Category Archives: Personal Competitive Advantage

Banish Presentation Stage Fright!

stage fright ugh!  Personal Competitive Advantage!
Banish Stage Fright forever, for lasting personal competitive advantage

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

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

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

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

But confidence is one of those elusive qualities, and without it we forfeit tremendous https://www.ihatepresentations.com/personal-competitive-advantage-2/.

It’s almost paradoxical.

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

Confidence in public speaking is hard to come by.  Or so we think.

Let’s back into this thing called confidence.

For good reason, we understand it to be a superb source of personal competitive advantage.

Confidence Conquers Stage Fright

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fear of judgment.

Presentation Stage Fright Begone!

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

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

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

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

Confidence pushes out presentation stage fright for especially powerful personal competitive advantage
Personal Competitive Advantage is yours for the taking!

They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.

They are pulling for you.

Yes, even your fellow students want you to succeed.  They want to be entertained.

Please entertain us, they think.

They’re open to whatever new insight you offer.  And they know, for a fact, that they will be in your same place many times during their careers.

They are fellow-travelers in the business presentation journey.

And so confidence is yours for the taking.

Confidence is not a thing.

It cannot be grasped or packaged or bought.  It’s a state of mind, isn’t it?

It’s a feeling.  When we get right down to it, it really is just the mental context within which we perform.

What does it really mean to be confident?  Can you answer that direct question?

Think about it a moment.

See?

Seize Confidence for Yourself!

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

Is it certitude?  Is it knowledge?

Is it bravery?  Is it surety?

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

It could be any familiar activity.

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

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

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

Centuries of Presentation Stage Fright

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

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

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

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

Reduce your uncertainty.

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

They are so utterly essential to Power Presenting that they bear repetition and constant reinforcement.

They’re the cornerstone upon which you build your style, your confidence, your performance pizzazz.

Principles, Preparation, Practice

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

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

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

When you apply the Three Ps, you reduce uncertainty.

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

You rehearse.

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

But that’s fuel for your creative engine.

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

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

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

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

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

And banish presentation stage fright forever for especially powerful personal competitive advantage.

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

Positive Presentation Attitude . . . Be Careful with Candor

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

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

For any presentation, really.

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

Especially where criticism of current company policy is concerned.

Especially when your team must convey bad news.

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

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

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

Isn’t it?

Positive Presentation Attitude for Personal Preservation

Honesty is important, sure.

But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor.  And we must be clear on the difference between the two.

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

Big difference.

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

In that way.

Remember that you can express honesty in many ways.  Presentation prudence suggests that we learn a few of them.  Use the right words to convey the bad news to the people who are paying you.

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

Uh-oh.

Wound Someone’s Ego, You Pay a Price

Anyone can use a sledgehammer.

Anyone.

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

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

With lots of consideration and skill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To deliver a fine-tuned presentation.

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

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

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

So remember that tact and a positive presentation attitude is as important to your presentation as accuracy.  Internalize that lesson, and you’re on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations that persuade more than they insult.

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

More Power Posing for Powerful Business Presentations

Power Posing for Confidence
Power Posing as Wonder Woman

Anyone who has come to this space for any length of time knows that I extol the work of Dr. Amy Cuddy in helping us to learn power posing for our business presentations.

Her now-famous 2010 Harvard study of MBAs demonstrates conclusively that we can, indeed, control our emotions to a certain extent with regard to our delivery of business presentations.

In short, we can make ourselves feel confident and powerful . . . just by striking a powerful pose.

This is heady stuff, and Dr. Cuddy herself explains the process in the video below.

Power Posing Works

Dr. Cuddy’s findings are revolutionary to the extent that she substantially confirms a theory of emotions developed more than a century ago and since discarded for supposedly more au courant notions.  Psychologists William James and Carl Lange conceived of a new way of understanding our emotions and how they work.

They reversed the prevailing dynamic this way . . .

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language, and we ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.

Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

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

What if we could engage in power posing and create our own confidence?

Power Posing can Create Confidence?

Impossible, eh?

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

And Dr. Amy Cuddy’s research proves it.  Have a look . . . 

 

Dr. Cuddy offers powerful instruction for us in the realm of nonverbal communication and in the area of self-motivation and inculcation of power-generating behavior.

But . . .

There are aspects of this video that are instructive in verbal communication as well.

As a caveat, lest we learn other less salutary lessons from the video, I call attention to aspects of Dr. Cuddy’s unfortunate verbal delivery.

