Category Archives: Passion

Not so Humbug . . . a Christmas Classic!


When asked if the university stifles writers, Flannery O’Conner quipped that the university unfortunately doesn’t stifle enough of them.

Indeed.

My naturally autocratic tendencies, which have held me back in the literary world for years, compel me constantly to cast a pall on the enthusiasms of my young charges.

At this time of year, such endeavor might be considered . . . Scrooge-like.

But it’s Time for some Mind-Clearing

This is about shaking off the bad habits learned over in the liberal arts college . . . about clearing the mind . . . scattering gnat-like notions to the winds . . .

Accordingly, as a business school professor, I urge my students to dispense with their fanciful flights picked up in undisciplined liberal arts courses.  To dispense with the bad and the ugly . . . and to embrace the good.

In class, my students look at me, expectantly.  Yes, we’re there – in class – now:

“You remember those idyllic scenes conjured by your imagination, back when you were young and unjaded?  High school seniors . . . or even freshmen?  When college still had its sheen?”

I roam the floor, the space in front of the rows of desks with their internet connections.  It is my stage.

“Remember those scenes of professors and students out on the lawn under a late summer sun, students sitting cross-legged, perhaps chewing on blades of grass?  Your kindly bearded professor, a tam resting upon his head, gesturing grandly while reciting something beautiful?  Perhaps a passage from Faulkner?  Perhaps a trope from Aristotelian philosophy or verse from an angry beat poet?”

One student speaks up.

“I saw a group out there today!  Why can’t we do that?”

“Wouldn’t that be nice,” I respond.

Nods around the room.  Broad smiles.

“No, it would not be nice,” I say.  “That’s not genuine.  It’s not authentic.  Just actors performing for touring visitors and posing for publicity shots.  College isn’t like that.  There is no authentic college of your dreams waiting for you to discover.  Remember the lesson of Oliver Wendell Douglas.”

“Who?”

“Oliver . . . Wendell . . . Douglas.”

I’m concerned at this lack of essential preparatory knowledge of the modern college student at a major university.

Search for the Authentic

“The star of Green Acres, the greatest television show of all time.  Don’t you watch Nickelodeon or TV Land?”

Green Acres.  I explain.

It was really an allegory, a metaphor for our time.  Mr. Douglas was forever in search of the authentic.  He had an idyllic conception of rural life.  He abandoned his big city lawyer’s life in a quest for authentic Americana.

Instead, Mr. Douglas found a bizarre world populated by characters that could have been confected by Stephen King.

Hank Kimball.

Mr. Haney.

Sam Drucker.

Eb.

Frank Ziffle.

Everyone was an actor in a surreal drama staged for the benefit of Mr. Douglas’s dreams of the authentic rural life.

The unifying theme of the show was Sam Drucker’s general store, where many of the crucial insights were revealed.  Rural folk did not use oil lamps, “’cause we all got ’lectricity.”  The barrel in Sam Drucker’s general store was filled with plastic pickles.

The store was a magical place for Mr. Douglas, a crossroads for many of the strange characters who annoyed him so naughtily.  For the most part, they gave Mr. Douglas exactly what he wanted to see, because in the immortal words of Sam Drucker:  “City folks seem to expect it.”

The idyllic outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature-scene.

Students seem to expect it.

High Expectations

Expectations I sadly must deflate.

“I suppose that no one in this classroom has seen Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan?  And if you have, I’m betting you completely missed the theme of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of Utilitarianism expressed by Spock throughout the film.  Never mind the obvious references to Melville’s Moby Dick?”

“Is this class Global Strategic Management, Professor?”

Again, those naturally autocratic tendencies assert themselves.

“This class is what I want it to be.  And it is not going to be about outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature instruction.  It’s going to be . . . authentic.”

I snap my fingers.

“How many people here believe in this . . . this muse?”

There is silence.  No movement.

“You know.  This writing trope.  This muse.  Anyone ever heard of this muse?  Don’t hide from me.  I know you were exposed to this . . . this muse over in that heinous liberal arts college.”

Hands begin to go up.  Cautious hands.  More hands than I expect.  More hands than are comfortable.

