Category Archives: Confidence

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.

Improve Business Presentation Skills for Power and Impact

Improve business presentation
Improve business presentation skills in a continuous program

When students decide to improve business presentation skills, they often make invidious comparisons that they ought to shun.

They compare themselves to some great speaker whom they admire . . . and they fret that they somehow don’t measure up.  They suspect that they never will.

They fret that they “could never speak like that.”  That the admired speaker has some kind of “natural born talent” that lifts her or him into the rarefied atmosphere of great-speakerdom.

Such comparisons lead inevitably to self-defeat.  They frustrate the motivated student, and they give excuse to the lazy.

They give up and relegate presenting to that professional punishment corner reserved for distasteful tasks that must be occasionally performed.

Now . . . forget those invidious comparisons.

A much more important question begs answer.

Is Your Trajectory True?

What’s your trajectory?  Your presentation trajectory?

Are you improving?  Staying the same?

Getting worse?

Your trajectory is most important, not how “good” you are compared to your speaking luminary of choice.

There is no such destination yardstick against which we measure ourselves.  Really.

There is only the presentation journey.

How to Improve Business Presentation Skills?

With regard to our presenting, there is only one metric by which we should evaluate ourselves, and that metric is Improvement.

Are we getting better?  Are we communicating more persuasively than before?

Through our striving, our patience and practice, through our research and rehearsal.  Bit by bit, are we improving our craft?

Answer yes to these questions, keep your trajectory true, and you are on your way to becoming an especially powerful business presenter.

For more on how to improve business presentation skills across a range of metrics, consult the USABookNews Best Business Career Book of 2012, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Scourge of Cartoon Speaking Voice!

Cartoon voice is a pathology
Reality TV mimicry is a formula for Business Presentation Failure

No, I’ve never heard you speak or deliver a presentation, but judging from what I hear in the classroom, in the elevator, on the subway, and in the campus coffee shops, the odds are good that your speaking voice is pinched and smaller than it ought to be.

This results from many influences in our popular culture that, within the last decade or so, have urged on us a plaintive, world-weary whine as voice-of-choice.

High-pitched.  Small.  Weak.  Unpleasant.  Pinched.  Nasal.

Raspy.

A voice from reality television.

A cartoon voice.

Cartoon Speaking Voice

The cartoon speaking voice is more prevalent than you might imagine.

It is sometimes called the puberphonic voice, and this is not meant as a compliment.

Several reasonably-known celebrities have cartoon speaking voices, and they usually dwell in the wasteland of daytime television.

One cartoon voice belongs to someone called Kelly Ripa, who participates on a show called “Live with Regis and Kelly.”  This ABC Network television program, an abysmal daytime offering, serves up Ms. Ripa not for her voice, but for other attributes.

This show is worth watching, once, if only to hear Ms. Ripa’s slam-on-the-brakes whine.

Two other champions of the squeaky, whiney cartoon voice are people who appear to have achieved a degree of questionable fame for all of the wrong reasons:  Kim Kardashian and Meghan McCain, who appear on television for some reason unknown to all but the producers of the shows they inhabit.  Commonly called “divas,” their voices are barely serviceable for even routine communication.

Granted, these young women are not delivering business presentations, but their negative influence has infected an entire generation of young people who do deliver presentations.  They embody all that is wrong with regard to delivering powerful presentations.  If this sounds harsh, it is meant to be.  They exhibit habitual pathologies of the worst sort.

Where do these people learn to speak this way, in this self-doubting, self-referential, endlessly qualified grinding whine?

One culprit appears to be the Disney Channel, inculcating a new generation of young folks into the practice of moron-speak.  As well, numerous other popular young adult shows occupy the lowest rung of the speech food chain, passing on lessons in weak voice and poor diction.

Reality TV Infests Everything

Most anywhere, you can hear people who talk this way.  They surround us.

Next time you stand in line at the convenience store, listen to the people around you.  Focus on the voices.  Listen for the trapped nasal sound, the whine of precious self-indulgence.  Or the sound of a voice rasping across vocal cords at the end of every sentence.  A voice fry that has no force.  No depth.

A voice you could swat away as you would backhand a fly.

I often hear this cartoon speaking voice in the elevator as I commute between my office and classrooms.  Elevator conversations are often sourced from lazy, scratchy voices.  These voices are ratcheted tight in the voice box with barely enough air passed across the vocal cords.  What do I mean by this?

Let’s have an example.  Two young ladies entered my elevator the other day (any day, really), and one chattered to the other about her “boyfriend” and his despicable antics on “Facebook.”  It was heinous.

Cartoon Speaking Voice is a professional killer
Cartoon Speaking Voice goes with Uptalk

I shifted eyes to the owner of this raspy voice whose favorite word in the English language was quite evidently “like.”  Everything was “like” something else instead of actually it.  And apparently “totally” so.  Ya know?

“Like.  Like.  Like.  Totally!  Like.  Like.  Like.  Totally!  It was like . . . ummmm. . . okay . . . whatever.  Ya know what I mean?”

She fired them out in machine-gun fashion.  A verbal stutter and punctuation mark, apparently unsure of anything she was saying.  Her voice was a lab experiment of bad timbre.  It cracked and creaked along, word after squeaky word.

A pickup truck with a flat tire flopping along to the service station.

The air barely passed over her vocal cords, just enough to rattle a pile of dry sticks.  Not nearly enough air to vibrate and give pitch and tone.  No resonance came from the chest.  Her cartoon speaking voice rasped on the ears.

Every sentence spoken as a question.

