Category Archives: Technique

Presidential Presenting?

Given that this election year has seen a raft of awful would-beEspecially Powerful presidential presenting presidential presenting, I devote to this space the second evaluation of the two political parties’ nominees.

In this case, the winner.

President-elect Donald Trump offers one of the strangest speaking styles I’ve ever witnessed on the public stage.

It combines odd gestures, rhetorical discontinuities, and counter-intuitive inflections to flummox even the most partisan viewer.

I said in another space six months ago that Mr. Trump could be our first post-modern candidate.  Nothing has changed that would cause me to modify this observation.

His repetition, flights of fancy, strange interjections at inappropriate moments, and infuriating inability to complete a thought all combine with a menu of off-putting gestures.

Gestures for Presidential Presenting?

Mr. Trump, like all public speakers, has a go-to gesture that sustains him on the stump.  President Obama’s go-to gesture is the “lint-pick.”

He uses with aplomb and quite often.

especially powerful
The Obama Lint-Pick, his signature gesture for especially powerful presidential presenting

The “Lint Pick” is an excellent choice to exhibit precision and attention to detail.  It gives the impression to an audience that you are sharing something minute yet important.

You cull out the telling point that brings everything together, and Mr. Obama has adopted this for his personal brand.

Mr. Trump’s signature gesture is what someone in a national magazine labeled the “Dainty Mobster Thing.”

In an Atlantic article by James Parker, the author observed Mr. Trump’s “dainty mobster thing he does with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.”

Dainty Mobster is simply a version of the Lint-Pick that we’ve seen the President and many others use for years.

Especially Powerful Dainty Mobster
Signature Gesture . . . the Dainty Mobster, which is similar to the lint-pick

This version, however, is certainly something I’ve never seen anyone else use except occasionally and to a specific purpose.

Mr. Trump uses Dainty Mobster repeatedly.

When we talk about public speaking, particularly that with a high stakes element, it’s always useful to go to the film to evaluate the product.

So, let’s have a look at a speech that I annotate to call attention to speaking tics that detract from the public presentation message.

Aspiring speakers should not imitate this particular style, although unique it may be and with seemingly grandiose results.  Nor should one imitate the opposing candidate, Mrs. Clinton, as we saw in our previous post.

In fact, few political figures in our time offer styles that can teach us much of anything.  One of the few articulate speakers of a new political generation is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, but his is an occasional case.

For especially powerful speakers worthy of emulation, the finest Hollywood actors offer us a strong example of how to combine emotion with substance in a powerful persuasive performance.

But then, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do.

For more on powerful presentations, consult the book The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

The Power Pause . . . for Effect

PauseCoca-Cola’s 1929 slogan was “The Pause that Refreshes.”

Pauses can, indeed, be refreshing, and a judicious pause can refresh your business presentation.

Here’s how pausing can ignite, can inspire, can rivet an audience’s attention on the salient points that you want them to remember.

The prudent pause for reflection, for the audience to digest your message, for dramatic effect to emphasize what comes next . . . all add depth and richness to communicate to your audience gathered to hear something special.

Make friends with silence so that you feel comfortable in its presence.

Public Speaking Pause Power

The correct pauses imbue your talk with incredible power.  With proper timing and coupled with other techniques, the pause evokes strong emotions in your audience.

A pause can project and communicate as much or more than mere words.

Your Pause can Refresh your Audience . . . give it a chance to anticipate what comes next
Your Pause can Refresh your Audience . . . give it a chance to anticipate what comes next

The public speaking pause is part of your nonverbal repertoire.  It’s a superbly useful tool.

The comfortable pause communicates your competence and confidence.

The pause telegraphs deep, serious thought.

The Power Pause is underutilized today, but has served as arrow-in-quiver of the finest presenters over centuries.

Presentation Master Grenville Kleiser put it this way in 1912:  “Paradoxical tho it may seem, there is an eloquence and a power in silence which every speaker should seek to cultivate.”

When you use the pause judiciously, you emphasize the point that comes immediately after the pause.  You give the audience time to digest what you just said.

And you generate anticipation for what comes next.

So save this technique for the moments just prior to each of your main points.

How do you pause?

When?

