Tag Archives: audience

Engaging Your Audience . . . Video Classic!

Engage Your Audience . . . Give your listeners what they want

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

Do your “listeners” check iPhones every few seconds?   Text?   Chat openly in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

How DO you Engage Your Audience?

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley on how to connect with an audience that seems disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Dr. Ridgley identifies a remedy for you, how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.

He also offers several tips on how to energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation produces Executive Summaries of many of the world’s great business books.  You can review CKC’s site at www.summary.com

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

How to Start Your Presentation

Powerful presentations require powerful openings -- a grabber, or a hook
Blast into the mind . . . start your presentation with a hook or grabber, a lead sentence that seizes your audience’s attention.

Some experts estimate that you have an initial 15 seconds – maybe 20 – to hook and hold your audience as you start your 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.

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?

Start your Presentation with Explosives

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.

Start your presentation with this provocative line, and 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.

But they must step off with you from the beginning.  You get them to step off with you by blasting into the mind.

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

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 here 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 . . .”

That sort of thing.

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 believe that a listless audience is natural.

Not at all!  The key is to do a bit of mind-blasting as you start your presentation!

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.  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 etched in granite 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–”

Start your Presentation
The opening of your business presentation should be explosive . . . metaphorically speaking, of course

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–”

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, you’ll 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 how to start your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Malcolm X Presentation Skill

The Malcolm X presentation
Malcolm X was a powerful presenter, a passionate man of strong belief and charismatic bearing, and the Malcolm X presentation is a textbook on how to sway an audience

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way, and no better way to do it than a Malcolm X presentation.

Make it sit up straight, snap their heads in your direction.

You can do this several ways, and it’s up to you what you choose, but it should fit your audience and the topic of your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line.

This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not just another canned talk.

One of the greatest public speakers of modern times was the late Malcolm X.  His speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation.  He then mobilized his audience with an especially powerful call to action.

His techniques are so powerful that he deserves a category all his own.

And so I coin what I call the Malcolm X Presentation.

The Malcolm X Presentation

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator who drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.  His charisma was unquestioned and it grew organically from the wellspring of passion that he invested in his cause and in every speech.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  They are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases, and to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

When you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

You gain a sense of the gathering storm, you almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

The Malcolm X Presentation
The Malcolm X Presentation used word pictures and various other rhetorical techniques to stir his audiences to action

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.  With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

They sputter with stale phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or giving jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.

Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.  Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.

Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course will leaven our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners and layed out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He establishes a mood of confidentiality and rapport.  He then states boldly – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

No Chit-Chat  in a Malcolm X Presentation

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.  No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases:  “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.

And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Most important of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them.  He focused on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes.

He framed the issue in colorful language, and created listener expectations that he would offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from the Malcolm X presentation and ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we’ll look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation, building to his call for action at the end.

If you want to learn more about the techniques that energize a Malcolm X presentation, as well as the secrets that other powerful speakers use in their presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Hook Your Presentation Audience . . . and Keep Them

Your Presentation Audience deserves your bestDo you face a listless, distracted audience?

Are your “listeners” checking iPhones every few seconds?  Texting?  Chatting in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

Your Presentation Audience Needs You to Be . . .

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes me on how to connect with an audience that seems disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Here, I identify a remedy for you – how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.  Here is what you need to be for your audience.  It isn’t your listeners’ fault if you’re monotonous, unprepared, listless, nervous, or dull.  It’s your job to entertain and energize your audience with your own enthusiasm.

Giving a business presentation is much more than just showing up in front of your long-suffering presentation audience and delivering a stilted talk.  Much more.

Respect your audience and work hard to dazzle your listeners.  They’ll appreciate it more than you know.

In addition to giving you solid counsel on your audience, I also suggest how you can energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

It’s not easy, but you can do it with several techniques developed over centuries of public speaking practice.

Please overlook my bad hair day in this video as you take in this powerful advice on How to Engage With Your Presentation Audience for an especially powerful presentation.

