“Earnestness” is a word that we neither hear much nor use much these days.
That’s a shame.
Because the word captures much of what makes for an especially powerful business presentation.
Edwin Dubois Shurter was a presenting master in the early 20th Century, and he said way back in 1903 that:
“Earnestness is the soul of oratory. It manifests itself in speech by animation, wide-awakeness, strength, force, power, as opposed to listlessness, timidity, half-heartedness, uncertainty, feebleness.”
What was true then is surely true today.
And yet, “earnestness” is frowned upon. Perhaps some think it somehow “uncool.”
Showing Too Much Interest?
It is uncool to show interest, because . . . If you appear too interested in something, and then you somehow are perceived as having failed, then your business presentation “defeat” is doubly ignominious.
Better to pretend you don’t care.
So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance. So that no defeat is too damaging. And you can save your cool. You save your best – your earnestness – for something else.
For your friends, for your sports contests, for your facebook status updates. For your pizza discussions, for your intramural softball team . . .
But this also means that all of your presentation victories, should ever you score one or two, are small victories. Meager effort yields acceptable results in areas where only meager effort is required.
Especially Powerful Business Presenting
Mediocrity is the province of the lazy and nonchalant. The sin of the insouciant.
Shurter was a keen observer of presentations and he recognized the key role played by earnestness in a successful presentation: “When communicated to the audience, earnestness is, after all is said and done, the touchstone of success in public speaking, as it is in other things in life.”
Earnestness means wrapping your material in you.
Embracing your topic.
This means giving a powerful business presentation that no one else can give, one that no one else can copy. Because it arises from your essence, your core. It’s the source of your personal competitive advantage.
It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject. It means recognizing that the subject of your presentation could be the love of someone else’s life, whether it be their business or their product or their service – you should make it yours when you present.
In the process, you craft your persona, your powerful personal brand that differentiates you from the great hoi-polloi of undistinguished speakers. And you achieve remarkable personal competitive advantage.
Embrace your topic with earnestness, and you will shine as you deliver an especially powerful business presentation.
For more on the power of earnestness and the key to delivering a powerful business presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.