Silence is Your Friend

A truly effective pause can be coupled with a motionless stance, particularly if you have been pacing or moving about or gesturing vigorously.

Couple the pause with a sudden stop, going motionless.

Look at your audience intently.

Seize their attention.

Hesitate.

Don’t waste this powerful technique on a minor point of your talk.  Time your pauses to emphasize the single most important point – your MIP – and its handful of supporting points.

Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says:  “A pause is effective and powerful if it is active and in the moment with your intentions and head and heart.  A pause filled with breath and attention to what you are saying to your audience will give you and your audience a bridge of transitional energy from one idea to another.”

Pause, and You Accent What is to Come
Pause . . . to Accent What Comes Next

Finally, the pause can rescue you when you begin to spiral out of control or lose your train of thought.  Remember that silence is your friend.

Need a life-preserver?

Need time to regain your composure?

Try this . . .

Stop.  Look slightly down.  Scratch your chin thoughtfully.  Furrow your brow.  Take four steps to the right or left, angling a bit toward the audience.  Look up . . . and continue your talk.

Voila!  You just bought 7-8 precious seconds to collect your thoughts.

Remember the especially powerful effects you can achieve in your business presentation with the public speaking pause.  It’s a sure way to build your professional presence on the podium.

For more on superb business techniques like the public speaking pause, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Make the Right Presentation Choices

especially powerful presentation choices
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

To deliver an especially powerful presentation means that you must choose correctly more than 100 times . . . it means that you take the correct presentation choices from start to finish.

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

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

Dozens of times.

Invisible Presentation Choices

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

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

As something we simply “do.”

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

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

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

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

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

Not a “Soft Skill”

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

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

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

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

An especially powerful presentation.

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

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

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

Why was it a great presentation?

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

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

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

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

No one reason.

No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

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

. . . or a dud.

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

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators.

There, you’ll find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 techniques?

Surely.

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

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

That’s the power of synergy.

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation Skills 201

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

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

Jim read it . . . oh he read it.

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

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

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

Slap!

“That’s it!

And so it went.

That’s It!

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

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

Books that crack the carapace of cynicism.

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

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

You’re holding it.

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

Presentation Skills 201 – High Concept

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

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

You bet.

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

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

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

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

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

So . . .

High Praise, Indeed . . . and Deserved

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

Surely it is the most succinct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We hear advice, sure.

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

Don’t put your hand in your pocket!

Make eye contact!

Move around when you talk!

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

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

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

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

“That’s it!

Train of Thought

chin scratchYou’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.

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 stance.

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 to regain your train of thought:  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 bails 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 especially powerful The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Foolproof Presentation Structure

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

Foolproof Presentation Structure
Foolproof Presentation Structure to Win the Day

Whoa.  Let me rephrase.

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

Beginning – Middle – End.

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

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

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

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

Your segment has this structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolproof Presentation Structure

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

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

Please do so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Interesting Presentation?

Give an interesting presentation every time
Give an interesting presentation by broadening your context

How can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience?

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

Become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Three-D Presentations

Think of it as enlarging your world.  You increase your reservoir of usable material.

And you connect more readily with varied audiences.

You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.

By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.

And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.

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

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

Read a book outside your specialty.

Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.

Time to Dabble . . . Just a Bit

give an interesting presentation
How to give an interesting presentation? Expand your Context.

Dabble a bit in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world.  We forget that other fields offer insights.

For myself, while teaching in the LeBow College of Business‘s management department this semester, I sometimes sit in on a course sponsored by another college’s history Department “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

How does this help in preparing my own classes?  In surprising ways.  Linkages appear, and the dots begin to connect themselves.

That’s the beauty and potential of it.

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

It will do the same for yours, and it can aid in your developing into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.

For more on how to give interesting business presentations, click HERE.

I Recommend this Presentations Book

A bit of prelude . . .

Presentations Book
The Best Advanced Presentations Book in the World

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

My own book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting addresses the needs of this particular niche audience.

I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 2,000 volumes, going back to 1762.  I buy presentation books even now, to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

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

Presentation Skills 201

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

Surely the most succinct.

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

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

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

Examples?