Have a look . . .

 

 

 

Bad Business Presenting . . . CLASSIC COKE

Coke CEO does not present well
Even the largest and most respected corporations have speaking pathologies running rampant in the senior leadership

A wholly unsatisfactory stance infests the business landscape, and youve seen it dozens of times.

You see it in the average corporate meeting, after-dinner talk, finance brief, or networking breakfast address.

While unrelenting positivity is probably the best approach to presentation improvement, it helps at times to see examples of what not to do, particularly when the examples involve folks of lofty stature who probably ought to know better.

If they dont know better, this is likely a result of the familiar syndrome of those closest to the boss professionally not having the guts to tell the boss he needs improvement.

The speaker stands behind a lectern.  The speaker grips the lectern on either side.  The speaker either reads from notes or reads verbatim from crowded busy slides projected behind him.

The lectern serves as a crutch, and the average speaker, whether student or corporate VP, appears afraid that someone might snatch the lectern away.

This Video rated PG-13 for excessive violence done to good speaking skills

Many business examples illustrate this, and youve probably witnessed lots of them yourself.  Let’s take, for instance, Mr. Muhtar Kent, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca-Cola.

Mr. Kent appears to be a genuinely engaging person on occasions where he is not speaking to a group.  But when he addresses a crowd of any size, something seizes Mr. Kent and he reverts to delivering drone-like talks that commit virtually every public speaking sin.

He leans on the lectern.  He hunches uncomfortably.  He squints and reads his speech from a text in front of him and, when he does diverge from his speech, he rambles aimlessly.  He wears glasses with little chains hanging from either side of the frame, and these dangle and sway and attract our attention in hypnotic fashion.

In the video below, Mr. Kent delivers an October 2010 address at Yale University in which he begins badly with a discursive apology, grips the lectern as if it might run away, does not even mention the topic of his talk until the 4-minute mark, and hunches uncomfortably for the entire 38-minute speech. Have a look . . .

Successful C-Suite businessmen and businesswomen, such as Mr. Kent, are caught in a dilemma – many of them are terrible presenters, but no one tells them so.  No one will tell them so, because there’s no upside in doing it.

Why would you tell your boss, let-alone the CEO, that he needs improvement in presenting?  Such criticism cuts perilously close to the ego.

Many business leaders believe their own press clippings, and they invest their egos into whatever they do so that it becomes impossible for them to see and think clearly about themselves.  They tend to believe that their success in managing a conglomerate, in steering the corporate elephant of multinational business to profitability, means that their skills and judgment are infallible across a range of unrelated issues and tasks.

Such as business presenting.

Mr. Kent is by all accounts a shrewd corporate leader and for his expertise received in 2010 almost $25 million in total compensation as Coca-Cola CEO and Board Chairman.  But he is a poor speaker.  He is a poor speaker with great potential.

And this is tragic, because many business leaders like Mr. Kent could become outstanding speakers and even especially powerful advocates for their businesses.

Spreading Mediocrity

But as it stands now, executives such as Mr. Kent exert an incredibly insidious influence in our schools and in the corporate world generally.  Let’s call it the “hem-of-garment” effect, where those of us who aspire to scale the corporate heights imitate what we believe to be winning behaviors.  We want to touch the hem of the garment, so-to-speak, of those whom we wish to emulate.

Because our heroes are so successful, their “style” of speaking is mimicked by thousands of young people who believe that, well, this must be how it’s done: “He is successful, therefore I should deliver my own presentations this way.”

You see examples of this at your own B-School, as in when a VP from a local insurance company shows up unprepared, reads from barely relevant slides, then takes your questions in chaotic and perhaps haughty form.  Who could blame you if you believe that this is how it should be done?  This is, after all, the unfortunate standard.

But this abysmal level of corporate business presenting offers you an opportunity . . .

You need only become an above-average speaker to be considered an especially powerful presenter.