This is not to gratuitously disparage Dr. Cuddy, for I am one of her biggest fans, and I advocate her approach to power posing whenever and wherever I speak.

Let’s learn a few things about verbal delivery from the video.

Three Tics to Eliminate

First, her voice often collapses at the end of sentences into a growl-like vocal fry.  This results from pinching off the flow of air before finishing a sentence, delivering the last syllables in a kind of grind.

Second, Dr. Cuddy engages frequently in uptalk.  This is a verbal tic that pronounces declarative sentences as if they are questions or as if they are statements in doubt.  It consists of running the last word or syllable in a sentence up in tone instead of letting it drop decisively.  The difference to the ear is dramatic, with uptalk conveying self-doubt, indecision, a quest for validation.

Third, Dr. Cuddy unconsciously laces her talk with words such as “like” and “you know” as filler.  Perhaps to maintain a steady drumbeat of verbiage?  Who knows the reason people use these crutches.

Eliminate these fillers from your own talks to gain power and decisiveness.  Instead of fillers, use silence.  Develop the technique of pausing instead of filling every second of your talk with noise.

And so . . . learn the lessons of power posing and engage them in your presentations to imbue them with energy.  But eliminate the verbal tics that can leech away that energy from your talk.

For more on power posing and the confidence you can gain, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Reluctant Presentation Tips . . .

Presentation Tips for fun and profit
I have always considered presentation tips – “McTips” – to be the fast food of instruction

What about those ubiquitous articles that offer “presentation tips” to help improve your business presenting?

I hate ’em.

Even so, I sometimes relent . . . and give a tip.

In fact, I’m often asked for “quick tips” to improve a presentation or a speech, and I invariably oblige . . . even though I’m philosophically opposed to the “McTips” school of presentation instruction.

Why do I relent?

Utility.

A hasty presentation McTip can sometimes offer the exact solution needed.  Often, all it takes for a fine speaker to vault to the next level is the correction of a tic or bad habit.

These tics affect us all, and they’re like barnacles on a ship, slowing us down.  They prevent us from reaching our full potential.

And so, I acknowledge that sometimes a single “tip” can make a powerful difference in the presenting trajectory of an individual person striving to tweak his delivery in a meaningful way.

So here’s a tip.

Here’s a “McTip” for the Day

We all engage in a particular debilitating phrase.  We’re all guilty of it at some point.  This phrase is like a leech, fastened onto our presentation, sucking the lifeblood from us.

No, not a lot of blood.

That’s why it’s so insidious.  It seems so harmless.

It sucks not a lot of energy.  But one leech leads to another.  And soon . . .

Well, let’s not dwell on the horror.

Instead, just stop saying it.

Stop saying this power-leeching phrase:

“As I said before . . .”

That’s it.  And it’s insidiously mundane, isn’t it?

Nondescript.  Seemingly harmless.

Don’t Say It!  Just Don’t!

I know how this phrase creeps in.  It ambushes me at times.

Deep into our presentation, we glance at the screen and we begin to make a point.  Then suddenly, we realize with horror that

Presentation Tips can be . . . okayWe already said it.

Our minds furiously spin . . .

In a flash, our imaginations suppose that the audience is filled with Gotcha! types who are poised to leap to their feet and point accusing fingers at us, shouting “You already said that!

So we reflexively qualify what we say by telegraphing that, indeed, we said it already:  “As I mentioned before–”

“As I said before–”

Or someone else on our team already said it:   “As my colleague already mentioned–”

This drags down your presentation with every utterance of this putrid phrase.  This putrid phrase, in fact, adds no value whatever, and it detracts significantly from presentation flow.

It’s a distraction.

More Presentation Tips . . . ?

It upends audience attention, sending their minds back to some previous point in the presentation that they missed any way.

Go ahead and say it again.  And again.  And again.

And again.

Say it in different ways.  Say it in the same way.

Hammer home your main points with repetition and emphasis.

And never, ever announce that you’re repeating yourself.

You’ll find more presentation tips – ugh – in my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Become a Powerful Business Presenter . . . No Excuses

Powerful business presenter
You can become an especially powerful business presenter

With regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people, and none of these people seems truly to want to become an especially powerful business presenter.

For sake of descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”

“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become a powerful business presenter.

Neither is remotely accurate.

And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters.  Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways.