Dum-Dums . . .

Two major problems surface here.  First, the cracking and grinding sound, which is at the very least, irritating.  Second, the primitive infestation of what I call “dum-dums.”

Dum-dums are moronic interjections slipped into  virtually every sentence like an infestation of termites.

“Like.  Totally!  Ya know?  Ummm.  Like.  Totally!  It was like, okay, you know . . . ya know?  Ummm.  Whatever.”

Dum-dums right off the Disney Channel.

Be honest and recognize that adults don’t speak like this.  And if you choose to speak like this, you will never be taken seriously by anyone of import considering whether to give you responsibility.  Cartoon voice peppered with Dum-dums gives the impression that you have nothing worthwhile to say, and so you fill empty air with dum-dums.

Dum-dums result from lazy thought and lazier speech.  It started on the west coast as an affectation called “Valley Speak” and has seeped into the popular culture as relentlessly as nicotine into the bloodstream.

Exaggeration?  No, it’s a voice you hear every day.

Listen for it.  Maybe it’s your voice.

Your Ticket to Failure or a Chance for Redemption

In the abstract, there is probably nothing wrong with any of this if your ambitions are of a lowest common denominator stripe.

If you’re guilty of this sort of thing, in everyday discourse you can probably get by with laziness, imprecision, and endless qualifying.  The problem arises when you move into the boardroom to express yourself in professional fashion to a group of, say, influential skeptics who wait to be impressed by the power of your ideas and how you express them.

Cartoon Speaking Voice infested with Dum-dum words – this debilitating pathological combination destroys all business presentations except one – a pitch for yet another moronic reality TV show.  You cannot deliver a credible business presentation speaking this way.  You are toast before you open your mouth.

Badly burned toast.

But the good news is that all of this is reasonably easy to correct – if you can accept that your voice and diction should be changed.

If you recognize that you have a Cartoon Speaking Voice and that you pepper your speech with dum-dums, ask yourself these questions:  Why do I talk like this?

Why can’t I utter a simple declarative sentence without inserting dum-dums along the way?  Why do all of my sentences sound like questions?  Do I really want and need to sound like this – a ditz – just because the people around me can’t express themselves except in staccato dum-dums with a cracking voice?

Sure, You Can Hang on to that Bad Voice!

Deciding to change one’s voice is a bold move that takes you out of your current cramped comfort zone.  But you don’t have to do it!

Nope, don’t change a thing!

If you recognize that you have a Cartoon Speaking Voice, and you are comfortable slathering your speech with Dum-Dums, and you see no reason to change just because someone recommends it, well then . . . keep on keepin’ on!  Sure, it’s okay for your inner circle of chatterers.  Relish it.  Hang onto it, and don’t even give a backward glance.

Let 1,000 dum-dums flourish!

But do so with the clear-eyed recognition that Dum-Dums make you sound like a moron.

You make a conscious choice.  Dum-Dums make you sound like a reality TV show lightweight unable to utter an original thought or even speak in complete sentences.  You sacrifice personal competitive advantage so that you can continue to . . . do what?

Recognize that if you want to succeed in an intensely competitive business climate, you should consider leaving Disney Channel behind.

When you want to be taken seriously in a business presentation . . . speak like an adult.

For more on improving your professional presence and rid yourself of cartoon speaking voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Move During a Business Presentation

You should move during a business presentation with power and purpose
You should move during a business presentation with power and purpose

Some of the worst presentation advice I’ve ever heard given someone is this . . .

“Move around when you talk.”

That’s it.  Nothing else.

This smacks of oral tradition and myth posing as wisdom.

“Move around when you talk.”

How Do You Move During a Business Presentation?

As with most myths, it’s based in a tiny kernel of truth.  Maybe you should “move around” when you talk.

How should you move?  We know we should.  But how?

Specifically, how does this advice help anyone to become a better presenter?  Do we roam aimlessly about the stage?  Do we roll our shoulders in isolation movements?

Do we shuffle to-and-fro?

Aimless and purposeless movement is worse than no movement at all.  The late Steve Jobs was infamous for his aimless roaming.

But wait!  Didn’t Steve Jobs “move around” when he gave his famous Apple product launch keynotes?

Indeed he did!  But you don’t have the luxury of a worshipful audience of 5,000 fanatics clamoring to see the latest technology that you plan to introduce.  You do not have 35 years of political and business capital carefully cultivated and primed.  You are not a billionaire celebrity CEO.

So you cannot learn how to move during a business presentation from a charismatic billionaire celebrity CEO who wields incredible power.

What you Do Have . . .

What you do have is the power to incorporate purposeful movement into your presentation.  When you do, you will find your presentation gains power and impact.  You make your points with vigor and confidence.

And your audience responds with the same passion that you invest.

In the video below, I suggest incorporating movement into your presentation in specific ways that enhance the power and impact of your message.  [To watch directly on Youtube, click HERE]

For more insight on how to move during a business presentation for power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Personal Competitive Advantage . . . Through Presenting

Personal Competitive Advantage Through Presenting
Especially Powerful Personal Presence

Personal presence distinguishes the business presentation as a distinctly different form of communication, and it is the source of its power.

I should say potential power.

For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited in a shameless squandering of personal competitive advantage.

Forfeiture of Personal Competitive Advantage

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.  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 has described the impact of Personal Presence.

It’s 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.

Here is where you become part of the message and bring into play your unique talents and strengths.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow and pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, communicating with and persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background, into that indistinguishable mass of grays.  And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena, and they would just as soon compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.