Time to disabuse them, time to explode their fantasies.

“There is no muse.”

A simple declarative sentence, but with the unsentimental power and imperious grandeur of a Thomas Carlyle proclamation.

Puzzled looks.  A few of them distraught.  Then, anger.

“But there is.  There’s a muse . . . there is!”

“Humbug!  There is no muse!  Get that Birkenstock notion out of your callow head.”

“But my English prof said—”

“Your English prof is teaching because she cannot earn a living foisting this muse-myth on folks who live and breathe and work and play in the real world.  People who build bridges, crop tobacco, feed hormones to beef, fly you home over holiday break, and who serve you every day at the 7-ll.  People who pay taxes and die.”

Gasp.

“You must know only one thing.”

My voice drops low, just above a whisper, and I lean forward.  Pause.

“You must know only one thing.”

The students sense something profound coming.  They won’t be disappointed.

“Yes, there is a muse . . . I am your muse.”

I smile a benevolent smile.  I see several people actually taking notes, writing this down.

The Muse Whispers . . .

“I am on your shoulder whispering to you in those moments when you lack inspiration.  I am your solution to the blank computer screen.”

My voice rises, I lean back and spread my hands wide, just as I have seen evangelicals do when working a crowd.

“I am the muse, the answer to your writer’s block and the source of your inspiration.”

Titters of laughter ripple through the room, and I scowl.

“You think I’m joking . . . that this is a joke?”

I pace like a panther, my hands clasped behind my back.  I stalk the room, the entire space in front of the classroom and right in front of the giant PowerPoint projection screen.

I stop and face them, squaring my shoulders and flexing my jaw.

“I want you to remember that one thing when you’re up at night and time is trickling by, and you have an assignment but no ideas and no hope . . . .”

They are silent, and they watch me.

The Incantation . . .

“I will perch on your shoulder, and I will whisper to you just four words.  I want you to remember those four words.  Just four little words – just five little syllables.  They are magic words!  An incantation!  A mantra to warm you on those cold nights bereft of imagination, as you trek that barren wasteland of words without order, without discipline, without a point.”

I have their attention now.  They are rapt.

Will I win them over this time?  Can I break through?  Can I help them make the leap from soaring idealism to mundane responsibility?

“Remember these words:  Love … the … Value … Chain!”

Groans.

They’ve heard this before.  They sound disappointed.  Cheated.

So many fail to see the beauty of disaggregating the firm into its functional components.  The analytical precision it provides, the world of discovery that it opens up!  So many stop short of making that final connection . . . except this time . . .

“I love the value chain, Professor!”

“Really?”

I’m skeptical, jaded.  I search for signs of duplicity.  But detect nothing but enthusiasm.

“Which part of the value chain do you feel the most affinity for?”

“Since I’m chronologically oriented, Professor, I’m partial to Inbound Logistics!”

There is a general murmuring and uneasiness in the class.  Inbound logistics?

I nod sagely.  “That’s fine, Ms. Zapata.  It’s okay to privilege one segment of the value chain over another, if it gives you the key to identifying competitive advantage!”

A hand shoots up and a voice cries out before I can acknowledge it.

Operations!  That’s the ticket for me.”

And yet another!

After sale Service!” a voice in the back calls out.  “Professor, Customer Relationship Management has a symmetry and logic about it that outstrips anything we touched on in my basic philosophy courses!”

The dam had finally burst, and the classroom buzzed with talk of core competencies, competitive analysis, environmental scans, core products, strategy formulation processes, Five Forces analysis, and comparative advantage!

They are convinced – finally – that strategy and value chain analysis can be an art.  I even say positive things about accounting and accountants, observing that there is a bit of art and flair and imagination necessary to produce a product desired by the employer . . . or patron.  Think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel for his patron.

The Value Chain!  Inbound logistics, Operations, Outbound logistics, Sales and Marketing, and Service.

If ever there were a time for sentimentality and outright weeping, this was it!

But then . . .

But then, one of the most staid literary conventions of all time reared its ugly head.

I woke up.

I awoke from a dream.