Here’s why . . .

We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do.  If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.

Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful business presenters.

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.  That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.  That Malcolm X was simply blessed with eloquence and power.  That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.

That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills.  The plateau of presentation excellence is forever denied us.

Thus, it becomes an excuse for us not to persevere.

Why bother to try?

Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types to do the heavy presentation lifting?  The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . .

. . . or unambitious.

The Second View

The second view is the opposite of the first.

This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap.  So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”

Become an especially powerful business presenterHas the presentation landscape eroded so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?

I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!

Have the expectations of the presentation become so unexceptional?

Have our senses become so numb that we must accept the lowest common denominator of presenting, the notion that adequate presentation skills can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Perhaps they have, today, but in an earlier time, respect for the powerful business presenter was near-universal.

In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.

In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.

On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.

The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?

The Third View – The Power Zone

There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.

This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way.  Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.

In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence. Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance.

The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.

The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!”  Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.

An excuse not to become an especially powerful business presenter.

One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task.  So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way.  Bon  voyage!  I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.

But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . .  “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”

Become a Powerful Business Presenter
Powerful Business Presenter . . . your choice
You choose to become a powerful business presenter . . . or not

Then you can read on to the next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity.  For the truth is in the Power Zone.

Once there, you’ll never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom.  It is completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting.  It’s your choice.

You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute.  Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . .  only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.

A method that transforms you.

Choose the Red Pill.  Step boldy into the Power Zone.

The Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.

If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough to become a powerful business presenter, or believing you already are a powerful business presenter . . . when you’re actually not.

Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique.  A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking.  This history informs the very best presenters and their work.

You dismiss it only to your great loss.

No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking.  In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.

But what you can and should do is this:  Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter, who delivers especially powerful business presentations.

When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you.  You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.

An especially powerful presenter.

Now, you have no other real excuse.  It’s totally up to you.

For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.

Your Business Presentation Appearance . . . Please, no “Statements!”

Business Presentation Appearance, the source of personal competitive advantage
Business Presentation Appearance, a source of personal competitive advantage

Many folks don’t consider that our presentation appearance transmits messages to our audience.

You ve seen enough scruffy presenters to vouch for this yourself.

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

This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your presentation appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.  You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your presentation appearance transmits.

And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

Nonverbal Messages from Presentation Appearance

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you are attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”  If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

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

Are you the “ageless rebel” battling the “Man”?

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that presentation appearance conveys.  Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.

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

Business Presentation Appearance
Presentation Appearance can be a Deal-Breaker

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

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

Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.

On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

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

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

You will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.  The messages must mesh.

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

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

For more on presentation appearance, as well as the other six elements of your personal style, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Professional Presence . . . for Personal Competitive Advantage

Professional Presence
Seize the Power of Professional Presence

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

I should say potential power.

For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited.

It’s a forfeiture of competitive advantage.

Forfeiture of Power

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

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

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

Here, Paulson describes the impact of Professional Presence.

It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to convey a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire.

The speaker becomes part of the message.

Here is where you become part of the message.

You bring into play your unique talents and strengths to create a powerful professional presence.

Naked Information Overflow

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

Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background.

And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

personal competitive advantage can be lost
Awash in information, drowning in data

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.

They would rather compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.

If you do this . . . if you become an automaton, then you cede important personal competitive advantage.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.

Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective.

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

The Secret of Professional Presence

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

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

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

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter.

A presenter commanding the facts and delivering compelling arguments.

Power of Professional presence
Personal Competitive Advantage can be yours

A presenter using all the tools at his or her disposal.

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

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

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

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

How to Improve Your Presentation Voice

You can improve your presentation voice
You can work to improve your presentation voice

Do you bristle when folks suggest that you might improve yourself in some way . . . such as how you might improve your presentation voice?

This is a natural reaction when it comes to highly personal aspects of our personality and behavior.

We bristle.

We reject coaching in certain areas.

Perhaps you kneejerk that “There’s nothing wrong with my ——–!”

Of course, it’s much easier to accept a substandard status quo than it is to opt for improvement.

One example of such an area of improvement is your business presentation voice.

Choose!

To get to the point where we can improve the speaking voice, we first must accept that there’s nothing sacred, sacrosanct, or “natural” about your speaking voice.

Your voice is the product of many years of development from numerous influences.  Many of these influences might well have been unconscious acquisitions.  Perhaps adaptations of which you may be unaware.

