Category Archives: Principles

Especially Powerful Practice

Presentation Practice
The Right Business Presentation Practice can Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

Business presentation practice is one of the keys to an especially powerful performance.

The right kind of practice for your business presentation.

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

But you know how to practice your presentation already, right?

Practice is easy.

You just . . .

. . . do it.

Right?

Especially Powerful Practice Yields . . .

First, not everyone practices.

Some practice not at all.

Those who do practice, usually don’t practice nearly enough.

Given how important the business presentation is to your corporate success, this creates an incredible career opportunity for you.  If you take the presentation enterprise seriously . . . an engage in the right kind of business presentation practice.

Here’s why . . .

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

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

But you only reap the benefits of practice if your practice makes sense.

And if you develop keen-minded presentation practice habits, then likewise you’re on your way to developing a powerful personal competitive advantage.

This means that you practice the way you perform and avoid the two biggest rehearsal mistakes.

Mistake #1

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

Something in our psyche seems to urge us to “start over” when we make a mistake.

When we stumble, we want a “do-over.”

So that we can assemble a perfect rehearsal from start to finish.

But when we do this, what we actually practice is the “starting over.”  We become experts at “starting over” when we make a mistake.

Business Presentation Practice
Especially Powerful Practice for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

Start over?

No, of course not.

But if we have practiced that way, what will we do when we do stumble during our performance?  We won’t know what to do or how to handle the situation, since we have never practiced fighting through an error and continuing on.

We have practiced only one thing – starting over.

Instead of starting over when you err, practice the gliding over of “errors,” never calling attention to them.  Practice recovering from your error and minimizing it.

Perform according to the principle that regardless of what happens, you planned it.

Mistake #2

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

Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you plan to deliver your talk to a mirror.  It’s plain creepy to watch yourself in the mirror while talking for an extended period of time.

There is nothing to be gained by rehearsing one way . . . only to do something entirely different for the actual event.

Of course, you will observe yourself in the mirror as you adjust your stance and appearance to ensure that what you feel is what people see while you present on all occasions.

But you do not practice your finished talk in front of a mirror.

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

Instead, conduct your presentation practice in front of your roommate . . . or go to the classroom where you’re scheduled to present . . . in short, create as much of the real situation as possible.

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

For more on especially powerful business presentation practice and the development of personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Skills 201

Steele Presenting of Presentations SkillsLong ago, when I was a young man in the army training at a base in Texas, I loaned a book to my roommate, Jim.

It was a foreign policy book by a controversial former president.

Jim read it . . . oh he read it.

It animated him and addled him, and it inspired him like no one else I had seen before or have seen since.

He would slap the page and exclaim, “That’s it.  That’s it!

Jim did this often in the course of his read.  I’d hear him in the bunk below mine.

Slap!

“That’s it!

And so it went.

That’s It!

I don’t recall that he ever returned the book, and that’s just fine, as I like to think of Jim slapping the page even now, somewhere in rural New England where I hear he ended up.

You don’t come across books like that often.  I hear tales of poor, uninspired folks who never do.

Books that crack the carapace of cynicism.

I’m a self-appointed judge of such things, and it takes a heckuva book to crowbar me off the passive-aggressive rock of smug observation and get me hooting and hollering.

But I found a book like that.  Yes, I found one.

You’re holding it.

Deceptively slight of build, innocuous in its appearance, William Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is presentation fissile material of the first order, glowing with power on every page.

Presentation Skills 201 – High Concept

This isn’t the Great American Novel, no.  You hold in your hands, instead, the Great American Presentations Book.

Whoa!  Have I gone overboard?  About to slap the page with a robust “That’s it!”

You bet.

Let me explain.

I teach at a university business school in Philadelphia and have been coaching student presentations for years.

I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 3,000 volumes, going back to 1762.

quintilian especially powerful presentation skills
Quintilian said it all 2,000 years ago . . . except for the 10 percent you learn here

I’m a student of Demosthenes and Cicero, Quintilian and Blair.

I study the great speakers of history to glean just one more nugget of wisdom from the wealth laid up over centuries.  I buy presentation books even now to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

Again, I say all of this by way of prelude, because I am not given to exaggeration at all.

When I read this book the first time, I entered the reading task methodically as I do for a welter of presentation books.  And I skim many of them.  Just to see if there truly is anything new under the sun.

Most of them huff-puff along, chugging in workmanlike mundanity.

They can stretch a nugget of technique across five anecdotes and across twice as many pages as needed.  Not nearly enough for me to un-cock the skeptic’s eyebrow.

So . . .

High Praise, Indeed . . . and Deserved

What I say next, I utter with the sincerity born of many years laboring in the vineyards of bad presentations – Mr. Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is, page for page, the finest book on advanced presenting I have ever read.

Surely it is the most succinct.

It froths with superb and utterly essential advice on every . . . single . . . page.

Distilled into powerful instructional nodes, Mr. Steele’s book is spot-on again and again.  I thought that I had seen and heard the length and breadth of the presentation enterprise, given that I view and judge 300 individual and 75 group presentations each year – but not so.

Mr. Steele’s work is a reminder that there is always “one more thing” that each of us can learn to hone and improve our own presentation skills and develop our personal competitive advantage.

Here, however, there is much, much more than simply “one more thing.”

We all deliver presentations, every day of our lives.  But we do not think of our many discussions as presentations.  We deliver our points of view usually quite well in venues as disparate as church socials and local pub happy hours.

But when it comes time to deliver what we think of as a “real” presentation, well . . . many of us suddenly turn into zombies.  Presentation zombies – stiff, mechanical, glazed-eye zombies.

We hear advice, sure.

And the proffered solution to much of the undead in the presentation enterprise comes as “communication theory” and a handful of vague apothegms passed down from an archaic and unquestioned oral tradition . . .

Don’t put your hand in your pocket!

Make eye contact!

Move around when you talk!

This, of course, is unsatisfying and completely inadequate, certainly for those steeped in the basics of powerful presenting and who want to, as they say in the vernacular of my bailiwick, “take it to the next level.”

