriate to this particular presentation:

VEGAS PM.

Applying the Three Ps

Moreover, while Psy exhibits incredible professional presence, he doesn’t rely solely on his charisma to carry his presentation.  He and his support team prepared meticulously for this performance, and they’ve obviously practiced much.

The presenter engages his audience, gives them exactly what they expected to receive, and encourages audience participation.

He exhibits tremendous focus on his main point, repeating his main point several times so that it isn’t lost – otherwise known as his song’s chorus – and he uses the same repeated choral movement to emphasize visually his song’s chorus.

View this Gangnam Style Presentation with these precepts in mind.

 

The comparison to superb business presenting is by no means a reach.

When you present, you give your audience a show.  Accordingly, you should prepare your show according to principles almost identical to those used by any stage performer.

You might not expect the kind of crazed enjoyment of your business presentation exhibited by the audience in the video (and I congratulate you if you achieve it).  But you can apply the precepts of presenting to meet your audience expectations, engage your listeners, and drive home your main point with repetition and focus.

Deliver a Gangnam Style Presentation

You can thoroughly prepare and practice your presentation, just as any worthy stage performer does.  Respect for your audience and your message demands no less than that you employ the Three Ps of business presenting.

Do this consistently, and you increase your personal competitive advantage tremendously as someone known for capable and competent business presenting.

For more on Gangnam Style business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secrets of Strategic Thinking Skills – VIDEO

Strategic thinking skills

Are there secrets to Strategic Thinking?

Yes . . . and no.

They aren’t secrets if you know them.  And they are not magical.  They are quite mundane in fact, and this disappoints folks who believe that “secrets” ought to carry the heft of incantation.

The real secret of Strategic Thinking Skills is implementing a program for thinking strategically in both our personal and professional lives.

And like so many other things . . . following through on that program.

Strategic Thinking Skills for Competitive Advantage

This takes discipline, and sometimes it takes courage.  The payoff is increased personal competitive advantage, and who wouldn’t want more of that?

As you develop a keen sense of strategy, you may find that your perspective on the world has undergone profound transformation as you begin to see patterns and routines, to identify categories, and to sense the broader macro-shifts in your own particular correlation of forces.  You gain clarity.  You begin to see the fog of uncertainty begin to clear.

By adopting combinations of techniques and tools of analysis, and by seizing a substantial role in developing your circumstances, you improve your chances of achieving your objectives.

This is the great gift of strategic thinking:  clarity and efficacy of action in a forever changing and chaotic world.

In this interview on the Goldstein on Gelt show, I touch on several useful precepts of strategic thinking.  It’s enough to get started for 2013 . . .

 

Earnestness, for an Especially Powerful Business Presentation

 Earnestness, for a Powerful Business Presentation
Be earnest . . . for a Powerful Business Presentation

“Earnestness” is a word that we neither hear much nor use much these days.

That’s a shame.

Because the word captures much of what makes for an especially powerful business presentation.

Edwin Dubois Shurter was a presenting master in the early 20th Century, and he said way back in 1903 that:

“Earnestness is the soul of oratory.  It manifests itself in speech by animation, wide-awakeness, strength, force, power, as opposed to listlessness, timidity, half-heartedness, uncertainty, feebleness.”

What was true then is surely true today.

And yet, “earnestness” is frowned upon.  Perhaps some think it somehow “uncool.”

Showing Too Much Interest?

It is uncool to show interest, because . . .   If you appear too interested in something, and then you somehow are perceived as having failed, then your business presentation “defeat” is doubly ignominious.

Better to pretend you don’t care.

So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance.  So that no defeat is too damaging.  And you can save your cool.  You save your best – your earnestness – for something else.

For your friends, for your sports contests, for your facebook status updates.  For your pizza discussions, for your intramural softball team . . .

But this also means that all of your presentation victories, should ever you score one or two, are small victories.  Meager effort yields acceptable results in areas where only meager effort is required.

Strive for the Powerful Business Presentation

Mediocrity is the province of the lazy and nonchalant.  The sin of the insouciant.

Shurter was a keen observer of presentations and he recognized the key role played by earnestness in a successful presentation:  “When communicated to the audience, earnestness is, after all is said and done, the touchstone of success in public speaking, as it is in other things in life.”

Earnestness means wrapping your material in you.

Embracing your topic.

This means giving a powerful business presentation that no one else can give, one that no one else can copy.  Because it arises from your essence, your core.

It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject.  It means recognizing that the subject of your presentation could be the love of someone else’s life, whether it be their business or their product or their service – you should make it yours when you present.