Why not evaluate your voice today?

Film your presentation, then watch with critical eye and listen with critical ear.  Listen with an ear to how to improve your presentation voice.

See if it gets the presentation job done for you.  Does it?

Does your voice crack?  Does it whine?

Do you perform a Kim Kardashian vocal fry at the end of every sentence?  Does it tic up at the end of every sentence with a bad case of uptalk, turning your sentences all into questions?

Do you lard your conversation with nonsensical filler such as “whatever,” “umm,” “totally,” and “like” hundreds of times per day?

If you are then pleased with all of this, then carry on.  Or choose to improve the communicative power of your voice.

Why not change for the better?

Improve Your Presentation Voice

It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being.  It’s an instrument with which you communicate.

You can sharpen your communication skills by improving your voice.

Simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality. Working to improve it will improve its quality dramatically and build your voice into an especially powerful skill for personal competitive advantage.

Let’s consider here several things you can do to improve your voice.

Nothing extreme at all.  Have a look . . .

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

Professional Appearance for Competitive Advantage

Professional Appearance
Professional Appearance Matters

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

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

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

This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

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

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

The “Ageless Rebel” Battling the “Man”?

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

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

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

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

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

Professional Appearance for Credibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Give a Business Presentation

How to Give a Business Presentation
Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation?

Business students need credible, brief, and direct resources on how to give a business presentation.

You want solid information and best practices, not generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”

You want to know what works and why.  You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.

You want to know what is just opinion and what, if anything, is carved in stone.

Think of this place as your Official College Guide to Business School Presentations, because here you’ll find answers here to the most basic questions.

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

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

You may not like the answers.  You may disagree with the answers.

Fair enough.  Let a thousand presentation flowers bloom across the land.  Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.

Or not.

2,500 Years of How to Give a Business Presentation

But you should know that I offer here the distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets.  Secrets developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.

Cicero, Quintilian, Demosthenes, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama  – all find their places in the pantheon of the most powerful presenters of all time.  And all of them knew how to give a business presentation.

They all have drawn upon the eternal verities of presenting.  In turn, they have each contributed their own techniques to the body of wisdom.

You find those verities here.

Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation

In our modern-day world of multimedia extravaganzas, who needs business presentations?  It’s all done for us now, right?

The presentation is contained in the software, and all you need do is plug in the specifics.  Right?

With all of these high-tech prosthetic presentation devices, anyone can be a presentation hero!

Right?  Right?

You may wish it were true, but of course you know that this is wrong.  Horribly wrong.

You’ve seen enough endless, boring, unintelligible slide-a-thons to know that something is amiss here.

Why are 99 percent of business presentations so boring?  Why is it that only 1 percent of corporate America seems to know how to give a business presentation in a coherent, interesting manner?

The answer’s here, and on this site.

Why Bother with How to Give a Business Presentation?

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

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

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

What would that be worth to you?  Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?

Think of it – business presentation skills you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life.  A skill that few people take seriously.

A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.

Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively.  Nor logically.  Comfortably.  Clearly.  Cogently.  This is why corporate recruiters rate business presentation skills more important in candidates than any other trait or skill.

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Secret Skill You Knew They Kept from You

The Secret Skill – the edge – you’ve always sought.

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

In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker and learn how to give a business presentation with competence and confidence, you lift yourself into that rarefied 1 percent of business students and executives.

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

You actually have to change the way you do things.  This can be tough.

Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves.  The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves.  Off the shelf.  In a box.

This doesn’t work.  Not at all.  You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.

You already carry it with you.

But you will have to change.

But Great Business Presentation Skills Mean Change . . .

This is about transformation.

Transforming the way we think, the way we view the world.  Transforming the lens through which we peer at others, the lens through which we see ourselves.  Transforming you so that you know how to give a business presentation and deliver power and impact every time.

And it begins with your uniqueness.  Each of us applies our own uniqueness to the tools and verities that make for great business presentations.  We mark our presentations with our own personal brand.

Your realization of uniqueness and belief in it is essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.

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

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

Explore the truths here on how to give a business presentation and begin today to energize your personal brand and gain personal competitive advantage.

For more on how to give a business presentation with power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

Business Passion to Fuel your Presentation

Business Passion in your Presentations
Put Business Passion in your Presentation for Power and Impact

Business Passion occupies the core of any great business presentation.