Become an automaton, and you cede important personal competitive advantage.  You forfeit an especially powerful opportunity.

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 presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective.

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

Rise of the Automatons

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

Absent 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, in command of the facts and delivering compelling arguments using all the tools at his or her disposal.

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

Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd.  Or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the personal competitive advantage it provides?

For  more on personal competitive advantage through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Personal Competitive Advantage – Craft Yours Now

Personal Competitive Advantage.

Business Presentations can yield Personal Competitive Advantage
Only you can build Personal Competitive Advantage that is specific to your capabilities, intentions, and resources.

It sounds incredibly beguiling.

It sounds like something we definitely ought to acquire in this competitive business world.

But what is it?

While many definitions are about, I’d say it’s that congeries of qualities, skills, experience, and brio that sets you apart from your peers in a narrow slice of your own professional bailiwick.

It’s something peculiar to yourself and your own experience.  It’s up to you to discover, build, enhance, nurture.

Personal Competitive Advantage

Personal Competitive Advantage involves consciously positioning yourself against the competition.

It’s easy to offer a laundry list of qualities that we might imagine constitutes Personal Competitive Advantage.  Charisma . . . confidence . . . style . . . panache . . . smarts.

Personal Competitive Advantage surely comprises much of that . . . maybe.  Because Advantage can vary from person to person, from field to field.

Personal Competitive Advantage
Gain Personal Competitive Advantage through a carefully crafted strategy

This frustrates folks.

I know this sounds vague, and there’s an excellent reason for it.

Only you can assess capabilities, intentions, and resources.

Only you can develop a winning Unique Selling Proposition.

And only you can then identify a winning position for you to carve out and make your own.

Many students feel cheated when they realize they must actually craft this position themselves rather than find it in a mythical “success manual.”

But craft it you must.

Here’s One Guide

One way to position yourself for personal competitive advantage is to utilize the “Four Actions Framework” developed by the authors of the business bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy.

This framework involves examining the standard metrics along which you compete in your chosen profession.  You then manipulate those metrics in four ways to yield something fresh and new.

Something attuned to your particular value offering.

Eliminate.  Reduce.  Raise.  Create.

First, Eliminate . . .

. . . decide how you compete in your particular bailiwick.  Identify the competitive metrics.

Personal Competitive Strategy
Personal Strategy for Competitive Advantage

Then, eliminate the metrics that don’t concern you or on which you are weak and see no low-cost way of improving.

Second, Reduce . . . lower emphasis on low-profile and low-value metrics.

Maintain your competitive presence on these dimensions, but only enough for credibility.

Third, Raise . . . emphasize the key metrics in your field that you believe are key success factors.  These are metrics that most people believe are substantial and essential to their own well-being.

Fourth, Create . . . innovate and create new metrics.  You thus become #1 in a new category – your own category.

Overarching all of this . . .

Inventory your present skill set, your deepest professional desires, and the raw materials now available to you.  These three factors constitute your capabilities, intentions, and resources.

Evaluate whether your capabilities, intentions, and resources are consistent.  Are they aligned with one another?  Do they have strategic fit?

Does it make sense when you eyeball it?

These are the first steps toward crafting a Personal Competitive Advantage.  Start thinking this way to lay the groundwork.

One surefire way to gain personal competitive advantage is to pledge to become an especially powerful business presenter.  In fact, it’s an open secret, very much like a football laying on the field, waiting to be picked up and run for a touchdown.

Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on gaining Personal Competitive Advantage.

Engaging Your Audience . . . Video Classic!

Engage Your Audience . . . Give your listeners what they want

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

Do your “listeners” check iPhones every few seconds?   Text?   Chat openly in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

How DO you Engage Your Audience?

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley on how to connect with an audience that seems disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Dr. Ridgley identifies a remedy for you, how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.

He also offers several tips on how to energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation produces Executive Summaries of many of the world’s great business books.  You can review CKC’s site at www.summary.com

For more on especially powerful presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Charisma puts You in the Power Zone

Presentation Charisma
Enter the Power Zone for especially powerful presentation charisma

Business Presentations are filled with paradoxes.

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

It always amazes me anew the reasons people concoct for not becoming powerful speakers.

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.

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.

No Argument Here

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

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

In my presentations to various audiences, I am often 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.

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

Ideological Objections to Presentation Charisma

Your presentation charisma
The Choice is Yours to Enter the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma

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

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 if it sounds otherwise.

She 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 do that 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.  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.

Your Comfort is Irrelevant to Presentation Charisma

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 presentation 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.

And drawing upon 25 Centuries of wisdom and practice to do so.

But some folks scowl 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.

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 toward the Power Zone of Presentation Charisma.  The path toward that rarefied world of especially powerful presenters.

For more on how to develop powerful presentation charisma, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

End Self-Sabotage . . .

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, embarassment, and complete meltdown.

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the number one 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
Confidence is one essential key to developing a powerful professional presence on the podium

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 and now that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we can 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.

In my experience, it’s this fear of the unknown that drives 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 a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we put our minds on our intent, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb and professionalism.  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 might wiggle in to 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.

Business Presentation Practice . . . Avoid these Errors

Benefits of Business Presentation Practice
The Right Kind of Practice Makes for a Much Better Presentation

One of the keys to successful and confident performance of your business presentation is practice.

The right kind of practice.

This is even more the case with a team presentation with more moving parts and variables in the mix.