So, this is one of those rare times that I recommend and endorse a book in the presentation genre; and in case you didn’t get it by now, I’m utterly delighted to craft a preface to this second edition of Presentations 201.

I have found wisdom on every page – every page – of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand.  I reference it often, and you will as well.

You may even, as I have, slap the page on occasion . . .

“That’s it!

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Every great presentation carries a foolproof presentation structure, and this is it . . .

Foolproof Presentation Structure
Foolproof Presentation Structure to Win the Day

Whoa.  Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.  Here it is . . .

Beginning – Middle – End.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this especially powerful presentation structure.

Don’t be deceived by its apparent simplicity.  This is the source of its power.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.

Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story part that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.

The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure adds Impact
Your foolproof presentation structure is simple and sturdy, smart and strong

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative, you can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.  Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.  I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.

But do so with careful thought and good reason.  And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.  Hence, the term “Bookends.”

And in-between, you explain what your “book” is about.

Build your story within this foolproof presentation structure and you’re on your way to an especially powerful business presentation.

For a more elaborate explanation on how presentation structure can enhance the power of your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Do You Ever Wing It?

Especially Powerful Presentations
No chance to fly at all if you “wing it.”

Always speak to the people in your audience in ways that move them . . . and this means never, ever wing it.

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

Never wing it.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

And never wing it.

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.

Sometimes we elect to go in unprepared, trusting in a cavalier attitude to carry us through . . . winging it in insulting fashion.

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

The Curse of Hubris

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 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.

Personal Competitive Advantage
Is this how to give an especially powerful presentation?

They don’t prepare.

They offer standard tropes.

They rattle off cliches.

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, whatever it was, becomes gospel.  However he said it becomes accepted practice, no matter how awful.

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 conveys a kind of contempt for the audience and the time of people gathered to listen.

I Read my Own Press Clipping Now

For instance, I recall an occasion of a successful young entrepreneur who spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea.

He related how he pitched that idea to venture capitalists.

His idea was tremendously successful and, as I gather, he sold it for millions of dollars.

Now, he stood in front of our students dressed in “cool slob.”  He wore a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup.

especially powerful speech
You sometimes hear the Styrofoam Speech . . . the mark of someone “winging it.”

He might as well have delivered a “Styrofoam speech.”

He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.  He had elected to “wing it.”

His sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

Make really good slides.

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 offered a great idea sharply defined, practiced many times, and presented knowledgeably by a well-dressed team that won the day.

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

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.

And there is much to 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.

Do you Wing It?

In business school, you will 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 when you wing it.

You offer contrived spontaneity and a world-weary attitude that carries the day.

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

And this kind of presentation abomination leaves the easy-out that the student “didn’t really try.”  It is obvious to everyone watching that you elected to wing it.

Why would you waste our time this way?  Why would you waste your time?  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 will gain personal competitive advantage.

But you never will if you “wing it.”

Aristotle, King, Jobs and Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long historyAristotle . . .

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

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

The power to deliver the persuasive presentation.

To deliver it with power and passion.

What is Rhetoric?

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

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

Rhetoric is the function of discovering the means of persuasion for every case.

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

The persuasive presentationAnd the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

First, rhetoric can prevent the triumph of fraud and injustice.

Second, it can instruct when scientific argument doesn’t work.

Third, it compels us to act out both sides of a case.  When you can argue the opposite point, you are best armed to defeat it.

Finally, it’s a powerful means of defense when your opponent attacks.

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

Modern Persuasive Presentations

Two men as different as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs understood the power of rhetoric to inspire people to action.

Dr. King for the transformation of society . . . Steve Jobs for the revolutionizing of six different technology industries.

Dr. King used one particular rhetorical technique that has become the touchstone of his legacy – his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” during his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

This technique is called the anaphora.

It involves the repetition for effect of a key phrase during a presentation.  Dr. King ensured that his Dream would be the emotive catalyst for action.

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

Dr. King recognized the emotive power of rhetoric.  It is this power that moves listeners to action when pure logic cannot.  It’s at the heart of the persuasive presentation.

The persuasive presentationA Different Venue

Steve Jobs, too, utilized the technique for a different purpose.

A more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.

For example:

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

The anaphora is just one example of an especially powerful rhetorical technique.  It can imbue your business presenting with persuasiveness.

And there’s more . . . so much more available to you.

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

When we understand the power of rhetoric and how that power is achieved, it transforms us into more capable and competent business presenters.  And it can yield an especially powerful and persuasive presentation as we build our personal competitive advantage.

Perhaps not as transcendent as Dr. Martin Luther King’s, but certainly especially powerful and persuasive presentations in our own bailiwicks.

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

Laser Pointer?

Laser Pointer Presentation Destruction
Even Skywalker doesn’t give a laser pointer presentation

Your remote control clicker that advances your slides can have other features allegedly designed to “enhance” your presentation.

The chief culprit among these enhancements is a horrid little device called – the Laser Pointer.

Even the best of us occasionally thumb that laser pointer self-destruct button built into most remote control clickers.

That’s right . . . self-destruct button.

No Laser Pointer Presentation!

But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation!

You’ve waited your entire life for the chance to legitimately use that laser pointer instead of playing sniper or teasing the cat.

Haven’t you?

You’ve pictured yourself be-suited and commanding the room . . . standing back, perhaps with a jaunty posture.  You sweep the screen behind you with the bobbing speck of red light.

The meekest among us is invested with bombast and hauteur by even the most inexpensive laser pointer.

Don’t do it.  Just say no to the laser pointer.

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

The laser pointer is 21st century overkill technology.  It distances you from your presentation message at the exact moment you should meld yourself with it.

How so?

If something is so crucially important on your slideshow – perhaps a graph or a series of numbers – that you must direct audience attention to it, then step into the presentation.

Gesture to the data with your hand.

Use Cave Man Technology

Merge yourself with the data.

Step into the presentation.  Become the animation that highlights your points of emphasis.