A presenter far more powerful than Mr. Muhtar Kent or any of 500 other CEOs.

Embrace the notion that you can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . you might find help in this book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Occupy This!

When you deliver a presentation, one of the most important factors that figures into the success of your talk is . . . where you stand.

Don’t take the example of most afterdinner speakers or professors, who hide behind the lectern, shuffling notes, looking down, gripping the edges of the podium with white-knuckled fervor.

This is grotesque.

It induces your audience to doze, to drift, to check out.

The Abominable Lectern!

The lectern is an abomination.  If you happen to be a liberal arts student who drifted here by mistake, think of the lectern as The Oppressor or The Other.  It puts a barrier between you and those whom you address.  For many students, it is a place to hide from the audience.

I recommend using the lectern only once, as a tool . . . and this is the occasion to walk from behind it to approach your audience at the very beginning of your talk.  This is an action of communication, a reaching out, a gesture of intimacy.

Do not lean upon the lectern in nonchalant fashion, particularly leaning upon your elbow and with one leg crossed in front of the other.

Fix this now.

Move from behind the lectern and into the Command Position.  In today’s fleeting vernacular, occupy the command position.

The Command Position is the position directly in front of a lectern and 4-8 feet from your audience.  It extends approximately 4 feet to either side of you.  You are not a visitor in this space.

As a presenter or speaker, this is your home.  You own this space, so make it yours.  You must always perform as if you belong there, never there as a visitor.

Occupy it!

Occupy it now for democracy, social justice, and an especially powerful presentation.

For more sloganeering and outright good presentation advice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Your Presentation Audience . . . Who? Your AUDIENCE

Your presentation audience
Present what’s important to your audience

As much as some of us might seek the adulation of the crowd, it’s wise to remember that your presentation isn’t about you, although our self-indulgence can sometimes make it seem so.  It’s all about your presentation audience.

Your presentation is for your audience and you must address what it wants.  Get them to do what you want them to by demonstrating to them that it’s what they want.

Address their needs and fulfill their expectations in language they understand, with metaphors and examples that resonate with them.

Your objective must be expressed in terms of how it best connects with your audience.  Speak to their needs and fulfill them.

Dazzle ’em with their own Dreams

The good news is that your audience’s generally low expectations mean that you can likely dazzle it with a merely above-average presentation.  This is because the level of business presenting is so dismally low that audiences dread listening to them as much as you hate giving them.

No one seems happy at the prospect of this afternoon’s weekly “finance update.”

But remember this regardless of the topic of your talk, every presentation audience wants the same basic thing.  Deep down, all of us wants a chance.  Everyone wants to have a chance to be a hero.

No one wants to hear from Indiana Jones . . . everyone wants to be Indiana Jones.

Or at least we like to believe that we could do great things.

Touch Your Presentation Audience

This is a touchstone principle long known to professional speakers.  Kenneth Goode and Zenn Kaufman authored a book in 1939 called Profitable Showmanship, and their words resonate with stone-cold veracity over the subsequent 72 years, right up to today and the next quarter earnings briefing:

The audience is always on the screen, at the microphone, in the prize-fight, or in the pitcher’s box.  You, the individual member of the audience, are the hero of the day.  No selling can ever be completely successful that forgets this principle: that the prospect is the Hero of the Show. And, in fact, the only hero! . . .  The minute you slide the spotlight off him, off his crazy ideas, off his pet peeves, particularly off his whims, your show is over.  You may as well go home, for your audience is gone.  . . . The hero of the [presenting] drama is the customer – or prospect.  His vanities, his hopes, his fears, his ambitions – these are the stuff from which your plot is spun and on him – and him alone – must the spotlight shine.

If this message is difficult to digest, a mnemonic aid can help you stay focused on your presentation audience.  Dr. John Kline developed this mnemonic aid, and he calls it TOOTSIFELT.  This is a contrived acronym, which stands for:  “The object of this talk is for each listener to . . .”