The good effects of the right kind of diligent rehearsal is twofold: 1) your material is delivered in a logical, cogent fashion without stumble . . . and, 2) the practice imbues you and your team with confidence so that stage fright is reduced to a minimum and your team’s credibility is enhanced.

Benefits of Business Presentation Practice

Practice strips away the symptoms of stage fright as you concentrate on your message and its delivery rather than extraneous audience reaction to your appearance.

But you reap the benefits of practice if your practice makes sense.  This means that you practice the way you perform and avoid the two biggest rehearsal mistakes.

Mistake #1

First, do not start your presentation repeatedly, as almost all of us have done at points in our presentation careers.

Something in our psyche urges us to “start over” when we make a mistake.  When we stumble, we want a “do-over” so that we can put together a perfect rehearsal from start to finish.

But when we do this, what we are actually practicing is the “starting over.”  We become very good at “starting over” when we make a mistake.

But is that what we plan to do when we err in our actual presentation?  Start over?  No, of course not.  We don’t get to start over after evey blunder.

But that is exactly what you have practiced.

If you’ve practiced that way, what will you do when you stumble?  You won’t know what to do or how to handle the situation, since you have never practiced fighting through an error and continuing on.

You’ve practiced only one thing – starting over.

Instead of starting over when you err, practice the gliding over of “errors,” never calling attention to them.  Practice recovering from your error and minimizing it.  Perform according to the principle that regardless of what happens, you planned it.

Mistake #2

The second big mistake is practicing in front of a mirror.

Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you plan to deliver your talk to a mirror.  It’s plain creepy to watch yourself in the mirror while talking for an extended period of time.  There is nothing to be gained by rehearsing one way . . . only to do something entirely different for the actual event.

Of course, you will observe yourself in the mirror as you adjust your stance and appearance to ensure that what you feel is what people see while you present on all occasions.  But you do not practice your finished talk in front of a mirror.  This is one of the worst things you can do in your business presentation practice.

Why would you want to grow accustomed to looking at yourself present, only to be faced with an entirely different situation for the actual presentation?

That’s just bizarre.  Instead, practice in front of your roommate . . . or go to the classroom or auditorium where you’re scheduled to present.

In short, create as much of the real situation as possible ahead of time.

To ensure an especially powerful presentation every time, practice hard and repeatedly . . . but practice the right way.

For more on business presentation practice and how to prepare for your presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presenting (The Secret for Higher Waitstaff Tips)

Cicero was the greatest of Roman orators
Business presentation software such as PowerPoint wasn’t available to Cicero, and this likely was one reason he was an especially powerful presenter

Before computers.  Before television and radio.  Before loudspeakers.

Before all of our artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, there was the public speaker.

The “presenter.”

Public speaking was considered close to an art form.  Some did consider it art.

Public speaking – or the “presentation” – was the province of four groups of people:  Preachers, Politicians, Lawyers, and Actors.  The first trying to save your soul, the second to take your money, the third to save your life, the fourth to transport you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.

Skills of the Masters

Other professions utilized the proven communication skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.  These were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters, but they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.

To suck the life from “presenting.”

The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over the course of centuries.  The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument, the persuasive powers of words.

Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory, coupled with the “wrong” ideas.

Business School Presenting, the source of competitive advantage
Becoming a skilled presenter is the open secret to achieving personal competitive advantage and professional presence

In our modern 21st century smugness, we likely think that long-dead practitioners of public speaking and of quaint “elocution” have nothing to teach us.  We have adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to improve, embellish, amplify, exalt our presentation message.And yet the result has been something quite different.

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have served to supplant them. Each new advancement in technology creates another barrier between the speaker and the audience.

Today’s presenters have fastened hold of the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.

The idea is that PowerPoint has removed responsibility from you to be knowledgeable, interesting, concise, and clear.  The focus has shifted from the speaker to the fireworks, and this has led to such a decline to the point where in extreme cases the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

And in many awful cases, this is exactly what happens.  It’s almost as if the presenter becomes a member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.

You should be able to present without them.  And when you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.

In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university.  Some of them give fabulous presentations.  Most give adequate presentations.  They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.

The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.

Most students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress – they view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.  Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.

Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.

As a waiter, ask yourself:  “What special thing can I offer that my customers might be willing to pay more for?”

Your answer is obvious . . . you can offer a special and enjoyable experience for your customers.  In fact, you can make each visit to your restaurant memorable for your customers by delivering a show that sets you apart from others, that puts you in-demand.

I do not mean putting on a juggling act, or becoming a comedian, or intruding on your guests’ evening.  I do mean taking your job seriously, learning your temporary profession’s rules, crafting a presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity, and then displaying enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

Yes, heroic.  Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.

Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you’ll win every time.

I have just described a quite specific workplace scenario where effective presenting can have an immediate reward.  Every element necessary to successful presenting is present in a wait-staff restaurant situation.  The reverse is likewise true.

The principles and techniques of delivering a powerful presentation in a restaurant and in a boardroom are not just similar – they are identical.  The venue is different, the audience is different, the relationships of those in the room might be different.

But the principles are the same.

And so, back to the early practitioners of oratory and public speaking. Here is the paradox: a fabulous treasure can be had for anyone with the motivation to pluck these barely concealed gems from the ground, to sift the sediment of computerized gunk to find the gold.

Adopt the habits of the masters.  Acquire the mannerisms and the power and versatility of the maestros who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.

They and their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful presentations.

The rest of the story is found here.

CLASSIC COKE . . . Bad Presenting

A wholly unsatisfactory stance infests the business landscape, and youve seen it dozens of times.