Don’t divide audience attention between you, the data on the screen, and a nervously darting red speck.

Instead, concentrate your audience focus on your major points, touching the screen, guiding us to the facts and figures you want us to internalize.  It’s a cave painting, so run your hands over the cave wall.  Show us what you want us to see with your hand.

Now, I issue a caveat here.

If the screen behind you is so high that you cannot reach it, then you might be justified in using the pointer.

But probably not.

Instead, if you want to highlight or draw attention to your points of emphasis, then utilize the highlighting animation available on most multimedia platforms.

If you’re uncertain what I mean by this, have a look at this brief video:

Nothing is more gratuitous in modern business presenting than the laser pointer.  And few things more irritating than the laser pointer presentation.

Rid yourself of this awful affectation today.

Pledge never to deliver another laser pointer presentation in your business life and instead deliver especially powerful presentations invested with confidence and competence.

Here’s how:

The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

100 Presentation Choices

especially powerful
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

Delivering an especially powerful presentation means choosing . . . it means making 100 presentation choices.

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

Regardless, every time you deliver a presentation, you choose repeatedly.

Dozens of times.

And most often, you are unaware of the silent, invisible choices you make.  Instead, your presentation simply unspools on its own, chaotic, willy-nilly . . . sometimes for the good, more often badly.

Rather than conceive of the presentation as a series of choices, many folks view the presentation as an organic whole.

As something we simply “do.”

It’s presented as something that can be conducted via a series of “tips.”  You’ve seen the articles on presentation tips.

Or business presenting is discussed as a “soft skill,” something you can pick up along the way.  Perhaps in one of the ubiquitous and uninspired “communications classes.”

We receive vague instructions in a communications class, a place where mystification of the presentation is perpetuated, the myth of the “soft skill” is maintained, and presentation folk wisdom reigns . . .

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

Advice that is obscurantist at its best and can be downright wrong at its worst.

Not a “Soft Skill”

The delivery of the Business Presentation is not a “soft skill.”  Approximately 80 percent of the presentation process is definable as a series of choices each of us must make.

And if you choose badly, you deliver a horrendous presentation.

How can you choose wisely if you don’t even know what the choices are?  Much less the wise choice at each step along the way?

We seek easy solutions, the quick fix, the “secret” to turn a drab, staid, listless presentation into one that brims with vigor, zest, and elan.

An especially powerful presentation.

especially powerful presentationsFailing that, perhaps just something that can flog a bit of life into our tired efforts.

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.

It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

Why was it a great presentation?

Many folks answer with one – maybe two reasons.  This is akin to medieval alchemists searching for a method to transform lead into gold.

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.  The topic was relevant and au courant.  Torn from today’s headlines!

It was the audience . . . he had a good audience!

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.  This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.

No single technique.

There is no business presentation alchemy.  Except in the notion that we must get lots of things right.

The superb business presenter does 100 things right, while the bad business presenter does 100 things wrong.

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

Of course not, no more than great writing consists in getting exactly 100 things right, instead of getting them wrong.

For any talk, it could be 90, or it could be 150.  Or something else.

The “100 things” trope suffices to convey that great presentations are planned and orchestrated according to set principles that can be learned, and those principles consist in proven practices.

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Techniques of posture, voice, syntax, gestures, topic, presentation structure, your expression, confidence, your movement . . . all of these done well or done poorly combine to yield either an especially powerful presentation . . .

. . . or a dud.

Especially Powerful
Scott’s Lessons: An especially powerful source for Abraham Lincoln

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators, and you will find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 things?

Surely.

The important lesson is that great presenting is assembled from the verbal and non-verbal construction materials we select.

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’s the power of synergy.

Take just one aspect of your show – the way you stand.  Have you ever thought about it?  Where you stand?  How you stand?

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.

To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

The next step, of course, is to actually do it.  In your next presentation.

More of the 100 Presentation Choices that constitute especially powerful business presentations here.

Especially Powerful Posing

Power Posing
Power Posing Yields Presentation Confidence

I don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering business students, but one power posing exercise that elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

It consists of everyone standing up and then striking a stance of confidence and power.

Feet are shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Posing Personified

Then visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, which indicate a robust embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.

Second, the exercise achieves superb physiological goals that improve many characteristics associated with business presenting.

Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.  Power Posing.

Especially Powerful Body Language

Especially Powerful Posing
Power Posing Carries Gravitas

We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message.  Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.

Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message, and power posing is some of the most effective body language you can use.

But it’s essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood.  It’s a secret that I’ve use with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.  Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:

“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion.  Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.  The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …

Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth.  We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”

And if you aren’t satisfied with the narrative of a 19th Century social scientist you never heard of, then take the theory of Charles Darwin, who in 1872 was one of the first to speculate that your body posture can have an effect of generating emotions rather than simply reflecting them.

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.  On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions . . . .  Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.

So how does this relate to powerful business presenting?

Every way you can think of.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language.  We ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.  Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.

Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen.  We get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?

Impossible, eh?

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

Especially Powerful Positive Energy

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

Power Posing
Power Posing is an especially powerful component of Confidence and Charisma

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.

Consciously strike a pose that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.  This is power posing.

This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”

No, there’s no catch.  And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.

Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Management would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.

A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.  The Kellogg study early this year yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous that power posing can actually imbue us with power.

Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power and yourself with professional presence.  If you want to acquire personal competitive advantage.

In our 21st Century vernacular, power posing means you should stand the way you want to feel.

Power posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery in ways you’ve likely not imagined.

Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.

The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.  Square your shoulders.  Fix a determined look on your face.

Speak loudly and distinctly.

Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.

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

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

For more especially powerful guidance on power posing, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

100 Things – Business Presentation Alchemy

Perhaps it’s human nature that leads us to search for singlephilos answers.

The search for the Global Solution has gone on as long as men have searched for the Philosopher’s Stone (and perhaps even longer, but not jotted down).

Likewise, this is the case for business presentations.