On rushing through your presentation:

One of the keys to sounding confident as a presenter is acting like you own the time.  If you were told you have 15 minutes to speak, you want to act like you own those 15 minutes.  Rushing makes you sound anxious to the audience.  It undermines the confident image you want to project.  You risk coming across like a nervous stage performer who expects the hook at any moment.  Limiting your content takes the pressure off.

On making slides:

Presenters routinely assign the lowest priority to their live audience when preparing slides.  They create slides to be their notes.  Slides that are speaker notes can be anemic or crammed with too much content.  Some presenters just need reminder notes, so they create slides with cryptic phrases that mean nothing to the audience.  Others need the slide show equivalent of a script, so their bullet points are complete paragraphs in 10-point type.  Either way, the slides are frustrating to an audience.

On handouts:

If you need a handout, realize that a good slide show is not a good handout – and a good handout is not a good slide show.

Money is Precious

I rarely recommend books in the presentation genre.  This is one of those rare times.

I have found wisdom on every page of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand.  I plan to reference it often as well as consult Mr. Steele’s website.

I recommend this presentations book to anyone who fancies himself or herself an outstanding presenter.  You can do better, and Presentation Skills 201 is the perfect tonic to take anyone to a higher level of performance.

For specific guidance at the Business School level, consult my own Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Rule of Three

Rule of Three in Presentations
Your Business Presentation structure can rarely do better than this powerful Rule of Three in Presentations

Apply the Rule of Three to the middle section of your presentation.

You build your talk in stages, and you make the case for your recommendation.  Through all of this, the Rule of Three is the best method you can use.

Apply the Rule of Three . . . and apply it ruthlessly.

Here I offer controversial advice, and not every presentation guru will agree with it.  But it forms the basis for an especially powerful presentation.

With it, you never go wrong.

What is this Rule of Three?

For a moment, let’s consider this “Rule of Three.”

This is always a successful method in structuring the staging portion of your presentation.

Rule of Three in presentations means selecting the three main points from your material and making that the structure for your show.  Despite the fact that you may never have heard of the “rule of three,” it’s one of the most basic frameworks for public speaking.

It derives from something almost existential in the human psyche.

Think about this for a moment.

Something magical suffuses the number three.  We tend to grasp information most easily in threes.

Consider these examples:

Stop, look and listen – A wellknown public safety announcement

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare

Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar

“Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill

“Faith, Hope and Charity” – The Bible

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – the Declaration of Independence

“The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood Western

“Duty – Honor – Country.  Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The Rule of Three in presentations is a standard structural model advocated  by many presentation coaches.  And with good reason.  It’s a powerful framework, incredibly sturdy.  Think of it as a reliable vessel into which to pour your superb beverage.

With the rule of three, you can – literally – never err with regard to your presentation structure.

Here’s an Example . . .

Offer substantiation for your thesis and ultimate recommendation in three main points.

Strip down all of your convoluted arguments, all of your evidence, all of your keen analysis to the three major points that you believe make your case.

Let’s take an example.

Say that we begin show with our introductory situation statement and ultimate recommendation, and we give three positive reasons for our chosen course of action:  “ . . . this presentation demonstrates that this course of action is the best use of scarce resources among the alternatives, is fiscally sound, and serves as a basis for rapid growth.”

These three factors serve as your basic Rule of Three structure for the middle of your presentation.

  1. Most efficient use of resources over other expansion alternatives
  2. Financial Analysis of the projected acquisition
  3. Projected returns and growth rate

Does this mean that other information is not important?  Of course not.

It means that you’ve selected the most important points that make your case and that you want to rivet in the minds of the audience.  The Rule of Three in presentations means that you select the major facts not to be “comprehensive” in your presentation, but to be persuasive in your presentation.

With respect to subsidiary points that appear in your written analysis, you have the opportunity to address those issues in a question and answer session to follow your show.

Follow the Rule of Three.

For more proven techniques like the Rule of Three in presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Four Words for Powerful Finance Presentations

Add Power and Impact to your Powerful Finance Presentation
Add Power and Impact to your Finance Presentation

To develop and deliver an especially powerful finance presentation, follow this formula:

Orient

Eliminate

Emphasize

Compare . . .

This method produces superb results every time, especially if you work with difficult financial information.

