Category Archives: Professional Presence

Presentation Practice – How to do it Right

Presentation Practice
The Right Presentation Practice can Yield Competitive Advantage

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

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?

Powerful Presentation Practice Yields . . . What?

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, should you take the presentation enterprise seriously . . . an engage in the right kind of presentation practice.

Here is why . . .

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

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

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

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

Mistake #1

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

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

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

Presentation Practice
Presentation Practice for added power and impact

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 presentation practice and the development of personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Professional Presence . . . for Personal Competitive Advantage

Professional Presence
Seize the Power of Professional Presence

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

I should say potential power.

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

It’s a forfeiture of competitive advantage.

Forfeiture of Power

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

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

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

Here, Paulson describes the impact of Professional Presence.

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

The speaker becomes part of the message.

Here is where you become part of the message.

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

Naked Information Overflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret of Professional Presence

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

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

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

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

A presenter commanding the facts and delivering compelling arguments.

Power of Professional presence
Personal Competitive Advantage can be yours

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

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

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

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

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

Business Charisma in Your Presentation

Business Charisma for Power and Impact
Business Charisma for Power and Impact

One way to infuse your business presentation with energy is to develop your business charisma.

Business charisma?

Can there be such a thing?  How might it differ from “regular” charisma?

Yes, there is such a thing as business charisma.  And it differs not at all from our generally accepted expectations.

In fact, charisma is a quality accessible to everyone who determines to possess it.

Who would not want to acquire the qualities of personal magnetism, a seeming aura that radiates enthusiastic goodwill, a mesmerizing speaking style, and a kind of restrained hyper-kinetic internal fuel cell that you sense could move mountains if unleashed?

Business charisma is charisma in the service of a particular set of goals outside of the expected set of occupations usually associated with charisma acting, television personalities, rock stars, flamboyant sports personalities, and effusive lecturers whose material seems more tractable to audience interest.

But Business Charisma?

Business Charisma – Yours for the Taking

The caddish among us might believe it oxymoronic for those of us in business to exude charisma.  Or that it’s at least so rare as to be hailed as an outlier when it appears . . . read: Steve Jobs.

But . . .  Business is the natural soil for charisma to grow and thrive.  We have drama . . . conflict . . . power . . . wealth . . . empire . . . generosity . . . deception . . . good versus evil . . .

The great issues of the day often turn on business.  And on its leaders.

Business charisma is yours for the taking, and you can do many things to develop your own charismatic style.

See this fine book by Olivia Fox Cabane, for instance.

Business Charisma for Power and Impact
Develop Business Charisma for Power and Impact

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

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

Comfortable?

What hokum.

What if we were to apply this to another field . . . say, sports?

Think of players with enormous potential.

Players with the raw material to become great, if they would apply themselves.

Look at the big offensive lineman, who could end up starting for the football team, perhaps even take his performance to the next level of competition.

So the coaching staff schedules his training regimen designed to turn that potential into high performance results.  He responds:

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

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

Hokum, yes . . .

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

Of course not.

Developing new skills, new abilities, new strengths is uncomfortable.  It means changing our behavior in sometimes unfamiliar ways.  And instead of meeting the challenge by training hard, we can find ourselves taking a short cut.

Personal Competitive Advantage means developing Business Charisma
Business Charisma yields Personal Competitive Advantage

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

We move the goal posts closer.

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

“I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

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

Those characteristics that I had referred to are personal magnetism, an almost tangible aura that radiates enthusiastic goodwill, a mesmerizing speaking style, and hyper-kinetic energy.

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

Unambitious Goals . . . and a Lower Bar

Her behavior, of course, was the exact opposite of charismatic.  She wanted to move the goalposts closer.  She wanted to lower the bar.

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

There’s no such thing.

I told her to do what she pleased.   But what she described did not constitute charisma, and no amount of wishing or redefining would make it so.

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

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

Are we fooling ourselves?

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

Think about it.

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

Professional Appearance for Competitive Advantage

Professional Appearance
Professional Appearance Matters

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

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

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

This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

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

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

The “Ageless Rebel” Battling the “Man”?

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

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

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

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

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

Professional Appearance for Credibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Presentation? It’s Your Fault

Really bad presentation

That bad presentation is your fault.

You sabotaged it.

Screwed it up.

All of us sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.  And we do it through self-defeating behaviors.

These self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.

We envision humiliation, embarrassment.  Complete meltdown.

We Set Ourselves Up for Bad Presentations

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

How can we build a positive presentation on such a spongy foundation?