No Easy Way Out

We seek easy solutions, the quick fix, the “secret” to turn a drab, staid, listless presentation into one that brims with vigor, zest, and elan.

An especially powerful presentation.

Failing that, perhaps just something that can flog a bit of life into our tired efforts.

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.  It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

What made it a great presentation?

Business Presentation Alchemy
No Global Solution Exists to Create Presentation Gold

Many folks answer with one – maybe two reasons.  This is akin to medieval alchemists searching for a method to transform lead into gold.

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.

The topic was relevant and au courant.  Torn from today’s headlines!

It was the audience . . . he had a good audience!

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.

This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.  No single technique.

There is no business presentation alchemy.  Except in the notion that we must get lots of things right.

The superb business presenter does 100 things right, while the bad business presenter does 100 things wrong.

What are the “100 Things?”

Is it exactly 100?

Of course not, no more than great writing consists in getting exactly 100 things right, instead of getting them wrong.

For any talk, it could be 90 things, or it could be 150 things.  Or something else.

The “100 things” trope suffices to convey that great presentations are planned and orchestrated according to set principles that can be learned, and those principles consist in proven practices.

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Especially Powerful
100 Things to Transform your Presentation

Techniques of posture, voice, syntax, gestures, topic, presentation structure, your expression, confidence, your movement . . . all of these done well or done poorly combine to yield either an especially powerful presentation . . . or a dud.

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators, and you will find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 things?  Surely.

The important lesson is that great presenting is assembled from the verbal and non-verbal construction materials we select.

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  Getting those 100 things right yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.  It’s the power of synergy.

Take just one aspect of your show – the way you stand.  Have you ever thought about it?  Where you stand?  How you stand?

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.  To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 things to launch you on your way to presentation power.

The next step, of course, is to actually do it.  In your next presentation.

More of the 100 Things that constitute Business Presentation Alchemy here.

Especially Powerful Presentation Practice

Presentation Practice
Presentation Practice – who needs it?

Most presentation practice is bad, but you avoid this in favor of our Third P:  great  presentation practice that yields a stellar performance.

Wait . . . what do you mean that some types of practice are “bad”?

How can you possibly say, Professor, that such a thing as “bad presentation practice exists?”

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

In fact, bad practice is pernicious.

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

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

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

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

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

How do you practice?

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

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

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

I say it again – that’s dumb.

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

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

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

It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

And it’s great advice.

Presentation Practice Leads to Victory

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

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

Relentless Presentation Practice
Strive for Perfect Presentation Practice

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

We gain confidence.

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

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

The danger is avoided.

Confidence replaces fear.

Presentation Practice Eliminates Fear

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

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

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

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

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

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

It is not the same as fear.

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

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

Sear This into Your Mind

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

I mean this literally.

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

You want as much pressure as possible.

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

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

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

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

Of course not.

And neither should you.

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

Presentation Preparation – The Second P

Presentation Preparation - the Right Way
The Right Kind of Presentation Preparation is Key

The right kind of presentation preparation lays the groundwork for spectacular performance.

Squeeze the most from your prep time, and try doing it this way . . .

Let’s say you are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations in a business presentation.

Your first task is to prepare the business presentation . . .  the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

Presentation Preparation for your Best Shot

Your group has produced a written analysis.  It’s finished.

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.

And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.

They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.  Here you apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Presentation Preparation
Presentation Preparation invests you with confidence

Your task is clear.  It’s time to present your conclusions to an audience in the most direct and cogent manner possible.

And in this task is embodied a verity for you to internalize.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

It’s a different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?

They are different in the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.

How Different?

It’s different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

In short, you are in a high-risk environment and you are vulnerable.  You’re far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controlled.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

These differences between the written report and the business presentation are, to many people, insignificant.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

And this is why those same folks believe that delivering a presentation is “easy.”  It consists of little more than cutting and pasting a written report’s points onto a half-dozen cramped slides, and then reading them in public.

As absurd as this might appear in print, it actually has currency.  People believe this, because they’ve not been told otherwise.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

The more numbers, the better.

The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide . . . the better.

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.

It’s wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Part of your preparation is the crafting of clear, compelling, and on-point graphics that support your message . . . not obscure it. Rid your presentation of chart junk. Zero-in to achieve what I call über focus.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Perhaps you’ve said that?  I’ve certainly heard it.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation
Presentation Preparation?

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.

Business cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you.

Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting” topics.  But what’s an “interesting” topic?

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.

And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

Moreover, it is your job to presenting an especially powerful and scintillating presentation, regardless of the topic.

Face it.  If you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t prepare any differently for an “interesting” topic than you would for a “boring” topic.  You simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience or client.

Let’s shed that attitude.

Great presenters recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They invariably craft an interesting presentation whether the topic concerns tenpenny nails or derivatives or soap.

Crank up Interest

How do you generate interest?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions:

[I]nterest is, generally speaking, strongest in old things in new settings, looked at from new angles, given new forms and developed with new facts and ideas, with new light on familiar characters, new explanations of familiar phenomena, or new applications of old truths.

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

You put it off as a daunting task.  Or you put it off because you believe you can “wing it.”  Or you lament that you don’t have an “interesting topic.”

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here as you prepare the business presentation?

Think about it.

How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

“How can I fit X amount of information into this limited time?”

In your own mind, the objective is not to communicate clearly to your audience. Your only objective is to “fit it all in.”  And if you “achieve” this dubious objective, then in your mind you will have succeeded.

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively.

And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum.

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.

You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

The result is less than stellar, and you end up trying to shovel 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound pail.  And this result is predictable.

Your slides are crammed with information.

You talk fast to force all the points in.  You run over-time.

You fail.

You fail to deliver a star-spangled presentation for lack of proper preparation.

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

Take the Procrustean approach when you prepare the business presentation.  This approach is named after Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology.  The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the myth this way:

He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it.  If they were too tall to fit his bed, he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes’ own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.

Surely Procrustes was a villain, what with sawing off people’s legs or stretching them to fit an arbitrary standard.  In modern-day parlance, it has retained its negative connotation with the term “Procrustean solution.”