As preface to this, on all of your slides, ensure that you use a sans serif font and that its size is at least 30 point.

Your numbers should be at least 26 point.

Now, to those four key words . . .

For a Powerful Finance Presentation

First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.

If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then briefly display the balance sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.

Tell the audience they view a balance sheet:  “This is a balance sheet for the year 2012.”

Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Touch the screen.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.

This means clicking to the next slide, which has been stripped of irrelevant data.  If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.

Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Sure, put the entire balance sheet or spreadsheet on your first slide, orient your audience to provide the context of the numbers you are about to emphasize, and then click to the next slide.

This next slide should display only the figures you refer to.

powerful Finance Presentation
Your powerful finance presentation need not be unintelligible

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing their size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.

Illustrate what the numbers mean by utilizing a chart or graph.

Fourth, compare your results to something else.

Remember that numbers mean nothing by themselves.  Comparison yields meaning and understanding.

For example, think of a children’s dinosaur book.

Compare, Compare, Compare

You’ve seen the silhouette of a man beside a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus, or a Brontosaurus.  The silhouette provides you a frame of reference so you understand the physical dimensions of something new and strange.

You can compare the size of a man with the new information on dinosaurs.

Likewise, we want to provide a frame of reference so that our audience understands the results of our analysis.

We provide a comparison as a baseline.

For instance, if you are talking about financial performance, and you have selected an indicator (such as ROI, or yearly sales revenue growth, or something similar), don’t simply present the information as standalone.  Compare your company’s financial performance against something else.

Do this to make your point and to tell your story.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against itself in prior years or quarters.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against a major competitor or several competitors.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against the industry as a whole.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against similar sized firms in select other industries.

When you Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize . . . and Compare, you create a finance presentation experience that is intelligible and satisfying to your audience.

And you create for yourself a personal competitive advantage.

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

Aristotle, King, Jobs and Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long historyAristotle . . .

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

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

The power to deliver the persuasive presentation.

To deliver it with power and passion.

What is Rhetoric?

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

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

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

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

The persuasive presentationAnd the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Persuasive Presentations

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

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

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

This technique is called the anaphora.

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

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

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

The persuasive presentationA Different Venue

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

A more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laser Pointer?

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

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

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

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

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

No Laser Pointer Presentation!

But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation!

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

Haven’t you?

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

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

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

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

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

How so?

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

Gesture to the data with your hand.

Use Cave Man Technology

Merge yourself with the data.

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

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

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

Now, I issue a caveat here.

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

But probably not.

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

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

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

Rid yourself of this awful affectation today.

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

Here’s how:

The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

Develop Your Powerful Presentation Voice

powerful presentation voice
Do you have a case of Bad Voice?

If given a choice, would you embrace the opportunity to develop a powerful presentation voice?

Or would you demur to take a stand for “natural” voices?  Whatever the hell that is.

Rather than a mere provocation, the question is real and addresses one of the most pervasive problems in business presenting today.

It’s a problem that goes unrecognized and, as such, remains a debilitating burden for many people who could otherwise be superb speakers.

Your voice.

We tend to think that our voices are off-limits when it comes to changing, let alone improving.

We believe our voice is “natural” when, in fact, it is likely the product of undisciplined and random influences – parents, peers, television, celebrities, radio, occasional mimicry.

Voices Often Develop Chaotically

Many influences in our culture have, in the last decade or so, urged on us a plaintive, world-weary whine as voice-of-choice.  Thus, voice becomes a matter of style – not just in the slang we choose to use, but in the way our voices sound when we use that slang.

So what’s a “bad voice?”

Do you swallow your voice in the back of your throat so that you produce a nasal twang?  Is it pinched?  Do you use your chest as the resonating chamber it ought to be to produce a powerful presentation voice, or does your voice emanate from your throat alone?

High-pitched.  Small.  Weak.  Unpleasant.  Pinched.  Nasal.  Raspy.

Ugh.

Especially Powerful
Listen to the people around you

Next time you stand in line at the convenience store, listen to the people around you.

Focus on the voices.

Listen for the trapped nasal sound, the whine of precious self-indulgence.