Business Passion is like fuel for your car.  Not just any fuel.

High Octane fuel.

Passion captures much of what makes for an especially powerful business presentation.

Business is Passionate, so Capture it

In earlier times, they used the word “Earnestness” to capture the same powerful concept as passion.

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.  Michelle Bowden is a presentation guru who embraces presentation earnestness.

And yet, “earnestness” – or business passion – is frowned upon, perhaps, as somehow “uncool.”

If you appear too interested in your business presentation, that puts you at risk . . . you think.  If you “fail” then you face utter humiliation.  Or so you believe.

Better to pretend you don’t care, eh?

Showing Too Much Interest?

So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool, so that no defeat is too damaging.  Sleepwalk your way through your presentation.

No business passion for you!

And 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 necessarily small.  Meager effort yields acceptable results in areas where only meager effort is required.

Is mediocrity acceptable to you?  Do you settle?  Do you want to simply muddle through your presentations, part of an ocean of undistinguished colleagues who also seem not to care?

Leave Mediocrity to Others and Embrace Business Passion

Mediocrity is the province of the lazy and nonchalant.  Shurter was a keen observer of presentations, and he recognized the key role played by business passion 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.  And recognize that we in business are blessed with the stuff of great stories, epic stories of conflict.  Of victory and defeat.  Of triumph and tragedy.  Of power and business passion.

Seize that power to influence.

This means giving a business presentation that no one else can give.  A presentation that no one else can copy.  Why?  Because it arises from your essence, from your own 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.  It could be their business or their product.  Or their service.  You should make it yours and put business passion into your presentation.

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 business passion, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Develop Professional Presence

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

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

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

Forfeiture of Power

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

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

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

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

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

You become charismatic.

Naked Information Overflow

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

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

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

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

You become like everyone else.

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

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

The Secret of Professional Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Competitive Advantage in Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

Take the Smart Fork

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

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

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

Is that “fair?”

It’s fair for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

Or . . .

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

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

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

Think.

Don’t Eliminate Yourself from Contention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Jargon in Presentations

Business Jargon in PresentationsOur profession contrives business jargon and then clutches it to its breast.

It’s useful.

Especially as shorthand for keen concepts well-understood.

But the more Machiavellian among us sometimes enshrine it as a code for entry into a priesthood of the knowledgeable.

And so we have the conundrum – one man’s obfuscation is another man’s sharply drawn argument, both using “jargon.”

Who with compassion would strip a man of his outlet for facile expression, the utility of shorthand “jargon,” simply because there exist unscrupulous cads who abuse the privilege of a profession’s lexicon?

Business Jargon Struggles for Hearts and Minds?

The struggle is for clear and original expression against the encroachment of weasel-words.  The struggle is for meaningful distinctions between useful locutions and the vulgarity of “jargon.”

So it’s a struggle, yes, but it’s also an internal struggle.

I’m torn, because it is my bane to be charged with teaching the lexicon, the “jargon” to vulnerable young minds.  Minds to which business jargon sounds fresh and innovative, when it’s actually already stale and reified.

It’s an axiom that once something makes it into a textbook, it likely is already outdated.

Business Jargon in PresentationsBut business jargon does perform valuable service.  If used judiciously and properly and with clear intent to the purpose for which it was created.

If it’s wielded not to obfuscate.

If it’s wielded not to mind-taser the listener into a kind of numb dumbness.

For those of us in the profession that is home to our jargon, it serves as shorthand for many thoughts already thought, not simply a comfortable refuge.  Shorthand for many debates already concluded.  Many theories already expressed. Many systems already in place.

 In fact, a deep vein of rich discussion lurks beneath the glib façade of most of our jargon.

And thus business jargon presents us with a dilemma – if it were not useful, it would not exist.  And anything that is useful can be misused.

It should come with a warning label.

A Business Jargon Warning Label?

I provide such a warning label.  But only half-heartedly.

Half-heartedly, because it is my first obligation to ensure that my charges remember the “jargon” that I serve up to them.  They must imbibe deeply and, at some point during a seemingly interminable semester, they must regurgitate the jargon.

They must drink deeply from the cup of “competitive advantage.”

They must feast heartily at the table of “core competency” and ladle large portions of “market failure” and “pioneering costs” along with a light sprinkling of what some might consider the oxymoronic garnish of “business ethics.”

More insidious than the standard business jargon is the phalanx of “new” program buzzwords that march our way in endless columns, recycling ideas of old . . . and then recycling them yet again.