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture.

A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

But in this case, let’s give Procrustes a break.

Your Procrustean Solution

Take a Procrustean approach and forge an especially powerful presentation.  Consider this:

We have no choice in the length of our presentation.  It’s four minutes.  Or five minutes.

That’s our Procrustean Bed.  So let’s manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience in our presentation preparation.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our minds and judgment to select what should be in our show and what should not be in our show.

And if you find the decision of what to include too difficult, then let’s do even more Procrustean manipulation.  Pick only three major points that you want to make.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

Here is your task now:

Pick three points to deliver in 4-5 minutes.  If you must deliver an entire SWOT, then select one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat.

Why do we do this?  Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.

They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.

The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

You want the audience to remember how you massage the data, analyze it, and arrange it.  You want the audience to remember your conclusions.

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.  You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

You reduce the static and white noise so that the communicative signal can be heard.

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus to find the nuggets.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you?

Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand?

Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, you sift through mountains of information, synthesize it, compress it, make it intelligible, then present it in a way that is understandable and, if possible, entertaining.

Digest this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover more on Especially Powerful Presentation Preparation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Three Ps for Especially Powerful Presentations

Especially Powerful Presentations
The Three Ps of Business Presentations can greatly enhance your presentation delivery for an especially powerful presentation every time

It’s always helpful when the key words that describe your especially powerful presentation all start with the same letter.

In this case we speak of the Three Ps of Business Presentations.

The “Three Ps of Business Presenting” encompass everything you must do to deliver especially powerful presentations every time.

They are, in order . . .

Principles

          Preparation

                     Practice

If you have spent any time at all in this space, you already know about the “Seven Secrets of Power Presenting.”

Now, you might head-scratch and wonder how the “Seven Secrets” mesh with the “Three Ps of Business Presenting.”

A fair question.

For Especially Powerful Presentations

The “Principles” referred to are the Seven Secrets, the pillars of your transformation into an especially powerful presenter.

Learning and improving on the Seven dimensions of power presenting is essential to your presentation quest in a broadest sense.

You don’t improve on the seven dimensions of presenting overnight . . . it requires application and adoption of the proper habits of behavior.

This may appear intuitive, but too often I see students who appear to understand the seven secrets but do not apply them for a host of reasons.  Perhaps good reasons, in their own minds.

3 Ps of Business
You always have a choice. Choose to implement the Three Ps of Business Presenting, and you’ll find that your delivery improves immensely

And yet, the choice cripples them in their presentations.

When it comes to individual presentations, you must apply your principles.  And this means preparation.

It means practice.

Don’t assume that you know what I mean by preparation and practice, because we likely have different conceptions of both, and I’m betting you’ll like the results you get from the approach presented here.

So, settle in . . . and for the next couple of days, we will explore the Three Ps of Business Presenting and how their assiduous application can transform you into the Especially Powerful Presenter that you always knew you could be.

Presentation Principles . . . the Third P

Seven Presentation Principles for Especially Powerful Presentations

Overarching the craft of developing an especially powerful presentation is the guidance provided by the “Three Ps,” and the last of of these Ps provides a solid foundation of powerful business presentation principles.

There are seven of them.

These Seven Principles of Especially Powerful Presenting constitute the building blocks of your presentation persona.  And you’ll not find a PowerPoint slide in sight.

These principles, in short, are you.

Stance . . . Voice . . . Movement . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Appearance . . . Passion

Elsewhere, I’ve characterized these principles as “secrets.”  Like any secret, it’s only a secret if you don’t know it.

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

They are secrets.  In fact, they could be the most open secrets that mankind has ever known.

But they’re difficult secrets.

Difficult – because they require you to actually do something.

They require you to modify your behavior in ways to take advantage of what has been discovered about public speaking and presenting over the past 2500 years.

I think that perhaps when we think of a secret, we tend to equate it with magic.  We automatically believe that there is some magic involved that will help us circumvent hard work.

But that’s just not so.

The good news is that these secrets actually are secrets that truly work.  They also constitute the dimensions along which we can gauge our speaking ability and judge how much we improve.

This is the most important aspect of these business presentation principles – they allow us to tear away the veil from those who pose as merely talented and to understand this beast called The Presentation.

Now, let’s plot our dimensions on a 7×7 Chart.

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

Take, as an example, the chart below, which is labeled across the top with our seven dimensions and along the vertical axis with a seven-point scale of value:

Unacceptable, Below Average, Average, Good, Very Good, Superior, Professional.

The chart plots the seven dimensions against a seven-point scale and provides a thorough evaluation of the presenter’s level of skill.  From the chart, we see that this speaker carries a professional-grade stance and is superior with his gestures.

All other dimensions indicate work is needed.  The advantage of this chart, is that it disaggregates your various speaking tasks so that you can manage them.

It parses them, so that you can identify your weaknesses in a logical and comprehensive way.  It also informs you of your strengths, so that you may build upon them.

Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact
Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact

The upshot is that this Third P of Especially Powerful Presenting – Business Presentation Principles – guides us to master the Seven Secrets, to transform ourselves into truly adept presenting instruments.  To put us at home in front of any audience and able to connect across a range of subjects and and in a multitude of venues.

Elsewhere, I have addressed the Seven Secrets in detail, and we’ll revisit them again soon.

For now, let’s remember that the especially powerful presenters of the past 50 years have used basic presentation principles – Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King.

They don’t announce that they’re using techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.

They simply let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.  Not a chance.

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

For all three Ps and a complete distillation of Business Presentation Principles, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Prep . . . The Second P

Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

You are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations in a business presentation.

Your task is to prepare the business presentation . . .

. . .  the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

Your group has produced a written analysis.  It’s finished.

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.

And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.

They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.

Prepare the Business Presentation

Apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Your task is clear.  It’s time to present your conclusions to an audience in the most direct and cogent manner possible.

And in this task is embodied a verity for you to internalize.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?  But they are different.

Completely different.

It is different in exactly the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.