Or the sound of air rasping across vocal cords.  A voice that has no force.  No depth.  A voice you could swat away as you would backhand a fly.

A voice from reality television.  A cartoon voice.  The opposite of a powerful presentation voice.

Cartoon Voice

The cartoon voice is more prevalent than you might imagine.  Many reasonably-known celebrities have cartoon voices, and they usually dwell in the wasteland of daytime television.

You know exemplars of the squeaky, whiney cartoon voice are people who appear to have achieved a degree of questionable fame for all of the wrong reasons:  a group of people calling themselves “Kardashians.”

Their voices are barely serviceable for even routine communication and embody all that is wrong with regard to delivering powerful presentations.

They exhibit habitual pathologies of the worst sort.

And yet people mimic them.

Lots of people.

But . . . my voice is “natural!”

If you want to become a good speaker, but you do not accept that you can and should improve your voice, it means that you are much like an un-coachable football player.  Oh, you want to become a superb football player, but you refuse to listen to the coach.

He tells you to develop your muscles and coordination in the gym, but you refuse.

Instead, you respond that your body’s musculature is “natural.”  You believe that you can become a great football player without “cheating” with weight training or cardio conditioning.  Or by modifying your “natural” physique by exercising and building your muscles and coordination.

I’m sure you see the absurdity in this.

The same is true when it comes to your voice.  Voice is an extremely personal attribute, and people don’t take criticism lightly, perhaps viewing it as a self-esteem issue or an attack on personhood.  It’s not.

An Especially Powerful Presentation Voice

Don’t bristle at the notion that you should change your voice.

This is naiveté and vanity and ego masquerading as a noble stand for who-knows what.

This is a self-imposed handicap and an excuse for inaction.  You hold yourself back for no good reason.  It’s also a manifestation of fear.

Clare Tree Major identified this fear almost a century ago in college students of her time:

“People are exceedingly sensitive about changing their methods of speech for fear it will bring upon them the ridicule of their families and friends. . . . Charm and grace and beauty will come only when speech is unconscious – not while you have to think of every word and tone. If a thing is right there can be no question of affectation. It is a greater affectation to do the wrong merely to pander to the less cultured tastes of others. If you know a thing is right, do it. If you have not this ideal and this courage, then it will waste your time to study correct speech. ”

What is your voice but a means of communication?

Does it have purposes other than speaking or singing?  Other than communicating?  And if we consider this carefully, it’s easy to see that clear communication depends upon the timbre of your voice.

It does matter what others think of your voice, since you use it to communicate, and it is others who receive your messages.  Doesn’t it make sense, then, to cultivate the most effective voice you possibly can?  So that you might communicate most effectively?

So that you might develop a personal competitive advantage?

Put another way, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate what is unpleasant, ineffectual, shrill, and dissonant from your voice, if possible?

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

100 Presentation Choices

especially powerful
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

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

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

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

Dozens of times.

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

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

As something we simply “do.”

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

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

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

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

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

Not a “Soft Skill”

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

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

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

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

An especially powerful presentation.

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

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

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

Why was it a great presentation?

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

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

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

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

No one reason.

No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

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

. . . or a dud.

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

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

More than 100 things?

Surely.

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

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

That’s the power of synergy.

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

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

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

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

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

How to Develop PowerPoint Skill

PowerPoint Skill
PowerPoint, done well, can be a Powerful Tool of Communication

Microsoft’s PowerPoint multimedia software has gotten a bum rap, and this unfair reputation springs from the thousands of ugly presentations given every day from folks who have not developed their PowerPoint skill.

It also stems from awful articles like this one, which appeared recently in something called Business Insider.

The article is so bad that I actually recommend that you read it to get the perspective of someone 1) who doesn’t know how to make a cogent argument, and 2) who obviously understands nothing about PowerPoint or how to use visual aids in delivering presentations.

His “argument” is akin to offering criticism of a bad high school football team as a reason to eliminate the NFL.  Moreover, his lead sentence is a textbook exercise in the straw man argument . . . such argument as exists at all.

PowerPoint is a brilliant tool.

Yes, brilliant.

But not for those such as the hapless fellow writing in Business Insider.