This captures the spirit of your presentation.  It embodies the audience-centered approach.  If you state this question repeatedly throughout the development of your show, you will always produce a tightly scripted and targeted message.

You can learn a great deal more about focusing on your presentation audience in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

WIIFY: Know Your Audience

WIIFY
Know your audience and craft your story with your listeners in mind . . . WIIFY

WIIFY – What’s In It For You?

This catchphrase comes loaded with a freight-train of wisdom for your business presentation.  And no, it isn’t about you . . . it’s about your audience.

Always ask yourself this question with regard to your audience . . . from the point-of-view of your audience.

This strikes at the heart of a powerful and well-received presentation, as speaking master James Winans noted back in 1915:

“The young speaker can do nothing better for himself than to fix firmly in mind that public speaking is a dialogue and to emphasize constantly the part of the audience, anticipating and watching for its response.”

This speaking basic also runs under the tag of Know Your Audience.

Know Your Audience = WIIFY?

To achieve its greatest effect, your story must focus on the needs and interests of your audience.  At its best, your presentation should focus on the deepest desires of the audience, but should do so subtly and with great skill.

Your story should fulfill a need in the audience with regard to your presentation topic and the stories you choose to illustrate that topic.

Ask yourself these questions:  Why have they come?  What is it that motivates these persons to gather in one place to hear me?  How can I speak to the audience as a group, and yet speak to each person individually?

WIIFY?  Be a Hero!

How can I make the persons in the audience feel like a hero?

The hero of your story must be in the audience.  The CEO.  The Stockholders.  Employees.

The people who are praised, instructed, lifted, motivated, excited must be the heroes of your story.

Aim your story at them and ask the question WIIFY.  Make them feel good about themselves, and they’ll surely feel more disposed to feel good about your message.

Speak with them as individual people, not as a group.  They do not attend your talk as a group, so do not address them as a group.  They attend your business presentation as individuals, because they have goals and aspirations and hopes.  They hope that your talk will benefit them in some way as an individual person.

Moreover, you must understand your audience.  You must understand their wants and needs, interests and desires.

Find what motivates them.

Find what shames them.

Find the common thread among them, then speak to that common thread as they are individuals.

Build your story with WIIFY in mind.

If the idea of corporate storytelling strikes a chord with you, note that three entire chapters of The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting are devoted to the craft of business storytelling and answering the question WIIFY.

Your Business Presentation Hero is in the Audience

Presentation Hero
Make your audience the Presentation Hero!

For a heroic presentation, add story moments to the mix and identify your presentation hero.

You should incorporate story moments throughout your business presentation to maintain momentum and to retain audience attention.

You make the audience the hero for the same reason.

The story moment may be no more than two sentences that breathe life into a staid exposition of facts.  Or it can extend to a one-paragraph allegory that plunges your audience into the meat of your show.

This is one key to your story’s power.  You select a story the audience already knows, and you populate it with characters sympathetic to the audience.

Who’s Your Presentation Hero?

As you prepare your story moment, carry in mind that every story must have a hero.  That hero must be in the audience.  For your audience to embrace your stories wholeheartedly, portray your audience heroically.

Remember that you determine the presentation hero of your story.

Choose a presentation hero that makes your audience feel good.

If your audience is the CEO and his senior staff, then he or she is the presentation hero, aided by trusted colleagues – he is Napoleon; she is Joan of Arc.

If your audience is the shareholders, then they are the heroes of your story.  It is through their guidance and wisdom that the company is successful.

If your audience is your subordinates, then they are the heroes for providing the nuts-and-bolts of the machinery.

If your audience is your students, then they are the heroes of the subject matter as they arm themselves to slay corporate dragons.  You are but the armorer, and perhaps a former warrior.

The Heroes of UPS

Speaking coach Suzanne Bates provides an excellent example of this type of Story Moment.  She relates the example of a speech given by UPS chairman Mike Eskew to his employees. The occasion of the speech was a change of the company logo.