A Sweet, Impossible Dream

It was nothing but a sweet dream.  Students excited at the prospect of writing a paper on value chain analysis . . . on identifying a company’s core competency and developing a strategic plan to gain sustained competitive advantage based on that competency . . . students who loved the value chain . . . who could see the art and creativity demanded of the accountant and financial manager.

Who could see the beauty in efficient operations management.

Who would strive for efficiency because it was the right thing to do!

It was all a sweet dream.

cruel dream.

I awoke to a cold, winter world where idealistic students still dream and irresponsible students still party and wiseacre students still wisecrack with a tiresome world-weariness.  Who write with an undisciplined lackadaisical casualness that drives me to distraction.

It is the little things that do this.

I close my eyes and maybe . . . perhaps I can recapture a bit of the magic.  Recapture the dream.

I look up, startled to find a group of students gathered round my desk after I have dismissed class.  They are heading home in the cold for their winter break.

“What’s this?”

“A gift, Professor.”

“Thank you.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

I peel the wrap away in a crinkle of coated Christmas paper.  It’s a book.  A copy of Peter Drucker’s Management.

It’s a first edition, and I feel my eyes tearing up.

“We know how much you like Green Acres.  And Drucker’s general store.”

Smiles abound.  I cock one eyebrow, as I am wont to do.

“You do know that it wasn’t Peter Drucker’s store?  It was Sam Drucker’s general store.”

“Does it really matter, Professor?”

“In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that it does not.  Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Why do I offer a hearty Merry Christmas instead of something ecumenically blasé?

Well, because I can.  Because I’m authentic.  Because I have authoritarian tendencies.

Because I offer others a piece of my world.

And I heartily accept Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Season’s Greetings from anyone and everyone else who cares to send ’em my way.

Now, let me go read Sam Drucker’s book on managing a general store in Hooterville.

I’m such an idealist.


Earnestness, for an Especially Powerful Business Presentation

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

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

That’s a shame.

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

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

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

What was true then is surely true today.

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

Showing Too Much Interest?

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

Better to pretend you don’t care.

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

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

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

Strive for the Powerful Business Presentation

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

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

Earnestness means wrapping your material in you.

Embracing your topic.

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

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

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

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

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

3-D Business Presentations

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

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

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

Become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Your Learning Curve

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

Think of it as enlarging your world.

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

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

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

Expand Your World to Expand Your Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

No Cloistering!

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

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

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

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

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

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

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

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.

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.

Next Generation Leadership . . . India

The next generation of Indian business leaders

It is my privilege to not only travel a great many miles to special places, but also to work with some of the brightest young people of the latest generation who constitute the business leaders of tomorrow.

Take India, for instance.

India is a potential economic powerhouse, whose engine of domestic and international commerce is only just starting.

With incredible knowledge resource capability and government that finally recognizes the power of individual initiative and the economic benefits that accrue from relaxing regulation, India is set for an economic renaissance to stagger the world when its gears finally engage.

Drive and Initiative

The MBA students at the Welingkar Institute of Management in Mumbai, who appear on this page, show a drive, determination, optimism, and coachability that should be the envy of the world.

Inquisitive and cosmopolitan to a startling degree, these young people are poised to enter middle-management as a sage class of entrepreneurial knowledge workers, steeped in the latest management techniques and armed with the techniques of especially powerful presenting that confer unmatched competitive advantage.

I’d go so far as to say that they constitute a new cadre of global executives, a new breed of 21st Century Managers, unencumbered with outdated notions held over from the industrial revolution.  A cadre imbued with the qualities of . . .

Cultural Competence

Technical Proficiency

Flexibility and Adaptability

Cosmopolitan Outlook

Team-work orientation

Personal and Professional Aligned Strategic Focus

And with an incredible hunger to become the best business presenters possible, embracing the range of instruction found in The Guide to Business School Presenting . . . quite revolutionary to the Indian education system.

The rest of the business world does need to take note.  India is an economic giant that no longer sleeps.

Wing it? . . . a CLASSIC Don’t

Professional Presence means passion
Wing it if you will . . . but expect a disastrous presentation

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

Offer them something that speaks to them in the language they understand and to the needs they have.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

That’s the paradox.