But just as any tool – say, a hammer or saw – can contribute to the construction of a masterpiece . . . or a monstrosity, PowerPoint can contribute to the creation of an especially powerful presentation.

And it can serve as a source of your own personal competitive advantage.

Or . . . it becomes the weapon of choice to inflict yet another heinous public-speaking crime on a numbed audience.

PowerPoint Skill a Necessity

PowerPoint isn’t the problem.  Clueless presenters are the problem.

So just how do you use PowerPoint?

You can start by consulting any of several PowerPoint experts who earn their living sharpening their own skills and helping others to hone theirs.

Folks such as Nancy Duarte, who has elevated PowerPoint design to a fine art.  You can subscribe to her newsletter here by scrolling to the page bottom and signing up.  You can also enjoy her supremely interesting blog here.  She’s done all the heavy lifting already – now you can take advantage of it to develop your PowerPoint slide skills.

Garr Reynolds is another giant of the PowerPoint kingdom, and his concepts approach high art without being too artsy.

Meanwhile, if you want immediate help to develop not only your PowerPoint slide skills, but also your technique of working with your presentation projection, do have a look at my own short video on how to work with PowerPoint.

It’s enough to get you started and, I hope, whet your appetite for more instruction in PowerPoint skill.

For once you create those marvelous slides inspired by Nancy and Garr . . . you then must use them properly in a ballet of visual performance art called a business presentation.

This short video reviews several of my own techniques that provide basic guidance on how to work with PowerPoint.

Have a look-see and start building competitive advantage today . . .

Especially Powerful Presentation Visuals

Microsoft’s PowerPoint software has gotten a bum rap as insufficient for your presentation visuals.Powerpoint logo

This unfair reputation springs from the thousands of ugly presentations given every day from folks who don’t know how to use it.

And yet, PowerPoint is a brilliant tool.

But any tool – say, a hammer or saw – can contribute to the construction of a masterpiece . . . or of a monstrosity.

PowerPoint either contributes to the creation of an especially powerful presentation, or it becomes the weapon of choice to inflict yet another heinous public-speaking crime on a numbed audience.

Presentation Visuals to Rivet the Audience

PowerPoint isn’t the problem.  Clueless presenters are the problem.

So just how do you use PowerPoint  as the  basis for your presentation visuals?

This short video reviews several of my own techniques that provide basic guidance on sound PowerPoint use.  It’s just a few minutes, but what might you learn to turn your presentation frown upside down!

Have a look-see . . .

 

And consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presentations for more great guidance.

Crafting Your Presentation Conclusion

Presentation conclusion with Power and Grace
These Magic Words provide an especially powerful presentation conclusion

Let’s toss out a life preserver on how to conclude a presentation.  Because everyone needs a life-preserver at some point in a speaking career.

I’ve tossed this rescue device out many times to students in trouble during a business presentation.

At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble.  Having this rescue device near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course, that is flirting with disaster.

Your Life Preserver

Occasionally we must be reminded of this quite simple device that can serve us well near the end of our talk.

When your talk is winding down and you feel yourself suddenly spent . . .

When you begin to spiral out of control and cannot remember your train of thought . . .

When your pulse quickens and your mind goes blank . . .

Grasp for two words.

Your life-preserver.

“In conclusion . . .”

That’s it.  Just two words.

A Pithy Presentation Conclusion

These two words have rescued thousands of presenters before you.  They’ll rescue you as well.

These two words work a magic on your psyche that is almost inexplicable in terms that a logical, reasonable person would believe.  Speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.

Speak them, and suddenly you know what to say and do.

Here is what you do.  Confidently tack on another phrase . . .

“In conclusion, we can see that . . .”

“In conclusion, our recommendation makes sense for reasons just given . . .”

“In conclusion, this means that . . .”

See how it works?

You see how incredibly easy it is to get out of the sticky wicket of a talk spiraling down out of control?  To craft a presentation conclusion with punch?

“In conclusion” leads you out of the wilderness.  It puts you back onto your prepared path.  It leads you to restate your thesis in concise manner and then . . .

. . . stop!

You’re done.

But you’re not done building your Personal Competitive Advantage by improving your business presentation skills.  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on especially powerful techniques on the presentation conclusion.