In speaking to his employees, Eskew crafted his message to make them the heroes . . . not himself.

Many CEOs believe erroneously that employees want to hear a story of the CEO’s vision and leadership.  Eskew instead seized the opportunity to showcase the striving of his employees and gave a masterful show, demonstrating how a CEO can tap into the sympathies of his people.

In this case, he made his audience of UPS rank-and-file employees the heroes of the UPS story:

Our brand is all about our people and keeping the UPS promise. Just as Marty Peters . . . . Marty’s the longest-tenured active employee at UPS – out of 360,000 around the world. Marty is a fifty-seven year veteran of UPS. That’s right; he started with us in 1946 . . . and guess what . . . he still shows up at the job every day as a shifter and a customer-counter clerk in Detroit.

And there’s someone else we’ve brought to New York for this special day . . . Ron Sowder, a Kentucky District feeder driver. Ron’s been with the company forty-two years. In fact, he started in 1961 . . . the year of our last logo change. When Ron started with the company . . . he wasn’t old enough to drive. But today he carries the distinction of having the most years of safe driving among active employees in the company. In my book, Ron and Marty are UPS heroes. They not only represent the brand . . . like you – they live the brand every day.

This is a superb example of the speaker transforming the audience with a powerful story.

One moment they are employees assembled to hear a speech by the CEO on the company logo.  The next moment, they are heroes in an adventure story that spans decades!  Here, Eskew does it explicitly and quite deftly.  The result is an especially powerful presentation moment that uses the trope of the presentation hero. 

He outright calls them heroes, but it isn’t a bald bid for flattery.  That kind of thing falls flat quickly.

The good news is two-fold.  First, injecting a story moment is not difficult to do.  Second, it is guaranteed to work.  By work, I mean that it transforms your presentation into something magical.

Think of it this way.

A story is magic dust.

The President Weaves Magic into His Speeches

When the President of the United States calls for national action in time of need, he doesn’t just inform us . . . he inspires us.  He alludes to the wisdom and fortitude, the strength and durability, the innovation and drive of the American people.   He sometimes refers to the Greatest Generation, the generation that fought and won World War II.

The president may talk of hardy pioneers to dramatize the American sense of adventure.  He may use story moments of American inventors to make his points about innovation – Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs.  He ties us to these powerful stories and he makes us the hero, not himself.  Who among us would not want to be the presentation hero?  President Ronald Reagan was a master of the Story Moment, calling on them to craft powerful speeches.

But you need not pull out the heavy artillery every time.  Use short punchy stories to launch your show or to illustrate minor points.  A great source for this kind of story-telling is Aesop’s Fables.

Why Aesop?

Aesop’s Fables are narratives that can convey your point quickly and crisply.  They are short, familiar, and freighted with morals.  Most of them also carry heavy business relevance.

You can find a fable to illustrate most any business point.  Take the familiar fable of “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” which teaches that “Much wants more and then loses all.”

But the Goose fable also captures deeper lessons about discovering the true sources of wealth and nurturing the processes that create wealth.  Fables can run the gamut of lessons, from betrayal to bigotry, from deceit to damnation.

Thumb through Aesop’s for your next story.  You already know that almost no one does, and that’s the first requirement for discovering Blue Ocean market space.  Try it, and I guarantee that something good will happen.

For more on exalting your presentation hero, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Business Hero is in your Audience

Business Hero
The Hero of your Business Presentation should be in your Audience.

Your presentation is for your audience, and that’s where your business hero had better be.

As much as some of us love the limelight and the adulation of the crowd, it’s wise to remember that your presentation isn’t about you, although our self-indulgence can sometimes make it seem so.

No, you’re not in this to please yourself.

And you must get them to do what you want them to by making them think that it’s what they want.

Connect With Your Business Hero

Address the needs of the people in your audience and fulfill their expectations in language they understand, with metaphors and examples that resonate with them.  Your objective must be expressed in terms of how it best connects with your audience.  The folks in your audience should be the business hero, not you.

