Category Archives: Executive Presence

Business Presenter as Hero

Business Presenters are powerfulBefore 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 earliest “business presenter.”

The Business Presenter

Public speaking was considered an art form.

Some did consider it the highest art.

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

Other professions utilized the proven skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.

No, 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 “business presenting.”

Skills of the Masters

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

The knew the power of words.

How the right words could bring especially powerful vitality to a speech.

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

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’ve adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to exalt our presentation message.

And yet the result has been something different.

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have supplanted them.  Each advance in technology creates another barrier between the business presenter and the audience.

The Business Presenter and Powerpoint

Business Presenter
Become a Powerful Business Presenter

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 business presenter to the fireworks.

This has led to such a decline that the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

And in many cases, this is exactly what happens.

Almost as if the business 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.

Presentation Training – More Money

Waiters and waitresses are business presenters.

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.

Especially Powerful Dinner Presentations
Especially Powerful Dinner Presentations

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.  You can become a superb business presenter.

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 don’t mean for you to put on a juggling act.

Or to become a comedian . . .

Or to intrude on your guests’ evening.

I do mean to take your job seriously.  Learn your temporary profession’s rules and craft a business presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity.

Display enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions that make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.

The Hero Had Best be in Your Audience

Yes, hero.

Every business presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Great business presenters evoke a sense of heroism in customers.

Do this, and you win every time with an especially powerful show.

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.

Especially Powerful Hero
Presentation Hero? Remember that it’s the Audience

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 that inform the great business presenter 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 great business presenters who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.

Their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful business presentations.

The key to acquiring personal competitive advantage.

For more on becoming a great business presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Executive Presence for Competitive Advantage

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

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.

With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence by choosing wisely, and then acting . . .

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

The Paradox of Executive Presence

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capability for it.

It’s a kind of self-sabotage.

Many folks engage in it.

One client I have from a foreign country has incredible charisma and the fundamental tools to develop personal magnetism and powerful personal presence.  But he plays it down.

He tries to diminish his presence.

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.

He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height.  He employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we’ve worked on developing especially powerful executive presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.

How can you go about doing this?

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

Your Positive Presentation Attitude

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

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

For any presentation, really.

Maintain a positive presentation attitude, especially if you offer criticism.

Especially where it concerns criticism of current company policy.

Especially when your team must convey bad news.

For instance, that the current strategy is “bad.”  Or that the current executive team is not strong enough.

In student presentations, I sometimes see that students take an adversarial attitude.  A harsh attitude.  This is the natural way of college students, who believe that this type of blunt honesty is valued.

Honesty is . . . well, it’s refreshing.

Isn’t it?

Presentation Attitude for Self-Preservation

Honesty is important, sure.

But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor.  Let’s be clear on the difference between the two.

Honesty means you tell the truth.  Candor means you spill your guts about everything that’s on your mind in the bluntest way possible.

Big difference.

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

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

Remember that you can express honesty in many ways.

Presentation prudence suggests that we learn a few of them.  Use the right words to convey the bad news to the people who are paying you.

In the audience may be the people responsible for the bad situation in the first place.  They could be emotionally invested in a specific strategy.

They might be financially invested in it.

Uh-oh.

Anyone can use a sledgehammer.

Anyone.

But if you use one, know that the receiving end of that sledgehammer isn’t pleasant and that you should expect reciprocation somewhere down the line.

Wound an Ego, You Pay a Price

Most times it pays to use a scalpel.

With lots of consideration and skill.

We’re easily wounded where our own projects are concerned, right?

So, if you attack the current strategy as unsound, and the person or persons who crafted that strategy sit in the audience, you have most likely doomed yourself.

Expect an also-ran finish in the competition for whatever prize at stake.  Whether a multi-million dollar deal.  Or simply credibility and good judgment.

It takes skill and finesse to fine-tune your work.

To deliver a fine-tuned presentation.