You see it in the average corporate meeting, after-dinner talk, finance brief, or networking breakfast address.

While unrelenting positivity is probably the best approach to presentation improvement, it helps at times to see examples of what not to do, particularly when the examples involve folks of lofty stature who probably ought to know better.

If they dont know better, this is likely a result of the familiar syndrome of those closest to the boss professionally not having the guts to tell the boss he needs improvement.

Grafted to the Lectern

The speaker stands behind a lectern.  The speaker grips the lectern on either side.  The speaker either reads from notes or reads verbatim from crowded busy slides projected behind him.

You quickly recognize that the lectern serves as a crutch, and the average speaker, whether student or corporate VP, appears afraid that someone might snatch the lectern away.

Many business examples illustrate this, and youve probably witnessed many of them yourself.  Let’s take, for instance, Mr. Muhtar Kent, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca-Cola.

I have relayed this video of Mr. Kent before, but it bears repeating since it embodies so much of what is wrong with corporate presenting, both explicitly and implicitly.  And why so little improvement is possible if we attempt to mimic corporate drones.

Mr. Kent appears to be a genuinely engaging person on occasions when he is not speaking to a group.  But when he addresses a crowd of any size, something seizes Mr. Kent and he reverts to delivering drone-like talks that commit virtually every public speaking sin.

He leans on the lectern.  He hunches uncomfortably.  He squints and reads his speech from a text in front of him and, when he does diverge from his speech, he rambles aimlessly.

He wears glasses with little chains hanging from either side of the frame, and these dangle and sway and distract us, drawing our gaze in hypnotic fashion.

This Video rated PG-13 for excessive violence done to good speaking skills

In the video below, Mr. Kent delivers an October 2010 address at Yale University in which he begins badly with a discursive apology, grips the lectern as if it might run away, does not even mention the topic of his talk until the 4-minute mark, and hunches uncomfortably for the entire 38-minute speech.

Have a look . . .

 

 

Successful C-Suite businessmen and businesswomen, such as Mr. Kent, are caught in a dilemma – many of them are terrible presenters, but no one tells them so.  No one will tell them so, because there’s no upside in doing it.  Why would you tell your boss, let-alone the CEO, that he needs improvement in presenting?  Such criticism cuts perilously close to the ego.

Many business leaders believe their own press clippings, and they invest their egos into whatever they do so that it becomes impossible for them to see and think clearly about themselves.  They tend to believe that their success in managing a conglomerate, in steering the corporate elephant of multinational business to profitability, means that their skills and judgment are infallible across a range of unrelated issues and tasks.

Such as business presenting.

Mr. Kent is by all accounts a shrewd corporate leader and for his expertise received in 2010 almost $25 million in total compensation as Coca-Cola CEO and Board Chairman.  But he is a poor speaker.  He is a poor speaker with great potential.  And this is tragic, because many business leaders like Mr. Kent could become outstanding speakers and even especially powerful advocates for their businesses.

Spreading Mediocrity

But as it stands now, executives such as Mr. Kent exert an incredibly insidious influence in our schools and in the corporate world generally.  Let’s call it the “hem-of-garment” effect, where those of us who aspire to scale the corporate heights imitate what we believe to be winning behaviors.  We want to touch the hem of the garment, so-to-speak, of those whom we wish to emulate.

Because our heroes are so successful, their “style” of speaking is mimicked by thousands of young people who believe that, well, this must be how it’s done: “He is successful, therefore I should deliver my own presentations this way.”

You see examples of this at your own B-School, as in when a VP from a local insurance company shows up unprepared, reads from barely relevant slides, then takes your questions in chaotic and perhaps haughty form.  Who could blame you if you believe that this is how it should be done?  This is, after all, the unfortunate standard.

But this abysmal level of corporate business presenting offers you an opportunity . . .

You need only become an above-average speaker to be considered an especially powerful presenter.

A presenter far more powerful than Mr. Muhtar Kent or any of 500 other CEOs.

For more on especially powerful business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Malcolm X Presentation Skill

The Malcolm X presentation
Malcolm X was a powerful presenter, a passionate man of strong belief and charismatic bearing, and the Malcolm X presentation is a textbook on how to sway an audience

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way, and no better way to do it than a Malcolm X presentation.

Make it sit up straight, snap their heads in your direction.

You can do this several ways, and it’s up to you what you choose, but it should fit your audience and the topic of 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 greatest public speakers of modern times was the late Malcolm X.  His speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation.  He then mobilized his audience with an especially powerful call to action.

His techniques are so powerful that he deserves a category all his own.

And so I coin what I call the Malcolm X Presentation.

The Malcolm X Presentation

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator who drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.  His charisma was unquestioned and it grew organically from the wellspring of passion that he invested in his cause and in every speech.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  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.

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.

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

The Malcolm X Presentation
The Malcolm X Presentation used word pictures and various other rhetorical techniques to stir his audiences to action

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.

They sputter with stale phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or giving 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.  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 will leaven 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 and layed out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He establishes a mood of confidentiality and rapport.  He then states boldly – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

No Chit-Chat  in a Malcolm X Presentation

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 important 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.  He focused on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes.

He framed the issue in colorful language, and created listener expectations that he would 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 the Malcolm X presentation and ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

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

If you want to learn more about the techniques that energize a Malcolm X presentation, as well as the secrets that other powerful speakers use in their presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

No More Business Presentation Stage Fright!

Professional Presence no more presentation stage fright
Presentation Stage fright can leech the energy and confidence from our business presenting

When we speak of presentation stage fright, we are really talking about the battle within ourselves as we prepare to deliver our presentation.