Speak to their needs and fulfill them.

The good news is that your audience’s meager expectations mean that you can likely dazzle it with a merely above-average presentation.  This is because the level of business presenting is so dismally low that audiences dread listening to them as much as you hate giving them.

No one seems happy at the prospect of this afternoon’s weekly “finance updBusiness Hero is in your audienceate.”

But remember this regardless of the topic of your talk, every audience wants the same basic thing.  Deep down, all of us wants a chance.  Everyone wants to have a chance to be a hero.

No one wants to hear from Indiana Jones . . . everyone wants to be Indiana Jones.  Or at least believe that we could do great things.

This is a touchstone principle long known to professional speakers.  Kenneth Goode and Zenn Kaufman authored a book in 1939 called Profitable Showmanship, and their words resonate with stone-cold veracity over the subsequent 72 years, right up to today and the next quarter earnings briefing:

The audience is always on the screen, at the microphone, in the prize-fight, or in the pitcher’s box.  You, the individual member of the audience, are the hero of the day.  No selling can ever be completely successful that forgets this principle:  that the prospect is the Hero of the Show.  And, in fact, the only hero! . . .  The minute you slide the spotlight off him, off his crazy ideas, off his pet peeves, particularly off his whims, your show is over.  You may as well go home, for your audience is gone.  . . .  The hero of the [presenting] drama is the customer – or prospect.  His vanities, his hopes, his fears, his ambitions – these are the stuff from which your plot is spun and on him – and him alone – must the spotlight shine.

Remember that the Business Hero is in your audience.

People want more than anything to be a hero, and if you give them that chance in your talk, you will be rewarded 1,000 times over.

For more on putting the business hero in your business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Engage Your Audience

How to engage your audience
It’s your job to know how to engage your audience

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

Are your “listeners” checking iPhones every few seconds?

Texting?

Chatting in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks while you deliver your presentation?  This is called the MEGO syndrome . . . Mine Eyes Glaze Over.

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

How to Engage Your Audience in Your Presentation

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley on how to engage your audience, an audience that may seem disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Dr. Ridgley identifies a remedy for you.  He reveals the secrets of how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.  How to engage your audience for power and impact.

He also offers several tips on how to energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

The bar is so low with regard to business presentations that just making a few corrections of the sort discussed here can elevate your delivery tremendously.

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation produces Executive Summaries of many of the world’s great business books.  You can review CKC’s site at www.summary.com

There is, of course, much more to delivering a powerful presentation.  Conscientious presenters attend to all seven dimensions of the presentation – voice, expression, gesture, appearance, stance, passion, and movement.  Great speakers also leaven their presentations with poignant stories.  Great speakers connect emotionally with their audience.

For more on especially powerful presentations and how to engage your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Malcolm X Presentation . . . Seize your Audience

Malcolm X Presentation
The Malcolm X Presentation Electrifies an Audience

Like snapping a towel to skin . . . you want to sting your audience with a Malcolm X presentation.

Make that audience sit up straight, snap their heads in your direction.

You can do this several ways, and it’s up to you what you choose.

But it should fit your business presentation audience.

One of the greatest public speakers – or presenters – of modern times was the late Malcolm X.

His speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, how to mesmerize it throughout the presentation, and then mobilize it with an especially powerful call to action.

The Malcolm X Presentation

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator who drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  As such, they are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases, and to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

And when you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage emerging.  It’s sometimes explicit but most often emerges through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

You gain a sense of the gathering storm, you almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

A Source of Inspiration and Technique

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.

With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.  You hear a peppering of routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Put a stop to all of that nonsense with the “grabber” line, a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.  Not just another canned talk.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.

Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course will leaven our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has captured his listeners and layed out a situation statement that, at that moment, embraced his audience.  He establishes a mood of confidentiality and rapport, and then makes a bold statement – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

No Throat-clearing . . .

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.