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice.  Shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.

Moreover, our sour and weak attitude can infect our teammates if it happens to be a group presentation.  The negative spiral down means things get worse before they get better.  If at all.

There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.  How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of negativity?

Do You Think Like a World-Class Athlete?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body.  Visualizing success is a technique they use to prepare for competition.  I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques.

All of these experts agree that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Let’s leave aside the specific techniques and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century.  Let’s just say now that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk.  Let’s give ourselves a fighting chance of success at delivering a good presentation.  Even a great presentation.

Bad Presentation
Stop Negative Self-talk and Fix that Bad Presentation

So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?  It could be the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation.  This ignorance means uncertainty of performance.

This ignorance and uncertainty breed fear.

It’s this fear of the unknown that drives up anxiety and can result in a bad presentation.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction.

And we can reduce uncertainty through preparation and by controlling the variables within our power.

Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice.  Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?  No, of course not, and we don’t even want to . . . instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that.

We rely on our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.

Envision this, instead – you deliver a tight, first-rate presentation that hits all the right notes.  It weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt.  And it ends in a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we focus.  We charge forward boldly, presenting with masterful aplomb and professionalism.  With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety.  We wring them dry from our psychic fabric.

We eliminate the bad presentation.

The right kind of preparation allows us to deal with unknowns that nettle us.

Positive self-talk is essential to preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.

Find more on how to eliminate the bad presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not.

2,500 Years of How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

You find those verities here.

Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

Right?  Right?

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

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

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

The answer’s here, and on this site.

Why Bother with How to Give a Business Presentation?

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

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

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

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

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

A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.

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

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Secret Skill You Knew They Kept from You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You already carry it with you.

But you will have to change.

But Great Business Presentation Skills Mean Change . . .

This is about transformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Develop Professional Presence

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

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

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

Forfeiture of Power

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

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

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

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

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

You become charismatic.

Naked Information Overflow

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

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

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

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

You become like everyone else.

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

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

The Secret of Professional Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respect Your Audience for Presentation Power

Respect your audience and your earn their respect
Respect your audience and you earn their respect

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

Speak to your listeners in their language and to their needs.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

“Respect Your Audience” Seems Easy

That’s the paradox.

We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.

We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear.  We speak in language that gives us comfort.

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

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

The Curse of Hubris

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 sometime hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.

But it doesn’t.

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

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

But the presentation emperor has no clothes.  He does not follow the precept of respect your audience.

Contempt?  Close to It

What we actually witness from presenters of this type is a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by speakers disregards the audience.  It shows contempt for the time of people gathered to listen.

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

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.

What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

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

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.  Did this fellow follow the respect your audience mantra?  I think not.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.

It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.  And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  Speak to your listeners as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

We gain by following the respect your audience mantra.

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

For more on how to respect your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Personal Competitive Advantage in Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

Take the Smart Fork

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

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

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

Is that “fair?”

It’s fair for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

Or . . .

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

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

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

Think.

Don’t Eliminate Yourself from Contention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Jargon in Presentations

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

It’s useful.

Especially as shorthand for keen concepts well-understood.

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

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

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

Business Jargon Struggles for Hearts and Minds?

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

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

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

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

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

If it’s wielded not to obfuscate.

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

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

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

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

It should come with a warning label.

A Business Jargon Warning Label?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility and the hunger for clarity.

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

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

The Business Case Competition – Winning

Business Case Competition for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

The Finance Business Case Competition

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

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

But stylistically, much remains to improve.

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

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

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

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

1)  Throat-clearing

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

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

2)  Lack of confidence

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

3)  Unreadable PowerPoint slides

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

4)  Ineffective interaction with visuals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Your Speaking Voice

Improve your speaking voice for powerful presentations
Improve your speaking voice for powerful presentations

You can improve your speaking voice to become a first-rate business presenter, but you must first accept that you can and should improve it.

Some folks get skittish and think the voice they have now is somehow “natural” and should not be tinkered with.

No, your voice isn’t  “natural” in any meaningful sense.  In fact, its qualities are likely the result of years of chaotic development and influence from many factors.

Why not seize control of that development process and begin to improve  your speaking voice today?

Improve Your Speaking Voice

Face it – some voices sound good and others sound bad.  And all sorts of voices fit in-between.

Here are some of the most awful and yet ubiquitous problems that plague speakers.

Let’s call them “verbal tics.”  They are nothing more than bad habits born of  unconscious neglect and chaotic voice development over years of influence from sources as disparate as television, radio, parents, and peers.