How Different?

It is different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

In short, you are in a high-risk environment and you are vulnerable, far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controllable.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

These many differences between the written report and the business presentation are, to many people, seemingly invisible.  Or, at least, they are not considered significant.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

And this is why those same folks believe that delivering a presentation is “easy.”  It consists of little more than cutting and pasting a written report’s points onto a half-dozen cramped slides, and then reading them in public.

As absurd as this might appear in print, it actually has currency.  People believe this, because they’ve not been told otherwise.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

The more numbers, the better.

The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide . . . the better.

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.

It’s wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Part of your preparation is the crafting of clear, compelling, and on-point graphics that support your message . . . not obscure it. Rid your presentation of chart junk. Zero-in to achieve what I call über focus.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Perhaps you’ve said that?  I’ve certainly heard it.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting or not is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.  Cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you.

Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting” topics.  But what’s an “interesting” topic?

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.  And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

Moreover, it is your job to presenting an especially powerful and scintillating presentation, regardless of the topic.

Face it.  If you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t prepare any differently for an “interesting” topic than you would for a “boring” topic.  You simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience or client.

Let’s shed that attitude.

Great presenters recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They invariably craft an interesting presentation whether the topic concerns tenpenny nails or derivatives or soap.

Crank up Interest

How do you generate interest?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions:

[I]nterest is, generally speaking, strongest in old things in new settings, looked at from new angles, given new forms and developed with new facts and ideas, with new light on familiar characters, new explanations of familiar phenomena, or new applications of old truths.

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

You put it off as a daunting task.  Or you put it off because you believe you can “wing it.”  Or you lament that you don’t have an “interesting topic.”

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here as you prepare the business presentation?

Think about it.

How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

“How can I fit X amount of information into this limited time?”

In your own mind, the objective is not to communicate clearly to your audience. Your only objective is to “fit it all in.”  And if you “achieve” this dubious objective, then in your mind you will have succeeded.

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively.

And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum.

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.

You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

The result is less than stellar, and you end up trying to shovel 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound pail.  And this result is predictable.

Your slides are crammed with information.

You talk fast to force all the points in.  You run over-time.

You fail.

You fail to deliver a star-spangled presentation for lack of proper preparation.

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

Take the Procrustean approach when you prepare the business presentation.  This approach is named after Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology.  The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the myth thusly:

He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it.  If they were too tall to fit his bed, he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes’ own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.

Surely Procrustes was a villain, what with sawing off people’s legs or stretching them to fit an arbitrary standard.  In modern-day parlance, it has retained its negative connotation with the term “Procrustean solution.”

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture.

A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

But in this case, let’s give Procrustes a break.

Your Procrustean Solution

Take a Procrustean approach and make a better presentation.  Consider this:

We have no choice in the length of our presentation.  It’s four minutes.  Or five minutes.  That’s our Procrustean Bed.  So let’s make the most of it and manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our mind and judgment to select what should be in our show and what should not be in our show.

And if you find the decision of what to include too difficult, then let’s do even more Procrustean manipulation.  Pick only three major points that you want to make.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

Here is your task now:

Pick three points to deliver in 4-5 minutes.  If you must deliver an entire SWOT, then select one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat.

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.

They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.

The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

You want the audience to remember how you massage the data, analyze it, and arrange it.  You want the audience to remember your conclusions.

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.  You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

You reduce the static and white noise so that the communicative signal can be heard.

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus so the nuggets can be found.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you?

Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand?

Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, you sift through mountains of information, synthesize it, compress it, make it intelligible, then present it in a way that is understandable and, if possible, entertaining.

Digest this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover how to Prepare the Business Presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Practice – The 1st “P”

Ensure Good Presentation Practice
Proper Presentation Practice Means an Especially Powerful Presentation

There is good practice and there is bad presentation practice.

Extremely bad presentation practice.

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

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

Bad practice is pernicious. It’s insidious.

It can create the illusion of improvement and yet be a prelude to disaster.

How so?  Just this . . .

Practice is one of those words that we never bother to define, because each of us already “knows” what it means.  Certainly your professor thinks you know what it means, since he urges you to “practice” your presentation prior to its delivery.

But what does it mean to “practice?”

Doesn’t everyone know how to practice?

How do you practice?  Have you ever truly thought about it?  Have you ever thought about what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish with your presentation practice?

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

Do you make the mistake of that old cliché and “practice in the mirror?”  Don’t practice in the mirror.  That’s dumb.  You won’t be looking at yourself as you give your talk, so don’t practice that way.

Let me say it again – that’s dumb.  The only reason to look in a mirror is to ensure that your gestures and expressions display exactly as you think they do when you employ them.

Other than that, stay away from the mirror.

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

The Russians have a saying much akin to one of ours.  We say “practice makes perfect.”  The Russians say “Povtoreniye mat’ ucheniya.”   It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

The armed forces are expert at practice.

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

Presentation Practice

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

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

We gain confidence.

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

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

The danger is avoided.

Likewise, once you have practiced your talk, your fear dissipates.

Confidence Replaces Fear

Once you have practiced it exactly like you will deliver it, straight to completion without pause, then you will have reduced the unknown to manageable proportions.

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

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

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

Before every game, professional football players are keyed up, emotional, nervous. But once the game begins and they take the first “hit,” they ramp-up confidence.  Likewise, a bit of nervousness is good for you.  It ensures your focus.

But it’s good nervousness, borne of anticipation.

It is not the same as fear.

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

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

Perfect Presentation Practice

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

I mean this literally.  Stage your practices, both individually and as a group, as close to the real thing as you can.  Make it as realistic as you can.

If you can, practice in the room where you will deliver your show.

You want as much pressure as possible.

One of the most prevalent and serious practice mistakes is to restart your presentation again and again when you make a mistake.

Do not start over when you make a mistake . . .

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

This should be common sense.  You must practice how you respond to making an error. How you will fight through and recover from an error.

Then, if you stumble in your presentation, you will have the confidence and prior experience to weather the minor glitch because you will have faced it before.