Business jargon in presentationsBest Practices,” “Re-engineering,” “Six Sigma,” “TQM, “Benchmarking,” “Balanced Scorecard,” and on and on . . .

For those of us who bathe regularly in the sea of “competitive advantage” and “market saturation” and “pioneering costs” and “core competencies,” we cannot exercise the luxury of contempt.

Instead, we must labor as any wordsmith must labor.  We must not ban the hammer because some use it to bash their thumb instead of the nail.

Just as any writer seeks and secures precision in language, the business writer must labor likewise.  Constant vigilance is our only guarantor against the debasing of the language.

This is true in business and in academia as it is true in the high-minded world of the literati.

High-minded?  It might be also useful to exercise constant vigilance that high-mindedness does not become high-handedness.

Humility and the hunger for clarity.

Uncommon qualities in the business and academic worlds?  Perhaps, but surely they should be considered corollary to the jargon that seems pervasive and inescapable and that nettles us so naughtily.

But enough!  Cast all of this aside and consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for a jargon-free entre into the high priesthood of the finest business presenters in the corporate world!

The Business Case Competition – Winning

Business Case Competition for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

The Finance Business Case Competition

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

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

But stylistically, much remains to improve.

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

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

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

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

1)  Throat-clearing

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

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

2)  Lack of confidence

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

3)  Unreadable PowerPoint slides

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

4)  Ineffective interaction with visuals

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Important Point of Your Presentation

Storytelling conveys your Most Important Point
Powerful Storytelling conveys your Most Important Point

I advocate storytelling in your business presentations, and your story should embody your presentation’s Most Important Point.

Stories are powerful tools of communication that can capture complex ideas in a few telling strokes.  They involve your listeners better than any other competing technique.

They can serve you well and confer personal competitive advantage over your entire business presenting career.  And they can convey your Most Important Point better in masterful fashion.

But It Takes Practice

But in telling a story, we can sometimes veer off-course.  We become so enamored with our own words that they build a momentum of their own, and they draw us along with their own impetus.

That’s why it’s imperative that we stay tethered to our main point.

Professional storyteller Doug Lippman calls this the Most Important Thing.  I like to call it the MIP – the Most Important Point.

Christopher Witt is a competent coach for today’s executives, and he makes a powerful point about a story’s MIP.  He calls it the Big Idea:

A good movie tells one simple, powerful story.  If you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two, it’s not a good story – and it won’t make a good movie. The same is true for a speech.  A movie tells one story.  A speech develops one idea.  But it’s got to be a good idea – a policy, a direction, an insight, a prescription.  Something that provides clarity and meaning, something that’s both intellectually and emotionally engaging.  It’s got to be what I call a Big Idea.

What is your Most Important Point?  Your MIP?

Decide!

Decide and make that point the focus of your story.  Rivet your attention on that salient feature!  Let this be core of your story and weave your tale around it.

I urge you to focus on one point, because our tendency as business people is to include everything initially, or to add-on infinitum until the story collapses under its own weight.  The military calls this “mission creep,” and we can call it “story creep.”

Simple awareness of story creep is usually sufficient guard against it.

Your Most Important Point

Your MIP should run through your story, both directly and indirectly.  It informs your story and keeps you on-track as you prepare your presentation.  At each stage of your presentation preparation, ask yourself and members of your group if the material at hand supports your MIP.  If it does not support your most important point, then it does not belong in your story.

Telling a story does not mean reliance upon emotion only.  You must have substance.  There must be a significant conclusion with each supporting point substantiated by research and fact and analytical rigor.

This should go without saying, but I decided to say it anyway.  Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it much better than I can:

Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative.  Afterward it may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color, and speaks only through the most poetic forms; but, first and last, it must still be at bottom a statement of fact.  The orator is thereby an orator, that he keeps his feet ever on a fact.  Thus only is he invincible.  No gifts, no graces, no power of wit or learning or illustration will make any amends for want of this.

For more on storytelling to convey your Most Important Point in your business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations
Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations

What is presentation gesture, and why worry about it at all?

It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something nice to have, but unessential to the point of our business presentation.

The fact is that you can’t separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume.  From your nuance.