It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.

Confidence is one of those elusive qualities.  It’s almost paradoxical.  When we have it, it’s invisible.  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.

Controlling Presentation Stage Fright

Your measure of your self-confidence is really a measure of your conception of yourself.  Recognize that you don’t need the validation of others in what you do.

This doesn’t mean to act in ways immature and self-indulgent and uncaring of others’ expectations.  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 many, the audience is your bogeyman.  And after reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about handwringing over presentation stage fright, if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now.  For some reason many folks fear the audience.  Needlessly.

But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say.  And 99.99 percent of them mean you well.  They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.

Overcome presentation stage fright with power and panache
Seize the Command Position and act like you belong there to overcome presentation stage fright

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 school 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 for  a moment.

See?  We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action.

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 an activity with which you feel comfortable, through repetition or intimate familiarity.

Why are you confident?

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

It should be recognized that many people do fear speaking before an audience.  Presentation stage fright is so universal and it is so pervasive that we must come to grips with it.

This fear has made its way down through the ages.  It has afflicted and paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you.  Generations of speakers before you 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?  How have centuries of speakers successfully overcome this bete noire of stage fright?

They have done it by reducing uncertainty.

Reduce your uncertainty by following the Three Ps.

Principles, Preparation, Practice

Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps:  Principles, Preparation, Practice.  Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence.  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.

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.

Presentation stage fright
Professional presence can imbue your presentation with exceptional credibility, so eliminate that Presentation Stage Fright

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 are in possession of the facts.  You are prepared.  You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice.  You eliminate Presentation Stage Fright.

There is always, of course, an element of uncertainty.  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.

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.

For much more on developing professional presence and achieving personal competitive advantage through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

Enter the Power Zone

Enter the Power Zone for Especially Powerful Presentations

Business Presenting is filled with paradoxes.

For instance . . .  the quizzical Power Zone.

It’s a place everyone wants to be, but where almost no one wants to go.

This is really the strangest thing, and it alwayss amazes me anew the reasons people concoct for not becoming powerful speakers.

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.

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, most don’t go.

They find an excuse.

No Argument Here

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

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

In my presentations to various audiences, I am invariably faced with the arguer, the gadfly who knows better, sometimes vocal, oftentimes not.  The person who is adamant, steadfastly against what is being said.  Usually for the most spurious of reasons.

And it’s an exercise in futility for the gadfly.  Because the choice to enter the Power Zone is personal and completely optional.  I make no argument against the gadfly’s objections, whatever the source.

The latest batch of objections s

Choose to enter the Power Zone and you cannot go back to your old ways of presenting

prang from one woman’s ideology.  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.  In short, rather than communicate with people in the most effective way possible, she wanted to do something else . . . and then lecture her audience if they didn’t like her way of presenting, whether based on appearance, voice, gestures, or movement.

She wanted to deliver prese

ntations her way, and blame her audience if they didn’t respond positively and, presumably, with accolades.

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

And I say praise the Lord for that.

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 if it sounds otherwise.

She complained that some of 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 . . .

Just Don’t Do it

I told her this:

“Don’t do them.  Don’t do these gestures.  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.  And then . . . wonder at how you have not improved.  At all.”

But do that with the full knowledge that you leave the competitive advantage you might gain just sitting on the playing field for someone else to pick up.

They’ll be happy you did.

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?  Likely as not, it’s a difficult process, but we certainly don’t accept “discomfort” as a reason not to do something necessary to achievement of 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.  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.  And drawing upon 25 Centuries of wisdom and practice to do so.

But some folks scowl 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 magic sparkles or something, right?

So . . .  if you 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.”

There is no need to fume over this or that nettlesome detail.  It’s completely unnecessary, because no one compels you to do anything.  And this is what is so infuriating for the habitual naysayers – complete freedom. The freedom not to travel into the Power Zone.

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 extend congratulations as you step onto the path toward the Power Zone, toward that rarefied world of especially powerful presenters.

For more on how to enter and thrive in the Power Zone, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Uptalk Undermines the Best Presentations

Uptalk can kill your professional reputation
Why handicap your business presentations with juvenile uptalk?

Uptalk is the most ubiquitous speech pathology afflicting folks under thirty.

Once it grips you, uptalking is reluctant to let go.

It’s maddening, and it infests everyone exposed to this voice with doubt, unease, and irritation.  It bellows amateur when used in formal presentations.

It cries out:  “I don’t know what I’m talking about here . . . I just memorized a series of sentences and I’m spitting them out now in this stupid presentation.”

If you have this affectation – and if you’re reading this, you probably do – promise yourself solemnly to rid yourself of this debilitating habit.

Quash Uptalk!

But recognize that it’s not that easy.  Students confide in me that they can hear themselves uptalking during presentations, sentence after questioning sentence.  But for some reason, they simply cannot stop.

So exactly what is this crippling Verbal Up-tic?

Uptalk is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.”

This is an unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked.  It radiates weakness and uncertainty and doubt.

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

Sentence after sentence in succession is spoken as if a series of questions.

Uptalk  =  “I have no idea what I’m talking about”

You create a tense atmosphere with uptalking that is almost demonic in its effect.  This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness, a general creepiness.

At its worst, your listeners want 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.  They call it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.

In United States popular culture, Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain, has made a brisk living off her uptalk.  Listen for it in any interview you stumble upon or popular youth-oriented television show.  Disney Channel is a training camp for uptalk.