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

Of course not.

And neither should you.

For the next two Ps of Business School Presenting, return in coming days or consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Put POW in Your Powerful Business Presentations

Powerful Business Presentation

Do you know how to begin a presentation?

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, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world?

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

Do you back into Your 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?

Here’s an example of a Lame Start

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Wal-Mart case. The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years. She spoke in monotone. She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

I waited for her main point. As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed. The linking thread had not come.

The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point.  At the end of her segment, I asked a gentle question.

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

Random Facts!

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

Random facts.

She was giving “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.  Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously, and has since progressed to graduate school.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say at the beginning is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?  Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about. When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your introduction. Here, you present the Situation Statement.

This is key to setting up a Powerful Business Presentation.

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. 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?  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 2009 and increase our market share by another 10 percent. A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

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.

State the reason you’re there.

Put the Pow in Powerful Business Presentations!

How to Deliver a Powerful Business Presentation

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.

A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment 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 what our marketing team will do to retain 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 very 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 intro to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team. To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.  Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

Interested in more? Click here. 

Business Case Competition Season is Here

Your Business Case competition Guide, the source of competitive advantage

Business Case Competitions usually launch in the spring, so now is the time to prepare.

The key to doing well in business case competitions is to differentiate yourselves beforehand by following your case competition guide.

Before you ever travel to the site of the competition.

Before they ever give you the sealed envelope with your business case enclosed.

This is much easier than you might imagine.  You begin by consulting your case competition guide.  And the guide starts with the Three Ps of Presenting.

The Three Ps of Business Presentations provide a roadmap to ready you for your competition.

Principles . . . Preparation . . . Practice

Principles.

You don’t start tuning your instrument for the first time when it’s time to perform a concert.  Likewise, you don’t begin honing your presentation skills when it’s time to present.

By the time of your competition, all of your team members should be thoroughly grounded in the principles of especially powerful presentations.

The principles offered here in this case competition guide.

This part of your competition prep should already be accomplished, with only a few review sessions to ensure everyone is sharp on the Seven Secrets.  These secrets are Stance . . . Voice . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Movement . . . Appearance . . . Passion.

Second, Preparation

Our case competition guide divides the preparation for the competition into three phases.

Phase 1:  Lead-in to the Competition

You are made aware of the competition’s rules.  You acknowledge and embrace the rules and what they imply.  Your entire team should become intimately familiar with the parameters of the competition – think metaphorically and spacially.

Recognize that the problem has length and breadth and depth.  Understand the finite limits of the context presented to you.  Know what you can and cannot do.  Think of it as an empty decanter that you fill with your analysis and conclusions on the day of the competition.

Later, upon receiving the actual Case, you will conduct the same process.  Recognize that the Business Case has length and breadth and depth.

But now, prior to the competition, take stock of what you already know you must do.  Then do most of it beforehand as the rules permit.

This includes embracing the problem situation long before you arrive on-site for a competition and before you receive the case in question.  Learn the parameters of the context in which you operate.  The case competition guide breaks the competition environment into discrete elements:

Competition rules

Length of presentation

Total time available (set-up, presenting, Q&A, Close-out)

Number of presenters allowed or required

Visuals permitted or required

Sources you may use, both beforehand and during the problem-solving phase

Prohibitions

You know that you are required to provide analysis of a case and your results and recommendations.  Why not prepare all that you can before you arrive at the competition?

Some competitions may frown on this or forbid it . . . fine, then do it when you can, at the first point that it is permissible.  This way, you spend the majority of your case analysis time filling in the content.

Follow the Business Case Competition Guide

Prepare your slide template beforehand according to the principles expounded here.

Business presentations have a small universe of scenarios and limited number of elements that comprise those scenarios.  A well-prepared team composed of team members from different functional areas will have generic familiarity with virtually any case assigned in a competition.

The team should have no problems dealing with any case it is presented.

Determine beforehand who will handle – generally – the presentation tasks on your team as well as the analytic portions of your case.  The following is offered as an example of how the task might be approached:

Your Business Case competition Guide

As part of this initial process, prepare your slide template with suitable logos, background, killer graphics, and charts and graphs requiring only that the numbers be filled in.

Leading into the competition, it’s essential that your team be familiar with sources of data that you may be permitted to utilize in conducting your case analysis.  Market research, industry surveys, and such like.

Be familiar with online databases like Business Source PremierMergent Online, and S&P NetAdvantage, because not all schools may have access to the data sources you use most often.

No Place for the Unprepared

With respect to the delivery or your presentation itself, a business case competition is not the occasion for you to polish your delivery skills.  You should have honed them to razor’s edge by now.

As well, perfect your orchestration as a team before arriving at the site of the competition.

At the competition, you lift your performance to the next level in terms of application of all the principles, precepts, and hard skills you learned in business school.  Finance, accounting, marketing, operations, strategy, analysis.

You apply them in a tightly orchestrated and professional presentation that pops.

If you have engaged the business case competition guide successfully during the lead-up to the competition, your taut case-cracking team will be ready when you finally receive the case.

A team ready to address the issues involved in the case problem.

COMING UP . . . PHASE 2

Access all of the secrets of masterful business presenting by consulting your business case competition guide:  The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Prepare the Business Presentation . . . the Second P

Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way
Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

You are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations.  Your task is to provide a report and then prepare the business presentation.

. . . to prepare it the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

Your group has produced a written analysis.  It’s finished.

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.  And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.  They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.

Prepare the Business Presentation

Apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Your task is clear.  You present your conclusions to an audience.

Your presentation is a completely different product than your written report.  Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.

Your presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?  But they are different.

Completely different.

It is different in exactly the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.

How Different?

It is different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

In short, you are in a high-risk environment and you are vulnerable, far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controllable.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report
As you Prepare the Business Presentation, Recognize that it Differs Significantly from the Written Report

These many differences between written and oral reports are, to many people, seemingly invisible.  Or, at least, they are not considered significant.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

And this is why those same folks believe that delivering a presentation is “easy.”  It consists of little more than cutting and pasting a written report’s points onto a half-dozen cramped slides, and then reading them in public.