We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms, saying what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear in language that gives us comfort.

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

It’s Your Fault, not Theirs

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

Paradoxically, this occurs quite often when men and women of power and accomplishment address large groups of employees or conference attendees.

Infused with the power and, too often, arrogance and hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.

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

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

The Curse of Hubris and Contempt

But what we actually witness from presenters of this type is actually a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by any speaker communicates a disdain for the audience and contempt for the time of people gathered to listen.

For instance, last year a successful young entrepreneur spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea and then pitching that idea to venture capitalists.

His idea was tremendously successful and, as I understood him, he sold it for millions.

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.  What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

Business Presentation
Slob Cool . . . another sure path to presentation failure

“Make really good slides.”

Say what?

That was it.

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

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.   It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.

And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  Much can be gained by respecting the audience enough to speak to them as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

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

Winging It

In business school, you sometimes espy classmates who demonstrate this pathology of unpreparedness.  It’s called “winging it.”

Many students tend to approach presentations with either fear or faux nonchalance.  Or real nonchalance.  It’s a form of defensiveness.  This results in “winging it,” where contrived spontaneity and a world-weary attitude carries the day.

No preparation, no practice, no self-respect . . . just embarrassment.  Almost a defiant contempt for the assignment and the audience.

This kind of presentation abomination leaves the easy-out that the student “didn’t really try.” It is obvious to everyone watching that you are “winging it.” Why would you waste our time this way?  Why would you waste your own? You have as much chance of achieving success “winging it” as a penguin has of flying.

Winging it leads to a crash landing of obvious failure, and whether you care or not is a measure of character.

The chief lesson to digest here is to always respect your audience and strive to give them your heart.  Do these two things, and you will always gain a measure of success.

You never will if you “wing it.”

For more keen direction that may just save your next business presentation from disaster, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

Where’s Your Presentation Passion?

Presentation Passion is an especially powerful source of personal competitive advantage
Imbue your business presentations with passion for especially powerful impact

If you don’t enjoy what you do every day, you’re doing the wrong thing.

You’re in the wrong line of work.

Likewise, if you can’t get excited about your presentation topic, showing presentation passion, you shouldn’t be presenting at all.

Remember, there is no such thing as an inherently “interesting topic.”  As an especially powerful business presenter, it’s your job to invest your topic with a distinctiveness and verve that captures your audience.

You Provide the Presentation Passion

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

One powerful technique at your disposal is “passion.”

Inject Presentation Passion

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

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

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

Tough?  Yes.

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

Passion is your solution, a powerful tool to create masterful presentations that sway your audience.

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

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

For more on presentation passion and professional presence 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.

Put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations

Especially Powerful Business Presentations mean personal competitive advantage
Powerful Business Presentation Skills Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

You can front-load your introduction and put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations to  seize your audience from the first second of your show.

Or you can tiptoe into your business presentation so no one notices you.

Which would you choose?

You’d choose the introduction with Pow, of course!

But many people don’t.

Many folks in business school, in fact, simply don’t launch powerful business presentations for one excellent reason.

The Reason Why Many Business Presentations Sputter

Many folks don’t know how to begin a presentation.

Do you?

What?

“Of course I know how to begin a presentation.  What kind of fool does this guy think I am?”

But do you?  Really?

Does your intro have Pow?  Consider for a moment . . .

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, like so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing?  Do you back into it?

Powerful Business Presentation
Do you poke your head out instead of delivering a powerful business presentation?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?  Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?

One major problem with all of this is that you exhibit horrendous body language that destroys your credibility.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your grabber . . . then follow immediately with your Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.

What will you tell them?  The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!  It focuses everyone on the topic.

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk, thanking the board for the “opportunity,” thanking the conference staff, thanking the bartender for generous pours.

 powerful business presentations
Personal Competitive Advantage through Powerful Business Presentations

Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?

You Need Pow!

Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign.  Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2011 and increase our market share.  By another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next year to result in a much stronger and competitive market position.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.  No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

You have set the stage for a powerful business presentation.