Reality television females, as a breed, seem unable to express themselves in any other way.  Their lives appear as one big query.

But you can fix it.  And recognizing that you have this awful habit is halfway to correcting it.  For many young speakers, uptalk is the only roadblock standing between them and a major step up in presentation power.

Evaluate your own speech to identify uptalk.  Then come to grips with it.

For more on presentation pathologies like uptalk and how to overcome them in especially powerful fashion, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Fail: Don’t Sabotage Yourself

Presentation Fail!
Don’t bomb onstage – No Presentation Fail for you!

We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine, and we experience presentation fail more often than necessary.

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, embarassment, and complete meltdown.

Presentation Fail:  You are Responsible

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

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

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.  Our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates in delivering a group presentation.  The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better.  If at all.

Could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?  There’s no greater guarantee of failure.

Think Like an 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.  I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques.  All of them agree that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Leave 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 and now that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we can 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.

In my experience, it’s this fear of the unknown that drives 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 to 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 a presentation fail.  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 a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we put our minds on our intent.  We charge forward boldly and confidently.  We present 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.  No more presentation fail.

The right kind of preparation allows us to deal capably with the handful of unknowns that might 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 avoiding presentation fail and on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

If you could have only one business presentations guide . . .

This is one Business Presentations GuideIf you could have only one business presentations guide to help you with your presentations, what would it be?   [Aside from my own]

You have many from which to choose.  Too many, in fact.

Hundreds of them.

So this question is part rhetorical and part genuine inquiry to discover what motivates, trains, and aids students and young executives in their development into capable presenters.  No, not just into capable presenters . . . especially powerful presenters.

I have my own answer to this question, of course, and I’ll share it with you in a moment.  It’s based on reviewing a skein of presentation and public speaking books published over the course of 2,500 years.  All of ’em?  Close to it.

It’s an esoteric subject with a tightly circumscribed group of recognized and established authors and scholars.  The mid- to late 1800s was the golden age for modern oratory and presenting, when Philadelphia was host to the National School of Elocution and Oratory.  Departments of public speaking flourished in universities across the land.

Today’s Tedious Tofu

Today, we have “communications” courses that offer tofu and tedious texts.  They offer impractical and vague suggestions that are often impossible to put into practice.

Today we have The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs supplanting the rich and powerful books of speaking masters who offer the soundest and most-proven presentation instruction in all of recorded history.  This is not to so harshly criticize The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs as to imply that is isn’t useful at all.

The author, Carmine Gallo, is a delightfully engaging public speaker himself.

Gallo pens a superb column for BusinessWeek.  And sure, this book has a pocketful of useful “tips.”

Business Presentations GuideBut the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, is more about Steve Jobs than it is about you.  It’s more about Steve Jobs than about presentation secrets that you can actually use.

Let’s put it this way:  Steve Jobs’s #1 presentation “secret” was to speak only at Apple product launch extravaganzas populated with early adopter evangelicals and to ensure that he was unveiling the next generation high-technology gadget hyped in the world press for the previous 12 months.

In such a scenario, don’t you believe that you and I could paint our faces blue and dress like Jack Sparrow and deliver a successful and quite powerful presentation?

Of course we could, and that was Steve Jobs’s actual “secret.”

Jobs was an above-average speaker with a distinctive style.  His public appearances were highly orchestrated.  His competition in America’s C-Suite was, and remains, abysmal.

In short, Jobs was a celebrity CEO armed with a built-in audience poised to cheer his every word.

That’s surely a “secret,” but it’s not very helpful to the average presenter.

So, will you learn anything from Mr. Gallo’s book?  Sure, but it has nothing to do with Jobs or what he does.

Mr. Gallo laces enough fundamental advice throughout the book to help a neophyte improve his presenting in several aspects.  But the question I asked at the beginning is this:

If you could have only one book to help you with your business presentations, what would it be?

Not that one.

In fact, I could recommend a dozen books that are utterly superb, none of which published after 1950, that far outstrip today’s pedestrian offerings.  Books that offer a wealth of powerful and mysterious techniques to transform you into the most dynamic speaker you possibly can be.

Books to stretch you to your utmost limits, books that propel you to fulfill your fullest presentation potential.

Single books that are worth any 10 “business communication” texts costing more than $1,000 in toto.

But if I had to choose one . . . and only one business presentations guide . . .

It would be this book . . . a book first published in 1913.

This Business Presentations Guide

Subsequent to its original publication, this incredible tome went into more than 58 editions and was constantly in print until 1962.  In that year, it was revised and given a different title, and it went into another 28 editions, the last one I can find published in 1992.  Its title was again revised and a new edition published in 2006.

This book remains in print today.  Many reprint editions are available and are quite inexpensive.  Like diamonds upon the ground that no one recognizes.

And of all the more than 500 presentation books I own, dating from 1762 to the present day (and reprints back to 430 BC), this is the one book I commend to you.  You can search it on Amazon.com and purchase an inexpensive copy today.

The one book I recommend is . . .

Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, by Dale Carnegie.The Business Presentations Guide for all time

Post-1962, the book is called The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, an edition revised by Carnegie’s wife [I dislike the new title, because it gives the mistaken impression that great public speaking can be “quick and easy,” an addition to the original book added much later, but I’ll not cavil on that point here].

The newest edition is called:  Public Speaking for Success.

Of course, Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business doesn’t mention the PowerPoint software package, for obvious reasons.

Instead, this powerful business presentations guide focuses on the most important elements of any presentation, whether delivered by Pericles to the Athenians in 430 BC or by you to your Global Business Policies course in 2012 – you . . . your message . . . your audience.