In the process, you craft your persona, your powerful personal brand that differentiates you from the great hoi-polloi of undistinguished speakers.  And you achieve remarkable personal competitive advantage.

Embrace your topic with earnestness, and you will shine as you deliver an especially powerful business presentation.

For more on the power of earnestness and the key to delivering a powerful business presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Stand in a Presentation

How to stand in a presentation You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation.

You achieve this goal with a number of techniques, all working simultaneously and in harmony.

Those techniques comprise our backpack full of Seven Secrets.

Your first technique – or secret – is fundamental to projecting the image of strength, competence, and confidence.  This first technique is assumption of the proper stance.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

Let me preface by assuring you that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, the first step in learning how to stand in a presentation.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?  Have you ever consciously thought about it?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others nonverbally.

Know How to Stand in A Presentation

You send a message to those around you, and those around us will take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.  Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just wHow to Stand in a Presentationhat is the message you unconsciously send people?

Have you even thought about it?  Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Seize control of your communication this instant.  There is no reason not to.  And there are many quite good reasons why you should.

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  They form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

The importance of knowing how to stand in a presentation has been acknowledged for centuries.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.How to Stand in a Presentation

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.  There is another effect, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.  It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.  We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic.  Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.

Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing 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.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders. Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.

It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

For more on how to stand in a presentation and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

3-D Business Presentations

business presentations for power and impact
Deliver a 3-D Business Presentation

How can you enrich your business presentation in unexpected and wonderful ways?

To deepen and broaden your perspective so that in encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?

Become a 3-D presenter.

Now, this means several things, including how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage.  But a major component is the exercising of your mind.

And I talk about that here.

Your Learning Curve

It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.  You become learned in new and wondrous ways.

Think of it as enlarging your world.

You increase your reservoir of usable material.  And your business presentation can connect more readily with varied audiences.

You do this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.  By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.  And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily.

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind.  Or allows you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.

Expand Your World to Expand Your Business Presentations

By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty, and by rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.

Read a book outside your specialty.  Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.  Dabble a bit in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.

It also means sampling some of the best offerings in the blogosphere on business presentations.

For instance, my three favorite PowerPoint gurus are Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, and Gene Zelazny.  Sample their online work . . . purchase their books, as I have.

Their works are invaluable tools of my trade.  If you become a serious business presenter, they’ll become your friends, too.

No Cloistering!

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world, forgetting that other fields can offer insights.  For myself, while teaching in the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University, I am also sitting in on a course sponsored by another university’s History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience this promises to be:  Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

Does this help in preparing my own classes?  At this point, I can’t be certain.

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

I do know that it will enrich my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue  in 3-dimensional fashion, connected to the “real world.”  They are textured, deep, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

It will do the same for your business presentations.  And it will likely aid in your developing into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence and increased personal competitive advantage.

For more on how to develop and deliver especially powerful business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Powerful Presentation Words: “This means that . . .”

Powerful Presentation Words can transform your show

“This means that . . .”

These three powerful presentation words hold incredible promise and potential for your business presentation.

And yet they go missing more often than not.

These three powerful presentation words can transform the most mundane laundry-list presentation into a clear and compelling tale.

The Most Obvious Thing . . .

One of the biggest problems I see with student business presentations is the hesitancy to offer analysis and conclusions.  Instead, I see slide after slide of uninterpreted information.

Numbers.

Pie-charts.

Facts.

Lots of reading from the slide by the slide-reader-in-chief.

Raw data or seemingly random information is offered up just as it was found in the various consulted sources.

This may be because young presenters receive little instruction on how to synthesize information in a presentation segment into a cogent expression of “Why this is important.”

As a result, these presentations present the illusion of importance and gravitas.  They look like business presentations.  They sound like business presentations.

But something’s missing.

The audience is left with a puzzle.Powerful Presentation Words are like magic

The audience is left to figure it out for themselves.

The audience is left to figure out what it all means.  Left to interpret the data, to judge the facts.

In other words, the presentation is subject to as many interpretations as there are audience members.

Does this sound like a formula for a persuasive and powerful presentation that issues a firm call-to-action?

Of course not.  This is a failed presentation.

You know it, and it seems obvious.  But still, I see it more often than not.

If you find yourself in this fix, delivering ambiguous shows that draw no conclusions, you can remedy this with three little powerful presentation words at the end of each segment of your presentation.

“This means that . . .”

How Powerful Presentation Words Work

At the end of your explication of data or information, you say something like this:

“This means that, for our company, the indicators displayed here suggest a more aggressive marketing plan than what we’re doing now.”