Put the Pow into Your Powerful Business Presentation!

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“As we sit here today — right now —  changes in our industry attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival . . . or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.  We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and our marketing team’s  solution to regain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.  The reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.

We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.

And we must front-load our introduction with Pow! to include our recommendation.

That’s why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To recommend action!

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.  Right at the start.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

For more on putting the Pow! into powerful business presentations, have a look here.

How to Start Your Presentation

Powerful presentations require powerful openings -- a grabber, or a hook
Blast into the mind . . . start your presentation with a hook or grabber, a lead sentence that seizes your audience’s attention.

Some experts estimate that you have an initial 15 seconds – maybe 20 – to hook and hold your audience as you start your presentation.

And with a kaleidoscope of modern-day distractions, you face an uphill battle.  In that short window of less than a minute, while they’re sizing you up, you must blast into their minds.

Get them über-focused on you and your message.

So how do you go about hooking and reeling in your audience in those first crucial seconds?

Start your Presentation with Explosives

Think of your message or your story as your explosive device.  To set it off properly, so it doesn’t fizzle, you need a detonator.

This is your “lead” or your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

This is your detonator for blasting into the mind.

This is a provocative line that communicates to your listeners that they are about to hear something uncommon.  Something special.

Start your presentation with this provocative line, and you create a desire in your audience to hear what comes next.  The next sentence . . . and the next . . . until you are deep into your presentation and your audience is with you stride-for-stride.

But they must step off with you from the beginning.  You get them to step off with you by blasting into the mind.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you very much . . .”

You don’t blast into the mind with a stock opening like this:

“Thank you very much, Bill, for that kind and generous introduction.  Friends, guests, associates, colleagues, it’s a real pleasure to be here tonight with so many folks committed to our cause, and I’d like to say a special hello to a group of people who came down from Peoria to visit with us here this evening, folks who are dedicated to making our world a better place, a more sustainable world that we bequeath to our children and our children’s children.  And also a shout-out to the men and women in the trenches, without whose assistance . . .”

That sort of thing.

Folks in your audience are already checking their email.  In fact, they’re no longer your audience.  And you’ve heard this kind of snoozer before, far too many times.

Why do people talk this way?  Because it’s what they’ve heard most of their business lives.  You hear it, you consider it, you shrug, and you think that this must be the way it’s done.

You come to believe that dull, monotone, stock-phrased platitudes comprise the secret formula for giving a keynote address, an after-dinner speech, or a short presentation.

You believe that a listless audience is natural.

Not at all!  The key is to do a bit of mind-blasting as you start your presentation!

Mind-Blasting

You must blast into their minds to crack that hard shell of inattention.  You must say something provocative, but relevant.  You must grab your listeners and keep them.  You must arrest their attention long enough to make it yours.

Something like this:

“The gravestone was right where the old cobbler said it would be . . . at the back of the overgrown vacant lot.  And when I knelt down to brush away the moss and dirt, I could see my hand trembling.  The letters etched in granite became visible one by one.  My breath caught when I read the inscription–”

Or this . . .

“There were six of them, my back was against the hard brick wall, and let me tell you . . . I learned a hard lesson–”

Start your Presentation
The opening of your business presentation should be explosive . . . metaphorically speaking, of course

Or this . . .

“I was stupid, yes stupid.  I was young and impetuous.  And that’s the only excuse I have for what I did.  I will be ashamed of it for the rest of my life–”

Or this . . .

“At the time, it seemed like a good idea . . . but then we heard the ominous sound of a grinding engine, the trash compactor starting up–”

Or this . . .

“She moved through the crowd like shimmering eel cuts the water . . .    I thought that she must be a special woman.  And then I knew she was when she peeled off her leather jacket . . . and, well–”

You get the idea.  Each of these mind-blasters rivets audience attention on you.  Your listeners want to hear what comes next.  Of course, your mind-blaster must be relevant to your talk and the message you plan to convey.  If you engage in theatrics for their own sake, you’ll earn the enmity of your audience, which is far worse than inattention.

So craft an initial mind-blaster to lead your audience from sentence to sentence, eager to hear your next one.