They eat away at your credibility.  Recognize them as corrosive factors that leech your presentations of their power.  They are easily corrected.

Here are four deal-breaking verbal tics . . .

Vocal Fry – This unfortunate verbal gaffe comes at the end of sentences and is caused by squeezing out insufficient air to inflate the final word of the sentence.  The result is a grinding or grating sound on the last word.

Primarily a phenomenon that affects females, its most famous male purveyor is President Bill Clinton, whose grating voice with its Arkansas accent became a trademark.  Clinton was so incredibly good along the six other dimensions by which we adjudge great speaking that he turned his vocal fry into an advantage and part of his universally recognizable persona.

This tic is likely a manifestation of 1970s “valley girl” talk or “Valspeak.”  Vocal Fry is manifested by a creaking and grating on the last word or syllable.

It actually appears to be a fashionable way to speak in some circles, pinching off the last word of a sentence into a grating, grinding fade.  As if a  frog is croaking in the throat.  As if someone has thrown sand into the voice box.

When combined with “cartoon voice,” it can reach unbearable scale for an audience.

Verbal Down-tic – This is also called the “falling line.”  This is an unfortunate speaking habit of inflecting the voice downward at the end of every sentence, letting the air rush from the lungs in a fading expulsion, as if each sentence is a labor.

The last syllables of a word are lost in breath.  The effect is of exhaustion, depression, resignation, even of impending doom.

The Verbal Down-tic leeches energy from the room.  It deflates the audience.  In your talk, you have too many things that must go right than needlessly to create a gloom in the room.

Verbal Sing-Song – The voice bobs and weaves artificially, as if the person is imitating what they think a speaker ought to sound like.  Who knows what inspires people to talk this way, usually only in public speaking or presenting.

It’s an affectation, and if you find yourself affecting a style or odd mannerism because you think you ought to, it’s probably wrong.

Uptalk – This heinous affectation is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.”  Uptalk is an unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked.  If you could choose only one thing to change to improve your speaking voice, this would be it.  Uptalk is so corrosive to credibility that correcting this one pathology can transform a weak presentation and how it is received by a skeptical audience.

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

Sentence after sentence in succession spoken as if questions.

You create a tense atmosphere with the verbal up-tic that is almost demonic in its effect.  This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness.

At its worst, your audience wants to cover ears and cry “make it stop!” but they aren’t quite sure at what they should vent their fury.

In certain places abroad, this tic is known as the Australian Questioning Intonation, popular among young Australians.  The Brits are less generous in their assessment of this barbarism, calling it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.

Speech coach Susan Miller superbly describes these speech pathologies and offers remedies for both vocal fry and uptalk here.

These are the tics and gaffes that destroy our presenting.  Recognizing them is half-way to correcting them

For more tips to improve your speaking voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop the Bad Presentation Habit of Finger-play

Bad Presentation Habit
Stop the Bad Presentation Habit!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit.

Or two . . . or three.

Take gesture.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.  For instance, without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations that distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are a few of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.  These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”  This nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of  mediocrity.

This bad presentation habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.

You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what.  So you develop these unconscious bad presentation habits.

Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”

Tugging at your fingers.  I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.

Bending your fingers back in odd manner.  This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced.  It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell.  It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.

Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement.  This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.

Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.

Stop Bad Presentation Habits!

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

We gesture to add force to our points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?

While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

Said James Winans in 1915:

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues.  Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine.

You attain a powerful communication moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine and align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy.  Be spare with your gestures and be direct.

Make them count.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Skills for a Strong Personal Brand

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

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

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

Doesn’t that cover it?

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

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

Such is the myth of the soft skill.

Adolescent Attitude Toward Business Presentations Skills

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

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

It must be somehow “easier.”

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

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

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

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

And it requires practice, just like any other discipline.

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

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

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

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

The Great Embarrassment

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

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

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

And some institutions get it right.

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

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

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

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

Business Presentation Skills Build a Powerful Personal Brand

The results can be phenomenal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Telling Your Story for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

No Need to Boast . . .

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

Instead, try this . . .

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

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

Tell your story for personal competitive advantage

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

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

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

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

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

This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.

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

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

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

That’s it.

Digest that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

        I get along with a wide range of people.

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

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

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

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

For an Especially Powerful Interview

See how it works?

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

For example, you could say something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

So always remember these key words . . .

Let me share with you what I learned about myself.

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

Gangnam Style Presentation

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

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

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

The presenter calls himself Psy.