And you can’t separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.  And, if we’re good, improve our personal competitive advantage by way of especially powerful presentations.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”

Let’s understand what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:

“Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

A wave of the hand.  A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.  A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.  An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These presentation gestures can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Yes, destroy.  Herky-jerky moves, odd nervous dancing, strange finger-tugging, aimless pacing, injudiciously timed gesticulations – all of these can undermine an otherwise outstanding verbal performance.

Especially Powerful Gesture

Professional presentation coaches understand that much of the information transmitted in a show is visual.

This results from the presence of the speaker.  Because of this, an audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

Presentation Gesture
Presentation Gesture can be subtle . . . or expansive.

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience.  She contends that “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

We can quibble over the exact parsing of how much communication is verbal and how much nonverbal.  But there’s no doubt that gestures inject energy and accent to our business presentations.They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Presentation Gesture in History

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.  Entire books, in fact, have been penned about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.

See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Ott contends that gesture in your presentation should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

And we never gesture idly, without a point to make.

Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It is false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture for Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power.  Gesture forms a substantial part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication, and on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

In short, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

For more on presentation gesture, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

 

 

 

Business Presentation Skills for a Strong Personal Brand

Business Presentation Skills for Personal Competitive Advantage
Business Presentation Skills for Personal Competitive Advantage

What is left about business presentation skills that anyone would want to read in a blog?

What is there left to say?  After two or three posts?

Doesn’t that cover it?

That’s the attitude of many young people, including my daughter, who ought to know better.

One of my former colleagues even believes he can inculcate adequate presentation skill in, as he says, “30 minutes.”

Such is the myth of the soft skill.

Adolescent Attitude Toward Business Presentations Skills

One of the conundrums of business presenting is that it’s what is known in the parlance as a “soft skill.”

This suggests that skill at business presenting is somehow “softer” than, say, accounting.  It therefore needs less attention or development.

It must be somehow “easier.”

That it’s something that can be “picked up along the way.”

Many people believe this.  It can damage the early careers of young people, who form a wrong impression of the craft of speaking publicly.

Public Speaking – excellent public speaking – is tough.  Delivering a superb business presentation is one of the tougher tasks, because it often requires coordination with others in a kind of ballet.

The Reality of Business Presentation Skills
Especially Powerful Business Presentation Skills
Powerful Business Presentation Skills can confer personal competitive advantage

And it requires practice, just like any other discipline.

But invariably, the “soft skill” label moves it down the priority list of faculty and college administrators and, hence, of the students they serve.

I can quickly gauge the attention on business presenting skills at an institution by simply watching a cross-section of presentations.  To be generous, student business presentations are usually poor across a range of dimensions.

They come across most often as pedestrian.  Many are quite bad.

But this is not to say that they are worse than what passes for presenting in the corporate world.  They’re usually as good – or as bad – as what is dished out in the “real world.”

The Great Embarrassment

The great embarrassment is that the majority of business students have untapped potential for becoming competent and especially powerful business presenters.  But they never realize that potential because they never progress out of the swamp of poor business presentation skills.

Some students pass through the business school funnel with only cursory attention to business presentation skills.  Perhaps I’m too demanding, and the degree of attention I’d like to see just isn’t possible.  But . . .

But the craft of business presenting needs only the proper focus and priority to transform young people into quite capable and competent presenters.

And some institutions get it right.

I’m blessed to serve an institution that takes business presentation skills seriously.  My school’s winning results in case competitions demonstrates this commitment to preparing business students to excel in the most-demanded skill that corporate recruiters seek.  A coterie of professors, particularly in finance, have recognized the power bestowed by sharp business presentation skills.

And they emphasize these skills far beyond the norm in most schools.

Business Presentation Skills for an Especially Powerful Personal Brand
Business Presentation Skills for a Powerful Personal Brand

Administrators, too, insist that students pass through rigorous workshops that inculcate in students the presenting skills to last a business lifetime.

Business Presentation Skills Build a Powerful Personal Brand

The results can be phenomenal.

Merely by exposure to the proper techniques, students gain tremendous personal career advantage.

By elevating business presentation skills to the same level of the sub-disciplines of, say, marketing, operations, or risk management, B-Schools can imbue their students and faculty with the appropriate reverence for the presentation enterprise.

One result of this is the creation of young executives who tower over their peers in terms of presenting skills.  And especially powerful business presentation skills are in high demand by corporate recruiters.

This highly refined skill of delivering stunning business presentations becomes part of a powerful and distinctive personal brand.  A brand that cannot be copied easily and so becomes part of a personal competitive advantage that can last a lifetime.