Or this:

“These figures indicate that more vigilance is needed in the area of credit risk.  For our department, this means that we must hire an additional risk analyst to accommodate our heightened exposure.”

See what this does?

You hand the audience the conclusion and recommendation that you believe is warranted.  You don’t assume that the audience will get it.  You don’t leave it to your listeners to put the puzzle together.

That’s what you are paid to do in your presentation.

You are tasked with fulfilling the promise and potential of your presentation.  Don’t shrink from this task.

Instead . . . relish it.

Try it.

If you do, this means that you will invest your presentation with power, clarity, and direction.

For more powerful presentation words, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Your Silver Bullet Skill . . . ENCORE!

The Choice is Yours to Acquire the Silver Bullet Skill

If you discovered that there was one thing – one skill – you could learn that would immeasurably increase your chances of getting a great job after graduation, wouldn’t that be great?

What would you think of that?  Too good to be true?

And what if you discovered that this skill is something that you can develop to an especially powerful level in just a handful of weeks?

What would that be worth to you?

Worth How Much?

Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?  Think of it – a skill you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life.

A skill that few people take seriously.

A skill that is in high demand by America’s corporations.

Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively, logically, comfortably, clearly, and cogently.  This is why corporate recruiters rate the ability to communicate more desirable in candidates than any other trait or skill.

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Silver Bullet Skill

And this is the silver bullet you’ve always sought.

You, as a business student or young executive, gain personal competitive advantage vis-à-vis your peers, simply by taking presenting seriously.  You gain incredible advantage by embracing the notion that you should and can become an effective and capable business presenter.

In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker, you become one.

And the task is not as difficult as you imagine, although it isn’t easy, either.

You actually have to change the way you do things.  This can be tough.  Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves.  The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves.

Off the shelf.  In a box.

This doesn’t work.  Not at all.

You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.  You already carry it with you.

But . . .

But you will have to change.

Powerful Presenting Skills can lift you into the High-demand Skill Zone

This is about transformation.  Transformation of the way we think, of the way we view the world, of the lens through which we peer at others, of the lens through which we see ourselves.

It is a liberating window on the world.  And it begins with your uniqueness.

No, this is not esteem-building snake-oil.  It is a quite cool observation.  I am not in the business of esteem-building, nor do I toil in the feel-good industry.  If you had to affix a name to it, you could say that I am in the business of esteem-discovery.

So you are unique, and your realization of this and belief in this uniqueness is utterly essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.

But given the tendency of modernity to squelch your imagination, to curtail your enthusiasm, to limit your vision, and to homogenize your appearance and your speech, you have probably abandoned the notion of uniqueness as the province of the eccentric.  Perhaps you prefer to “fit in.”

Some truths can be uncomfortable.  Often, truths about ourselves are uncomfortable, because if we acknowledge them, we then obligate ourselves to change in some way.

But in this case, the truth is liberating.

Your Shrinking World . . . Reverse the Process

Recognize that you dwell in a cocoon.  Barnacles of self-doubt, conformity, and low expectations attach themselves to you, slowing you down as barnacles slow an ocean liner.

Recognize that in four years of college, a crust of mediocrity may well have formed on you.  And it is, at least partially, this crust of mediocrity that holds you back from becoming a powerful presenter.

Your confidence in yourself has been leeched away by a thousand interactions with people who mean you no harm and, yet, who force you to conform to a standard, a lowest common denominator.

People who shape and cramp and restrict your ability to deliver presentations.  They lacquer over your innate abilities and force you into a dull conformity.

Your world has shrunk incrementally, and if you do not push it out, it will close in about you and continue to limit you.

Your most intimate acquaintances can damage you if they have low expectations of you.  They expect you to be like them.

They resent your quest for knowledge and try to squelch it.

Beware of people who question you and your desires and your success.  I suggest that you question whether these people belong in your life.

Yes, you are unique, and in the quest for business presentation excellence, you discover the power of your uniqueness.  You strip away the layers of modern mummification. You chip away at those crusty barnacles that have formed over the years without your even realizing it.

It’s time to express that unique power in ways that support you in whatever you want to do.

For more on developing your uniqueness as a presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Power Posing: “I feel especially powerful today!”

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 confident stance.  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.

Body Language
Power 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 is 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, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, 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.

Turn Negative Energy into Positive with Power Posing

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 a critical 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.  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.

How to Recover when you Lose Train of Thought

Lose train of thought?
When you lose train of thought, Consider the Venerable Chin-Scratch

You’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 and 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 posture.

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:  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 can bail 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 Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.