Zombies of Bad Presentation Advice

Business School Presenting, the source of personal competitive advantage
Zombies of Bad Advice Never Die

Over the years, I’ve learned that the zombies of bad presentation advice never die.

We can’t eradicate bad presentation advice completely, because these zombies are impervious to every remedy known to 21st century civilization.

When Armageddon finally comes, cockroaches and bad advice zombies will be the only survivors.

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

Zombies of Bad Presentation Advice

The process of becoming a great presenter is not so much doing things the right way.  It’s getting you – yes, you – to stop doing things the wrong way.

This is much tougher than you might expect.

This is because 1) people generally dislike the idea of change, and 2) many folks tend to think that the presentation is something that exists outside of themselves . . . in a PowerPoint software package, or in notecards, or in a book.

The notion that the presenter actually has to change is not welcome news.

Not at all.

Bad Presentation Advice
Flee the Bad Presentation Advice Zombies

Accordingly, I instruct students to just stop what they do now as a result of bad habits and bad advice.  Just stop.

That’s much more difficult than it sounds.

And we don’t engage in lengthy discussions of various opinions of what constitutes good presenting or how people want leeway granted for their own tics or habits.  This is not a time for a “conversation on presenting.”

All it takes is one film session to disabuse people of the notion that a bad habit is somehow acceptable.

Once they stop engaging in bad habits and misconceptions about presenting, they become de facto reasonably competent presenters.

That’s right.

Just stop the bad habits, and what remains can be reasonably good.

But Bad Habits Die Hard

Bad habits can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad advice.  The problem is recognizing what constitutes bad advice.

This isn’t easy, because much bad advice paradoxically masquerades as good advice, and lots of these bad advice zombies stalk the land.

Here are some of the most common examples of awful, vague, or incomplete presentation advice you invariably hear during your business school career from the most well-meaning of folks.

 ZOMBIE #1     “Don’t Put your hand in your pocket . . . it looks ‘unprofessional.’”

This is absurd and carries the stink of oral tradition about it.

From presidents to preachers, the hand in the pocket – if done properly – conveys assurance and confidence.

Presentation Advice
Powerful, Authoritative

For many speakers, it also removes one hand from the equation as an unnecessary distractor.

Put that left hand in the pocket and you keep it out of trouble.

No more strange finger-play.

No more tugging at your fingers.

No more twisting and hand-wringing.  It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.

ZOMBIE #2     “Make eye contact.”

This advice is insidious in that it actually carries a large kernel of truth.

It sounds reasonable.

But it doesn’t tell you how to do it.  And, yes, there is such a thing as bad eye contact.

Too long, and you come across as creepy.  Too short, and you come across as untrustworthy.

Make eye contact with people in your audience long enough to ascertain eye color, then move on.

ZOMBIE #3     “Move around when you talk”

This gem was given to me by a student, passed on from one of his other professors.

This advice suggests that you wander aimlessly about the stage in hopes that it will improve your presentation in some unspecified way.  Or it might mean to roll your shoulders as you step side-to-side.

It actually can mean most anything, and as such, it’s terrible advice.

In this case the bad advice is worse than no advice at all.  See my previous posts on movement for ideas on how to incorporate movement into your talk . . . and how to incorporate pauses for effect.

ZOMBIE #4     “Just the facts.”

Really?  Which facts are those?

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”

Folks believe that this phrase makes them appear no-nonsense and hard-core.  But a more pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase has yet to be devised.

Again, it means nothing and is arrogance masquerading as directness.

“Facts” must be selected in some way, and context must be provided to give them meaning.  “Facts” must be analyzed to produce alternatives and to render a conclusion.

This is a euphemism for “I don’t like what you’re saying . . . tell me what I want to hear.”

ZOMBIE #5     “The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of finance folks, who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them.

“We’re special,” finance majors like to say.  “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling; we deal in hard numbers.”

There is so much wrong with this, it is difficult to locate a reasonable starting-point.

Not only do numbers, alone, tell no story at all . . . if the numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a woefully incomplete story, a distortion of reality.

Numbers provide just one piece of the analytical puzzle, important to be sure, but not sufficient by themselves.