So, back to the original contention of folks who wonder what could one possibly write about in a “business presenting blog” . . . just as there is much to be learned, it means there is much to write about.

There is much to be distilled from 2500 years of recorded presentation wisdom.

The wisdom is there.  It remains for us to seize it and make it our own for enhanced personal competitive advantage.

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

 

Telling Your Story for Personal Competitive Advantage

Story for Personal Competitive AdvantageOne of the most important business presenting occasions you face in your career is the job interview.

In the interview, you present for your most important client – you.

And the question I’m asked most frequently with respect to how you present your accomplishments is this:

“How do I talk about myself and my qualifications in a way that is honest and forthright and yet does not sound like braggadocio?”

This is a reasonable concern, and if you can find a way to do so, then you will have acquired an especially powerful personal competitive advantage.

No Need to Boast . . .

Few people like to boast, instead going to the opposite extreme of false humility.  Neither boasting nor meekness is the answer.

Instead, try this . . .

Understand that you are not in the interview to talk about your resume.  Your resume got you through the door and into the interview.

Now, the recruiter is searching for something more.  And that “something” is often indefinable.

Tell your story for personal competitive advantage

The recruiter is evaluating you for other things, such as corporate fit, personality, working intelligence, verbal acuity.

Many times, the recruiter doesn’t know what he or she is actually looking for.

But the recruiter does know what is unacceptable and is thus conscious of disqualifiers.

For the young or mid-level candidate, the atmosphere can feel akin to a minefield.  Some candidates feel that if they go tightlipped, they cannot make a mistake, and so they weigh each word carefully, triangulating what they believe the recruiter wants to hear.

But it is not enough to simply survive without making a slip . . . or a “mistake.”

This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.

Instead, go into your interview to make the presentation of your life about you, not what you think the recruiter is looking for.

When it comes time to talk about yourself – here is exactly how to do it.

Talk about what you learned or what you discovered about yourself.

That’s it.

Digest that for a moment.

Yes, it really is that simple.  But it’s not easy, especially if you aren’t accustomed to talking about yourself this way.  It takes practice.

Talk about a difficult group project or a difficult task that required you to adapt and use your unique skill set.  In, say, a group work setting, tell of your learning about the importance of time management, of punctuality.  Translation:

        I have a great work ethic and I’m punctual.

Tell how you learned to deal with people from different cultures and backgrounds and to value difference.  Translation:

        I get along with a wide range of people.

Tell how you discovered that you gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others do their best, drawing out their best qualities and backstopping them where they are weak.  Translation:

        I’m a team-player who subordinates my ego to get the job done for the company, recognizing that others may need help on occasion, help that I freely give.

Tell how you learned about different work styles and of the different ways of tackling problems.  Translation:

     I’m flexible and adaptable to a variety of work environments and people.

For an Especially Powerful Interview

See how it works?

You don’t talk about your strengths . . . you talk of what you learned about yourself during the course of a project or task.  So think of a major project you’ve tackled in the past and build your story around that.

For example, you could say something like this:

“I worked on a major three-month project in my International Business Capstone involving a multicultural team, and in the project, I learned a great deal about myself as well as others.  I believe that I grew not only as a professional, but as a human being.  This gave me a great deal of satisfaction, especially as I saw others developing their skills as well.”

Or, if you are a young professional, you could say:

“We received a last-minute project and it was dumped on us without warning, which made us work through the weekend.  That was pivotal.  It was then that I learned that this is the nature of business – chaotic, demanding, unforgiving, unpredictable – and how I respond to the challenge makes the difference between a win and a loss.  That experience forged me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.”

With that statement, you have conveyed a wealth of positive information to the recruiter.

Of course, it all must be true, so you must adapt your story particulars to your own work life.  And all of us have these moments and experiences, so mine your recent past for them.   Your resume itself has at least a dozen stories, and it’s up to you to find them.  When you do find them, craft them, practice them, and use them . . . you will have achieved an important personal competitive advantage.

So always remember these key words . . .

Let me share with you what I learned about myself.

For more on crafting a winning story to gain personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Gangnam Style Presentation

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

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

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

The presenter calls himself Psy.

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

VEGAS PM.

Applying the Three Ps

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

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

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

View this Gangnam Style Presentation with these precepts in mind.

 

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

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

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

Deliver a Gangnam Style Presentation

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

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

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