And you will have succeeded in hooking and holding your listeners in spite of themselves.

For more on how to start your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Great Presentation . . . or Presentation Greatness?

Presentation Greatness and great presentations
Finding your presentation greatness means changing the way you present to achieve personal competitive advantage through great presentations

Nike has a new ad campaign that plays off the Olympics.  Its theme is “Find Your Greatness,” and it is, frankly, a great presentation on presentation greatness.

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars.  The truth is, greatness is for us all.  This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us.”

I like the positive thrust of the ad series, which places the locus of excellence inside each of us and urges us to cultivate a desire to strive and succeed, come what may.

The Hard Truth . . . Our Greatest Enemy

Key in this is often the hard truth that often we can be our worst enemy when it comes to achieving success.

Business presenting can be like that.

More often than not, the biggest obstacle to delivering a superb presentation is our self-doubt and fear of failure.  This can stymie the best of us.  It can result in half-hearted efforts that give us an “out” when we flop.

“I wasn’t even trying,” we can say with a shrug.  And thus spare ourselves the ignominy of putting our heart and effort into a presentation, only to have it “fail.”

The exasperating truth in this is that we need not fear failure.  Or even a job poorly done.  If we invest our minds and hearts in the right kind of preparation, we need not ever “fail” at delivering serviceable, even fantastic, presentations.

We all have the tools.  We all have the potential.  We can all give a great presentation.

But . . . How to Give a Great Presentation?

But it requires us to do the most difficult thing imaginable, and that is actually change the way we present.  This may seem obvious, but it’s not.  Many folks think that a great presentation exists somewhere outside themselves – in the software, in the written notes, in the prepared speech, in the audience somewhere.

The thought that we must step outside our comfort zone and actually adopt new habits while shedding the old ones is . . . well, it’s daunting.  And I hear every excuse imaginable why it can’t be done.  Usually having to do with “comfort.”

“I’m just not comfortable with that.”

Of course you’re not “comfortable” with that.  You’re comfortable with your old bad habits.

These are new habits of superb presenting, and when you adopt them as your own, you become comfortable with them.  When you do, you will be on your way to your own greatness.

You’ll be on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations.  Great presentations!

To further your journey to delivering great presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

“You don’t catch hell because . . .”

Earlier, I related how Malcolm X did not do much throat-clearing at the beginning of his talks.

Instead, he thrust a metaphorical sword into his audience.

He drove deeply to the heart of the issue in just a few short sentences, tapping into listener sensitivities.

His initial “grabber” was not meant simply for shock or surprise like a cheap circus feat.  It was shock and surprise linked to the needs of his audience, directly relevant and intertwined closely – even spiritually – with his listeners.

Malcolm did not engage in academic circumlocutions, oblique arguments, or vague generalizations. He said things directly, with punch and verve, with color and power.

He shunned latinate words and phraseology and drove home his point with Anglo-Saxon directness – short, powerful, repetitive sentences, constructed of the sturdiest syllables.

And once he had audience attention, he kept it.

Holding the Audience in your Grasp

One technique he used to hold his audiences rapt was the offering a single point and then colorfully making that point by means of a repetitive technique called the anaphora. It’s a technique that you can use as well.  Here’s how it works.

A powerful and carefully selected phrase is utilized at the beginning of a succession of sentences.  With each repetition, the presentation builds to a climax to produce a powerful emotional effect.  In Malcolm’s example we’re about to see, he uses the anaphora skillfully to identify a point of commonality among those in his audience that he holds with them.

I previously offered an example of one of Malcolm’s speeches delivered in 1963.  Let’s revisit that talk, review the first couple of sentences, and then see how Malcolm uses the anaphora to powerful emotional effect.  The speech was called  Message to the Grass Roots, and he delivered it in Detroit.  Note how 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.

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.

What comes next?

Now that Malcolm X has the full attention of his listeners, it’s time to make point # 1 – unity and commonality of purpose. He chooses the anaphora as his technique, and he does so masterfully. His phrase of choice is “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences.  When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist or Baptist, you don’t catch hell becasue you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk, and you sure don’t catch hell because you’re an American; because if you were an American, you wouldn’t catch hell.  You catch hell because you’re a black man.  You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.