Moreover, the business presenter who elects to serve the god of numbers sacrifices the power and persuasiveness that go with a host of other presenting techniques.  Underlying this myth is the notion that you “can’t argue with numbers.”

You certainly can argue with numbers, and you can bring in a wealth of analysis that changes completely what those numbers actually mean.

ZOMBIE #6    “You have too many slides.”

How do you know I have “too many” slides?

Say what?  You counted them?

I assure you that you don’t know.  You can conclude nothing about my presentation by looking only at the number of slides in it.

You will hear this chestnut from folks who believe that the length of a presentation dictates the number of slides you use.

Bad Presentation Advice Zombies!
You can defeat the bad presentation advice zombies by incorporating especially powerful presentation techniques into your show

Absurd on its face, people who use this believe that every slide will be shown a fixed amount of time.

They likely do some sort of calculation in their heads, dividing the time available by the number of slides to yield a number they believe indicates there are “too many” slides.

This is because they usually deal with folks unschooled in Business School Presentations methods.

If you follow the presentation principles laid down here in Business School Presentations, you will learn the glorious method of crafting frugal slides that pulse with power, surge with energy . . . slides that people remember, because they are smartly crafted.  They snap and pop, and they carry your audience along for an exciting ride.

And no one can tell anything about this by the number of slides in your presentation.

Bad Advice Zombies – these are just some that will come after you.

It’s probably not a good idea to argue with folks who give this sort of presentation advice.  What’s the use?  Just ignore it and replace it in your own work with enduring and especially powerful presenting principles – especially powerful presentation advice.

You can’t eliminate the zombies, but you can outrun them and outfox them.

And continue your upward trajectory toward becoming a superior business presenter.

If you’re interested in acquiring powerful presentation skills, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Mind-Blasting to Hook your Audience

Hook your Audience!
Hook your audience with an especially powerful grabber

Some experts estimate that you have an initial 15 seconds – maybe 20 – to hook your audience for your business presentation.

And with a kaleidoscope of modern-day distractions, you face an uphill battle.

In that short window of less than a minute, while they’re sizing you up, you must blast into their minds.  You must get them über-focused on you and your message.

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

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

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

Your “hook.”

This is your detonator for blasting into the mind.

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

Something special.

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

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

But they must step off with you from the beginning.

You get them to step off with you by blasting into the mind.  You don’t blast into the mind with a stock opening like this:

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

Hook your audience
You won’t hook your audience with cliches and bad jokes

That sort of thing.

Ugh.

Folks in your audience are already checking their email.  In fact, they’re no longer your audience.

And you’ve heard this kind of snoozer before, far too many times.

Why do people talk this way?  Because it’s what they’ve heard most of their business lives.

You hear it, you consider it, you shrug, and you think that this must be the way it’s done.

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

You come to believe that a listless audience is natural.

Not at all!

So How to Hook Your Audience?

The key is to do a bit of mind-blasting.

You must blast into their minds to crack that hard shell of inattention.

You must say something provocative, but relevant.  You must grab your listeners and keep them.  Hook them.  You must arrest their attention long enough to make it yours.

Something like this:

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

Or this . . .

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

Or this . . .

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

Or this . . .

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

Hook Your Audience!
Mind-Blast to Hook your Audience

Or this . . .

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

You get the idea.

Each of these mind-blasters rivets audience attention on you.  Your listeners want to hear what comes next.

Of course, your mind-blaster must be relevant to your talk and the message you plan to convey.  If you engage in theatrics for their own sake – just to hook your audience to no good end – you earn the enmity of your audience, which is far worse than inattention.

So craft an initial mind-blaster to lead your audience from sentence to sentence, eager to hear your next one.  And you will have succeeded in hooking and holding your listeners in spite of themselves.

For more on mind-blasting for especially powerful presentations, see the Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

100 Things – Business Presentation Alchemy

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

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

Likewise, this is the case for business presentations.

No Easy Way Out

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

An especially powerful presentation.

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

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

What made it a great presentation?

Business Presentation Alchemy
No Global Solution Exists to Create Presentation Gold

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.

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

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

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

This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.  No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Things?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Especially Powerful
100 Things to Transform your Presentation

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

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

More than 100 things?  Surely.

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

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

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

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

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

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