No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”

Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases:  “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

Malcolm X Presentation
The Malcolm X Presentation Delivers Power and Impact

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.

And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted. Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Most of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them . . . on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes . . . framing the issue in colorful language, and creating listener expectations that he will offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from Malcolm’s talk and ask yourself how he crafted it.  And how it works.

In subsequent posts, we’ll look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation, building to his call for action at the end.

Consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on how to engage Snap! for a powerful Malcolm X presentation.

The Three Ps – “Preparation”

The Three Ps of Presentations can ensure an especially powerful presentation

Let’s say that you are assigned the ToughBolt business case.  Now, you must present before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation.

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

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

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

Your task is clear.  You must present your conclusions to an audience.  And here is where I give you one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.

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

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

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you create your presentation from a written report?  Since you are creating an information product from a case, how can the product be different, simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?

Completely different.

It is different in exactly the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.  It is different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

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

    

These many differences between written and oral reports are, to many people, invisible.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

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

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

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  The more numbers, the better.  The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide, the better.

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

It’s totally wrong, and it’s totally unneccessary.

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

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

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

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

An Especially Powerful Presentation Every Time

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting or not is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.  Cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you. Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.  No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

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

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.  And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic and miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great presentation.

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

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

Let’s shed that attitude.

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

Crank up Interest

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

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

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

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

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here?  Think about it.  How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

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

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

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

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

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.  You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

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

Your slides are crammed with information.

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

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

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

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

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

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

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture. A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

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

Your Procrustean Solution

Let’s take a Procrustean approach and make a better presentation.  Consider this:

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

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

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

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

Only three.

Here is your task now:

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

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.  They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than only one point.   If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it. None of it. You irritate your audience mercilessly.  Your presentation presents the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.  The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

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

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.

You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

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

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus so the nuggets can be found.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you? Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand? Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytical gold to your client.

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

Digest these Preparation tips, try them out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Much more can be said about Preparation . . . Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bad Presentation Technique Destroys Your Idea

Bad Presentation Technique Can Destroy a Presentation
Banish Bad Presentation Techniques Once and For All

A debilitating pathology of bad presentation technique afflicts many presenters.

It starts innocently enough . . .

You click the remote and a new slide appears.

You cast a wistful look back at the screen.  You pause.

And then you reach for the easy phrase.

That’s when AYCS Syndrome can strike even the best of us, cutting us down in our presentation prime.

“As you can see.”

AYCS Syndrome

The phrase “As you can see” is so pervasive, so endemic to the modern business presentation that there must be a school somewhere that trains people to utter this reflexive phrase-hiccup.

Is there an AYCSS Academy?  Probably!

The bain of AYCSS is that it is usually accompanied by a vague gesture at a screen upon which is displayed some of the most unreadable nonsense constructed for a slide – usually a financial spreadsheet or array of baffling numbers.  Probably cut-and-pasted from a written report and not adjusted at all for visual presentation.

And the audience most assuredly cannot see. In fact, there might be a law of inverse proportion that governs this syndrome – the less the audience can actually “see,” the more often the audience is told that it can see.

And that’s why we reach for the phrase.

Because we can’t “see,” either.

We look back at an abstruse slide and realize that it 1) makes no sense, 2) never will make any sense, 3) is so complicated that we should have used four slides to make the point or should have deleted it, and 4) has no chance of contributing at all to our show.  At that point, AYCS Syndrome attacks.

Numb and Dumb Your Audience with AYCSS

Finance students seem particularly enamored of AYCSS.

In fact, some rogue finance professors doubtless inculcate this in students.

Financial analysis of the firm is essential, of course.  There are only few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation.

Financial data are where you discover the firm’s profitability, stability, health, and potential.

But the results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.

Something about a spreadsheet mesmerizes students and faculty alike.  A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas.  It seems important, substantial.

Everyone nods.

Too often, you display an Excel spreadsheet on the screen that is unedited from your written report.  You cut-and-paste it into your presentation.  You splash the spreadsheet onto the screen, then talk from that spreadsheet without orienting your audience to the slide.