 Malcolm has established beyond all doubt that he shares a commonality with his listeners that is directly tied to the central thesis of his talk. He drives his point home with the anaphora:  “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

He utilized the same theme, or trope, in the video below in this speech before another audience in 1964.  This time his anaphora was slightly different:  “We’re not brutalized because–”  And it is just as powerful with its mesmerizing effect. The entire video shows a master presenter in tune with his audience and in control of his message.

 

Malcolm’s delivery is masterful . . . his voice, his tone, his inflection, his humor, his posture, and his gestures combine with his rhetorical techniques to establish an incredible bond with his listeners.  You sense his control of the event.

So what does this have to do with you and with business presenting?

Just this.

A powerful and graceful speaker, Malcolm X utilized an entire battery of oratorical weapons.  He intuitively understood the oratorical methods developed over more than 2500 years, and he wielded them with grace and with power.  These techniques can be yours.  You need only understand them, their function, their effects, and practice them.

For instance, the anaphora of repetition.  You can use anaphora as a powerful technique to hammer home your most important points and to hold your audience in the midst of your presentation.

But you may Hesitate

You may protest that Malcolm X lived and struggled in a different place and time over issues far more important that you or I will ever face.  Yes, he did.  The stakes were incredibly high and, for him, became quite literally a matter of his death.  But regardless of the message, the techniques of powerful presenting remain the same.  They are verities handed to us over centuries.

And if you refuse to learn from our great legacy of master speakers, if you do not emulate them, who then will you learn from?  The CEO of Coca-Cola?  Hardly.

A cornucopia of especially powerful techniques is available to you.  You may not struggle for justice on an international platform, but this does not absolve you from crafting the most powerful presentation you possibly can using the techniques of the masters.

Surely while the emphasis and tone of your message changes with circumstance, but not the methods themselves.  The anaphora is one such technique you should incorporate into your repertoire.

Malcolm X used a multiplicity of techniques to engage his friends and to disarm his enemies.  You can use them, too, and we’ll look at them in future posts.

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.

“Earnestness” Can be Especially Powerful

The Earnest Presenter is an Especially Powerful Presenter

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

That’s a shame, because the word captures much of what makes for an especially powerful presentation.

Edwin Dubois Shurter was a presenting master in the early 20th Century, and he said way back in 1903 that “Earnestness is the soul of oratory.  It manifests itself in speech by animation, wide-awakeness, strength, force, power, as opposed to listlessness, timidity, half-heartedness, uncertainty, feebleness.”

What was true then is surely true today.

Without Earnestness, Only Small Victories

And yet, “earnestness” is frowned upon, perhaps, as somehow “uncool.”

If you appear too interested in something, and then you somehow are perceived as having failed, then your presentation “defeat” is doubly ignominious.  Better to pretend you don’t care.

Predictably, the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance, so that no defeat is too damaging.  And you save your best – your earnestness – for something else.  For your friends, for your sports contests, for your pizza discussions, for your intramural softball team . . .

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

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

Wrap your material in you.

This means giving a presentation that no one else can give, that no one else can copy . . . because it arises from your essence, your core.  It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject.

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

Embrace your topic and you will shine in an especially powerful presentation.  Earnestness becomes second nature.

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

Prepare your Presentation . . . Don’t Wing it!

Prepare Your Presentations
Prepare Your Presentations . . . Don’t “Wing” Them.

Always prepare your presentation for your audience in ways that move them.

Offer them something that speaks to them in the language they understand and to the needs they have.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

That’s the paradox.  We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.  We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear in language that gives us comfort.

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

Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why they have gathered to hear the message.  Often, a presenter may simply offer an off-the-shelf solution message.

A message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it.

Why Prepare Your Presentation?

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

They don’t prepare.  They offer standard tropes.

They rattle off cliches, and they pull out shopworn blandishments . . . and they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.  What he says and the way he says it, whatever it was, becomes gospel.

But what we actually witness from presenters of this type is actually a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by any speaker communicates a kind contempt for the audience and for the time of people gathered to listen.