Learn to deliver a masterpiece of art that conveys the truth, but with a positive presentation attitude that is constructive without being abrasive.  When you do, you will have developed incredible personal competitive advantage through the vehicle of your presentation skills.

That is, after all, why they’re called skills.

Your presentation will effervesce.  It will join the ranks of the especially powerful.

So remember that tact and a positive presentation attitude is as important to your presentation as accuracy.

Internalize that lesson, and you’re on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations that persuade more than they insult.

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

Great Student Evaluations — The Secret

Student EvaluationsCould there be a university faculty lobby in this country in favor of dull, listless, unenthusiastic classroom teaching?

Apparently so, and it has vocal adherents.

Consider, for instance, this article by Liberal Arts professor Stanley Fish.

Fish is an academic journeyman whose fortunes have waned considerably since he strode the radical academic world like a colossus at Duke University in the early 90s.

Fish wrote a piece about college student course evaluations.  He contended that these evaluations have little value when it comes to assessing professor teaching skill and classroom performance.

And he received lots of feedback.

Those Pesky Evaluations

Fish’s piece received beaucoup responses from a strange sub-set of college faculty:  Bad teachers who externalize the blame for their own poor performance.

Now . . . how do I know that they’re bad teachers?

Red flags abound.

1)  Their responses are characterized by dismissive hubris and betray a lack of self-awareness.

2)  They use the formulaic vernacular and familiar liturgy of complaints that we all hear in those interminable faculty meetings.

3)  They are the first and loudest in line to criticize the legitimacy of student evaluations and yet offer no substitute evaluative instrument they believe would be more accurate.

4)  They laud the length of their course syllabi as a qualitative measure of excellence.

5)  And they abhor any feedback on their teaching performance.

These profs offer defensive responses that seek to explain why students, themselves, are the problem and ought to appreciate the prof’s unenthusiastic and lackluster presentations and devil-take-the-hindmost shabbiness.

Granted, problems do plague student evaluations — it’s unfortunately true that angry and unmotivated students can exert disproportionate influence on a prof’s rating.  They can sometimes sabotage a professor who satisfies the majority of motivated students in a class, and this is a legitimate concern of faculty who genuinely teach well.

The “outlier” problem can and should be addressed.

But bad teachers do exist.

You know it, and I know it.  And some of them believe that there is nothing wrong with their classroom manner — that if any “problem” exists, it’s the students’ fault.

This strange, aggressive subcategory of bad teachers exercises rhetorical gymnastics to explain why, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence (and the necessarily silent collegiality of their colleagues), they actually are superb teachers.

Sloppy, Disinterested, and Dull

Let’s have a look at these persecuted folks.  Here’s one sample of sourpuss opinion:

Teachers who fear (correctly) that student evaluations will determine their fate become stand-up comedians — wave your arms around, praise students excessively and “dress sharp,” advises Dr. Bob — and alter their grading policy in an effort to be liked.

The actual quote from East Lansing’s “Dr. Bob” is here:

1. Project enthusiasm (even if you don’t have any) by continually saying how interested and passionate you are and waving your arms around.
2. Call on your students by name and praise them for every little thing they do.
3. Dress sharp!
4. Be especially attentive to 1-3 on the first day of class since after that your ratings won’t change very much.

Presumably, Dr. Bob believes that unenthusiastic, impersonal, insulting, and poorly dressed professors suffer unfair discrimination in the student evaluation process.

Of course they do, and I hope they do.  And rightly so.

But rather than address the issue — which is their own substandard performance — they blame the messenger.

Discrimination?  Try “shame,” because it fits.

Strangely, this aversion to enthusiasm for course subject matter has supporters.  Here’s another gem:

I’ve seen research that suggests that ‘apparent enthusiasm’ is the single most important component of student evaluations, overall.  This is not irrelevant — an instructor’s passion can be important exactly for the kind of long-term development that Fish discusses — but clearly reflects matters of personality and self-presentation that ought to be secondary in evaluating a teacher.

Beg pardon?

“Apparent enthusiasm” for the course subject matter “ought to be secondary in evaluating a teacher?”