This is the incredibly bad presentation technique displayed by finance students, in particular, that is accompanied by the dreaded words:  “As you can see.”

Satanic Spreadsheets

You, the presenter, stare back at the screen, at the phalanx of numbers.

Perhaps you grip the podium with one hand and you airily wave your other hand at the screen with the words . . . “As you can see—”

And then you call out what seem to be random numbers.  Random?  Yes, to your audience, the numbers seem random because you have not oriented the audience to your material.

You have not provided the context needed for understanding.  No one knows what you’re talking about.  Your classmates watch with glazed eyes.  Perhaps one or two people nod.

Your professor sits sphinx-like.

And no one has a clue.  You get through it, finally, and you’re relieved.  And you hope that you were vague enough that no one can even think about asking a question.

AYCS Syndrome is the tacit agreement between audience and presenter that neither of us really knows or cares what’s on the slide.  And we promise each other that there won’t be any further investigation into whatever this abominable slide holds.

It can’t be good.  Not for the audience, not for presenter.

All of this sounds heinous, I know.  And probably too familiar for comfort.  But you can beat bad presentation techniques with a few simple changes that we’ll discuss in days to come.

Tomorrow, Secret # 5 to Power Presenting

Focus on your Audience

Focus on your audience
Put your focus on the audience during your business presentation

Too often, you find yourself rambling or roaming in a presentation, rather than putting focus on your audience.

This is a symptom of an chaotic presentation, and it can have any of several causes.

Among other things, this results from not establishing a tightly focused subject and not linking it to a tightly focused conception of your audience.

Without tight focus in your subject, you cannot help the audience to visualize your topic or its main points with concrete details.  Without details in your message, you eventually lose the attention of the audience.

So how do you include meaningful details in your presentation, the right details?

The Devil’s in the Details

By reversing the process and visualizing the audience in detail.

This is akin to the branding process in the marketing world.  Your brand must stand for something in the customer’s mind.  And, conversely, you must be able to visualize the customer in your own mind.

If you can’t visualize the kind of person who desperately wants to hear your message, then you haven’t focused your talk enough.  Go back and retool your message – sharpen and hone it.

Think of the various consumers of products and services such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Whole Foods Market, Mercedes Benz, Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Can you actually visualize the customers for these products, picture them in your mind in great detail?

Likewise, can you clearly visualize the consumers for Greenpeace, the National Rifle Association, a Classic 70s Rock radio station?  Sure you can – you immediately imagine the archetype of the customer base for each of these.  These firms put focus on their audiences.

Do you focus on your audience in the same relentless manner?

Now, in the same way, can you visualize the consumers of Chevrolet?  Tide?  Folgers?  United Way?  The American Red Cross?

Of course you can’t, because these brands have lost focus.  The message is too broad.

Put Relentless Focus on Your Audience

The lesson here is to focus your message on a tightly circumscribed audience type.  Who is in your audience, and what do they want from you?

Prepare your talk with your audience at the forefront.  Visualize a specific person in your audience, and write to that person.  Make that person the hero.  Talk directly to that person.

The upshot is a tightly focused message.  A message with key details that interest an audience that you have correctly analyzed and visualized.  You speak directly to audience needs in a way that they clearly understand and that motivates them.

Craft your message in this way, focus on your audience, and you’ll be on-target every time.

For more on putting focus on your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Give an Interesting Presentation . . . Put it in Context!

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?

You must become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Three D Presentations

It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.  Yes, it’s a process of becoming learned in new and wondrous ways.

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

And you’re able to 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.

Expand Your World

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

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or allows 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.

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, forgetting that other fields can offer insights.  For myself, while teaching in the Fox School’s strategic management department this semester, I am also sitting in on a course sponsored by the History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience this promises to be: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

How will this help in preparing my own classes?  At this point, I can’t be certain.

And 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, deep, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

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

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