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

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.  What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

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

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.   It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.

And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.  He obviously did not prepare, but you should prepare your presentation.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful presenters if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  We can gain much by respecting the audience enough to speak to them as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

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

Don’t Prepare Your Presentation?

In business school, you sometimes espy classmates who demonstrate this pathology of unpreparedness.  It’s called “winging it.”

Many students tend to approach presentations with either fear or faux nonchalance.  Or real nonchalance.  It’s a form of defensiveness.  This results in “winging it,” where contrived spontaneity and a world-weary attitude carries the day.

No preparation, no practice, no self-respect.  Just embarrassment.  Almost a defiant contempt for the assignment and the audience.

This kind of presentation abomination leaves the easy-out that the student “didn’t really try.”

It is obvious to everyone watching that you are “winging it.”  Why would you waste our time this way?  Why would you waste your own?  You have as much chance of achieving success “winging it” as a penguin has of flying.

Winging it leads to a crash landing of obvious failure, and whether you care or not is a measure of character.

The chief lesson to digest here is to always respect your audience and strive to give them your heart.  Prepare your presentation, and you will always gain a measure of success.

You never will if you “wing it.”

For more on how to prepare your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Don’t Lower the Bar . . . Jump Higher

Practice and Preparation
Training and Preparation make for a much more powerful performance

“I’m just not comfortable doing that.  It’s just not me.”

This is what passes for sage wisdom in some quarters in reaction to new ideas, new methods, different techniques, and sometimes just good advice.

What hokum.

For example, look at the big offensive lineman, who could end up starting for the football team, perhaps even take his performance to the next level of competition.  Coaches schedule his training regimen.  He responds:

“I’m just not comfortable with all these exercises.  It’s just not me.”

Hokum, yes . . .

You won’t hear that comment often in the locker room or on the battlefield, but we hear it all the time in other venues of life.

I think you know that the future isn’t bright for the player or soldier or businessman with this kind of precious attitude.

Of course not.  Developing new skills, new abilities, new strengths is uncomfortable.  It means changing our behavior in sometimes unfamiliar ways.  And instead of meeting the challenge, we can find ourselves taking a short cut.

Personal Competitive Advantage means working hard
Quiet Charisma . . . the Oxymoron

We attempt to redefine our goals to encompass what we already do, so that we no longer have to stretch or strive to meet the original tough goals.  We may find ourselves redefining what it means to excel, we lower the bar so as to meet our lower expectations . . . rather than continue to strive to excel to achieve a lofty and worthy goal.We move the goal posts closer.

Several years ago, I was delivering a lecture on how to develop charisma.  A young woman, who was surely not a charismatic speaker offered this gem  “What about people who have quiet charisma?”

“I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

“I mean people who don’t exhibit these characteristics you’ve been talking about, but show a quiet charisma.”

Those characteristics that I had referred to are personal magnetism, a seeming aura that radiates enthusiastic goodwill, a mesmerizing speaking style, and a kind of restrained hyper-kinetic internal fuel cell that you sense could move mountains if unleashed [here, of course, I exaggerate . . . but the point is made].

This person expressed that she was extremely “uncomfortable” with the techniques that, in fact, would help her become more charismatic in delivering her presentations.  But rather than experience that discomfort, she chose instead to appeal to me to redefine charisma to include her own behavior.

Unambitious Goals . . . a Lower Bar

Behavior that was the exact opposite of charismatic.  She wanted to move the goalposts closer.  She wanted to lower the bar.

Oxymoronic “quiet charisma.”  Charisma on the cheap.  Easy charisma.

There’s no such thing

To reach a worthy goal, we may have to step outside of what is sometimes called our “comfort zone.”  I prefer to think of it as enlarging our comfort zone rather than stepping outside of it.

Any time we begin to rationalize and redefine our goals, it is time to pause and reflect.  Are we selling ourselves short?  Are we fooling ourselves?

Are we telling ourselves that we possess “quiet charisma” instead of doing the hard work and practice necessary to achieve the real thing?

Think about it.

For more on developing an especially powerful professional presence, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.