Buy this book . . .

Read this book. . .

Learn from this book . . .

. . . and then enjoy the fruits.

And if you have room in your library for another business presentations guide, you can always add this superb volume, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

“I Hate Presentations”

Strive for Confidence in Your Business Presentations

If you feel reasonably confident, competent, and thoroughly satisfied with your presenting skills, then I congratulate you.

Please do pass Business School Presenting along to a buddy who might profit from the humble advice offered herein.

But if you are like most of the 1.3 million English-speaking business school population worldwide, you doubtless have issues with your business school and its treatment of presentations . . . which is why you’re reading this post.

One in 366 Million?

Of an estimated 366 million websites worldwide, this is the only site devoted exclusively to business school presentations.

The only site.

I could be wrong about that, and I hope that I am.

Even if this is a lonely outpost today, we know that as quickly as the online community responds to the needs of its users, that could change tomorrow.  I trust you’ll let me know, so that I can link to these nooks and crannies of the web that may hold secrets that we all need.

But right now – this instant – I do believe that this is it.

I believe, and you may agree, that business school students need credible, brief, and direct resources on presenting  – solid information and best practices, not vague generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”

You want to know what works and why.  You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.  You want to know what is a matter of opinion and what, if anything, is etched in stone.

Here you find answers to the most basic of questions.

  • What is this beast – the business presentation?
  • How do I stand?  Where do I stand?
  • What do I say?  How do I say it?
  • How do I reduce 20 pages of analysis into a four-minute spiel that makes sense and that “gets it all in?”
  • How should we assemble a group presentation? How do we orchestrate it?
  • Where do I begin, and how?
  • How do I end my talk?
  • What should I do with my hands?
  • How do I conquer nervousness once and for all?
  • How can I tell “what the professor wants?”
  • How do I translate complicated material, such as a spreadsheet, to a PowerPoint slide so that it communicates instead of bores?
2,500 Years of Presenting

Business School Presenting answers every one of these questions and many more that you haven’t even thought of yet.

You may not like the answers.  You may disagree with the answers.  Fair enough.  Let a thousand presentation flowers bloom across the land.  Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.  Or not.

But you should know that offered here is a distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets, developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.  Cicero, Quintilian, Demosthenes, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama – all find their places in the pantheon of the most powerful presenters of all time.

All of these speakers have drawn upon the eternal verities of presenting, and in turn they have each contributed their own techniques to the body of wisdom.  You find those verities here.

On the other side of things, give me your own presentation stories from your campus that illustrate challenges particular to your school and academic concentration.

The various subdisciplines in business – finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, and such like – have their special needs, even as they are all tractable to the fundamental and advanced techniques of powerful presenting.

And so begins a journey on the road to becoming . . . an especially powerful presenter.

You’ll know when you arrive.

And you’ll wonder how you could have presented any other way.

Stop presentation guessing with The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Grotesque Presentation Practice Errors!

presentation practice errors
Avoid Presentation Practice Errors

One of the keys to successful and confident performance of your business presentation is practice . . . and avoiding presentation practice errors.

The right kind of practice.

This is even more the case with a team presentation with more moving parts and variables in the mix.

The good effects of the right kind of diligent rehearsal is twofold:

1) your material is delivered in a logical, cogent fashion without stumble . . . and,

2) the practice imbues you and your team with confidence so that stage fright is reduced to a minimum and your team’s credibility is enhanced.

Practice strips away the symptoms of stage fright as you concentrate on your message and its delivery rather than extraneous audience reaction to your appearance.

But you reap the benefits of practice if your practice makes sense.  This means that you practice the way you perform and avoid the two biggest rehearsal mistakes.

Presentation Practice Error #1

First, do not start your presentation repeatedly, as almost all of us have done at points in our presentation careers.

There is something in our psyche that seems to urge us to “start over” when we make a mistake.  When we stumble, we want a “do-over” so that we can put together a perfect rehearsal from start to finish.

But when we do this, what we are actually practicing is the “starting over.”  We become very good at “starting over” when we make a mistake.

But is that what we plan to do when we err in our actual presentation?  Start over?

No, of course not.  We don’t get to start over after evey blunder.  But that is exactly what you have practiced.

If you’ve practiced that way, what will you do when you stumble?  You won’t know what to do or how to handle the situation, since you have never practiced fighting through an error and continuing on.

You’ve practiced only one thing – starting over.

Instead of starting over when you err, practice the gliding over of “errors,” never calling attention to them.  Practice recovering from your error and minimizing it.  Perform according to the principle that regardless of what happens, you planned it.

Presentation Practice Error #2

The second big mistake is practicing in front of a mirror.

Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you plan to deliver your talk to a mirror.  It’s plain creepy to watch yourself in the mirror while talking for an extended period of time.  There is nothing to be gained by rehearsing one way . . . only to do something entirely different for the actual event.

Of course, you will observe yourself in the mirror as you adjust your stance and appearance to ensure that what you feel is what people see while you present on all occasions.  But you do not practice your finished talk in front of a mirror.

Why would you want to grow accustomed to looking at yourself present, only to be faced with an entirely different situation for the actual presentation?

That’s just bizarre.  Instead, practice in front of your roommate . . . or go to the classroom or auditorium where you’re scheduled to present.

In short, create as much of the real situation as possible ahead of time.

To ensure an especially powerful presentation every time, practice hard and repeatedly . . . but practice the right way.

For more on avoiding business presentation practice errors, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.