Unenthusiastic, Impersonal, Poorly Dressed

In the end, Stan Fish’s journalistic exercise is productive in that it surfaced a pathology in higher education . . . and it’s not the “unfairness” of the student evaluation.

The article flushed out of the cracks a bunch of folks who really ought to be working on their classroom presentation rather than boasting in the New York Times of their lack of enthusiasm and affinity for sloppy dress.

The pattern of pathology that emerges is that of arrogant faculty who apparently believe that almost any lackluster, dull, insulting, impersonal performance delivered in t-shirt, jeans, and jaunty beret should be applauded as acceptable.

This is presumably because students “aren’t capable of understanding just how good the professor truly is.”

A “truth” apparently to be realized and appreciated years hence.

Hogwash.  Utter.

I like to imagine that these characters are in a blessedly tiny minority.

So what should a teacher do?  What should motivate a university professor in the classroom?

It’s no mystery.  The powerful formula is buried in a book 104 years old and offers secrets to speed the heart and rivet the mind!

So, dutifully and with appropriate fanfare, here revealed are the secrets of getting great teaching evaluations . . .

The Student Evaluation Secret Code

William DeWitt Hyde, the President of Bowdoin College, offered advice in 1910 that I have found far more useful than any 100 articles by modern purveyors of classroom teaching theory or “pedagogy.”

The advice is actually an especially powerful tonic for anyone who wishes to become a powerful business presenter as well as a competent classroom instructor.

If you can answer these five questions in the affirmative, the student evaluations should take care of themselves . . .

  • Is my interest in my work so contagious that my students catch from me an eager interest in what we are doing together?
  • Is my work thorough and resourceful, rather than superficial and conventional, so that the brightness of my industry and the warmth of my encouragement kindle in my students a responsive zeal to do their best, cost what it may?
  • Do I get at the individuality of my students, so that each one is different to me from every other, and I am something no other person is to each of them?
  • Do I treat them, and train them to treat each other, never as mere things, or means to ends; but always as persons, with rights, aims, interests, aspirations, which I heartily respect and sympathetically share?
  • Am I so reverent toward fact, so obedient to law, that through me fact and law speak and act with an authority which my students instinctively recognize and implicitly obey?

It really is that simple.

Or maybe it’s not so simple . . . and that’s the problem.

OCCUPY . . . the Command Presentation Position!

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

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

This is grotesque.

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

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

And this means that you shun the lectern.

The Abominable Lectern!

The lectern is an abomination.

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

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

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

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

Fix this now.

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

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

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

Occupy it!

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

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

Become a Presentation Colossus for Executive Presence

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.  With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence . . .

. . . it goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence.

The Paradox of Executive Presence

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capability for it.

It’s a kind of self-sabotage that many engage in.

One client I have from a foreign country has incredible charisma and the fundamental tools to develop personal magnetism and powerful personal presence; but he plays it down and attempts to diminish his presence.

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.  He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height and employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we’ve worked on developing especially powerful executive presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.  How can you go about doing this?

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

Executive Presence for the Business Presenter

Executive Presence
Especially Powerful Executive Presence

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

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

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

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

The Power Zone of Executive Presence

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

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

A place for larger-than-life presentation charisma.

A place where executive presence comes naturally.

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

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

They find an excuse not to.

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

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

No Argument Here . . . Don’t go

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

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

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

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

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

Ideological Objections to Presentation Charisma

Your Executive Presence

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

You heard right.

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

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

Or what ought to be right and proper.

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

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

She wanted to deliver presentations her way.

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

Just different.

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

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

And I say praise the Lord for that.

Presentation Charisma from 25 centuries of Practice

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

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

I replied to her this way . . .

Don’t do it.  Just don’t.

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

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

And all the ideology in the world cannot change that.

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

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

Your Comfort is Irrelevant to Executive Presence

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

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

Has any greater cop-out ever been devised?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one compels you to do anything here.

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

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

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

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

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