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

VEGAS PM.

Applying the Three Ps

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

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

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

View this Gangnam Style Presentation with these precepts in mind.

 

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

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

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

Deliver a Gangnam Style Presentation

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

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

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

How to Stand in a Presentation

How to stand in a presentation You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation.

You achieve this goal with a number of techniques, all working simultaneously and in harmony.

Those techniques comprise our backpack full of Seven Secrets.

Your first technique – or secret – is fundamental to projecting the image of strength, competence, and confidence.  This first technique is assumption of the proper stance.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

Let me preface by assuring you that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, the first step in learning how to stand in a presentation.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?  Have you ever consciously thought about it?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others nonverbally.

Know How to Stand in A Presentation

You send a message to those around you, and those around us will take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.  Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just wHow to Stand in a Presentationhat is the message you unconsciously send people?

Have you even thought about it?  Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Seize control of your communication this instant.  There is no reason not to.  And there are many quite good reasons why you should.

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  They form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

The importance of knowing how to stand in a presentation has been acknowledged for centuries.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.How to Stand in a Presentation

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.  There is another effect, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.  It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.  We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic.  Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.

Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing 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.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders. Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

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

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.

It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

For more on how to stand in a presentation and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

Your Silver Bullet Skill . . . ENCORE!

The Choice is Yours to Acquire the Silver Bullet Skill

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

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

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

What would that be worth to you?

Worth How Much?

Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?  Think of it – a skill you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life.

A skill that few people take seriously.

A skill that is in high demand by America’s corporations.

Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively, logically, comfortably, clearly, and cogently.  This is why corporate recruiters rate the ability to communicate more desirable in candidates than any other trait or skill.

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Silver Bullet Skill

And this is the silver bullet you’ve always sought.

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

In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker, you become one.

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

You actually have to change the way you do things.  This can be tough.  Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves.  The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves.

Off the shelf.  In a box.

This doesn’t work.  Not at all.

You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.  You already carry it with you.

But . . .

But you will have to change.

Powerful Presenting Skills can lift you into the High-demand Skill Zone

This is about transformation.  Transformation of the way we think, of the way we view the world, of the lens through which we peer at others, of the lens through which we see ourselves.

It is a liberating window on the world.  And it begins with your uniqueness.

No, this is not esteem-building snake-oil.  It is a quite cool observation.  I am not in the business of esteem-building, nor do I toil in the feel-good industry.  If you had to affix a name to it, you could say that I am in the business of esteem-discovery.

So you are unique, and your realization of this and belief in this uniqueness is utterly essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.

But given the tendency of modernity to squelch your imagination, to curtail your enthusiasm, to limit your vision, and to homogenize your appearance and your speech, you have probably abandoned the notion of uniqueness as the province of the eccentric.  Perhaps you prefer to “fit in.”

Some truths can be uncomfortable.  Often, truths about ourselves are uncomfortable, because if we acknowledge them, we then obligate ourselves to change in some way.

But in this case, the truth is liberating.

Your Shrinking World . . . Reverse the Process

Recognize that you dwell in a cocoon.  Barnacles of self-doubt, conformity, and low expectations attach themselves to you, slowing you down as barnacles slow an ocean liner.

Recognize that in four years of college, a crust of mediocrity may well have formed on you.  And it is, at least partially, this crust of mediocrity that holds you back from becoming a powerful presenter.

Your confidence in yourself has been leeched away by a thousand interactions with people who mean you no harm and, yet, who force you to conform to a standard, a lowest common denominator.

People who shape and cramp and restrict your ability to deliver presentations.  They lacquer over your innate abilities and force you into a dull conformity.

Your world has shrunk incrementally, and if you do not push it out, it will close in about you and continue to limit you.

Your most intimate acquaintances can damage you if they have low expectations of you.  They expect you to be like them.

They resent your quest for knowledge and try to squelch it.

Beware of people who question you and your desires and your success.  I suggest that you question whether these people belong in your life.

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

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

For more on developing your uniqueness as a presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Power Posing: “I feel especially powerful today!”

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 confident stance.  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.

Body Language
Power 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 is 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, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

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

Turn Negative Energy into Positive with Power Posing

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 a critical 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.  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.

How to Recover when you Lose Train of Thought

Lose train of thought?
When you lose train of thought, Consider the Venerable Chin-Scratch

You’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.

It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt and you can’t remember what to say.  Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.  Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.  You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the posture.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.  If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.  It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.  In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement can bail you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . .

“In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.