As absurd as this might appear in print, it actually has currency.  People believe this, because they’ve not been told otherwise.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

The more numbers, the better.

The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide . . . the better.

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.

It’s wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Part of your preparation is the crafting of clear, compelling, and on-point graphics that support your message . . . not obscure it. Rid your presentation of chart junk. Zero-in to achieve what I call über focus.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Perhaps you’ve said that?  I’ve certainly heard it.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting or not is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.  Cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you.

Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting” topics.  But what’s an “interesting” topic?

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.  And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

Moreover, it is your job to presenting an especially powerful and scintillating presentation, regardless of the topic.

Face it.  If you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t prepare any differently for an “interesting” topic than you would for a “boring” topic.  You simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience or client.

Let’s shed that attitude.

Great presenters recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They invariably craft an interesting presentation whether the topic concerns tenpenny nails or derivatives or soap.

Crank up Interest

How do you generate interest?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions:

[I]nterest is, generally speaking, strongest in old things in new settings, looked at from new angles, given new forms and developed with new facts and ideas, with new light on familiar characters, new explanations of familiar phenomena, or new applications of old truths.

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

You put it off as a daunting task.  Or you put it off because you believe you can “wing it.”  Or you lament that you don’t have an “interesting topic.”

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here as you prepare the business presentation?

Think about it.

How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

“How can I fit X amount of information into this limited time?”

In your own mind, the objective is not to communicate clearly to your audience. Your only objective is to “fit it all in.”  And if you “achieve” this dubious objective, then in your mind you will have succeeded.

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively.

And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum.

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.

You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

The result is less than stellar, and you end up trying to shovel 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound pail.  And this result is predictable.

Your slides are crammed with information.

You talk fast to force all the points in.  You run over-time.

You fail.

You fail to deliver a star-spangled presentation for lack of proper preparation.

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

Take the Procrustean approach when you prepare the business presentation.  This approach is named after Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology.  The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the myth thusly:

He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it.  If they were too tall to fit his bed, he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes’ own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.

Surely Procrustes was a villain, what with sawing off people’s legs or stretching them to fit an arbitrary standard.  In modern-day parlance, it has retained its negative connotation with the term “Procrustean solution.”

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture.

A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

But in this case, let’s give Procrustes a break.

Your Procrustean Solution

Take a Procrustean approach and make a better presentation.  Consider this:

We have no choice in the length of our presentation.  It’s four minutes.  Or five minutes.  That’s our Procrustean Bed.  So let’s make the most of it and manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our mind and judgment to select what should be in our show and what should not be in our show.

And if you find the decision of what to include too difficult, then let’s do even more Procrustean manipulation.  Pick only three major points that you want to make.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way
Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation in Ruthless Fashion

Here is your task now:

Pick three points to deliver in 4-5 minutes.  If you must deliver an entire SWOT, then select one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat.

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.

They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.  The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

You want the audience to remember how you massage the data, analyze it, and arrange it.  You want the audience to remember your conclusions.

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.  You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

You reduce the static and white noise so that the communicative signal can be heard.

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus so the nuggets can be found.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you?

Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand?  Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, your job is to sift through the mountains of information available, synthesize it, compress it, make it intelligible, then present it in a way that is understandable and, if possible, entertaining.

Digest this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover how to Prepare the Business Presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Principles . . . The First P

Business Presentation Principles
Business Presentation Principles . . . the First Step to Superior Business Presentations

Overarching the craft of developing an especially powerful presentation is the guidance provided by the “Three Ps,” and the first of these Ps provides a solid foundation of powerful business presentation principles.

The first P is Principles, and there are seven of them.

These Seven Principles of Especially Powerful Presenting constitute the building blocks of your presentation persona.  And you’ll not find a PowerPoint slide in sight.

These principles, in short, are you.

Stance . . . Voice . . . Movement . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Appearance . . . Passion

Elsewhere, I have characterized these principles as “secrets.”

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

They are secrets.  In fact, they could be the most open secrets that mankind has ever known.

But they are difficult secrets.

They are difficult, because they require you to actually do something.  I think that perhaps when we think of a secret, we tend to equate it with magic.  We automatically believe that there is some magic involved that will help us circumvent hard work.

But that’s just not so.

The good news is that these secrets actually are secrets that truly work.  They also constitute the dimensions along which we can gauge our speaking ability and judge how much we improve.

This is the most important aspect of these business presentation principles – they allow us to tear away the veil from those who pose as merely talented and to understand this beast called The Presentation.

Now, let’s plot our dimensions on a 7×7 Chart.

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

Take, as an example, the chart below, which is labeled across the top with our seven dimensions and along the vertical axis with a seven-point scale of value:

Unacceptable, Below Average, Average, Good, Very Good, Superior, Professional.

The chart plots the seven dimensions against a seven-point scale and provides a thorough evaluation of the presenter’s level of skill.  From the chart, we see that this speaker carries a professional-grade stance and is superior with his gestures.

All other dimensions indicate work is needed.  The advantage of this chart, is that it disaggregates your various speaking tasks so that you can manage them.

It separates them out, so that you can identify your weaknesses in a logical and comprehensive way.  It also informs you of your strengths, so that you may build upon them.

Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact
Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact

 

The upshot is that this First P of Especially Powerful Presenting – Business Presentation Principles – guides us to master the Seven Secrets, to transform ourselves into truly adept presenting instruments.  To put us at home in front of any audience and able to connect across a range of subjects and and in a multitude of venues.

Elsewhere, I have addressed the Seven Secrets in detail, and I’ll revisit them again soon.

For now, let’s remember that the especially powerful presenters of the past 50 years have used these Secrets – Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King.  They don’t announce that they’re using secret techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.

They simply let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.  Not a chance.

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

Next . . . Preparation.

For all three Ps and a complete distillation of Business Presentation Principles, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.