Tag Archives: business hero

There ARE no Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
What ARE the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs?

For some reason known only to the deities of publishing, Apple’s late former CEO Steve Jobs was considered a great business presenter, and a best-selling book even says so:  The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

A book by presentation coach Carmine Gallo.

But was Steve Jobs really a great presenter?  Did he really have secrets that you can use?  And can you learn how to be “an insanely great” presenter from this book?

No . . . no  . . . and . . .

Well . . . on that last point, you can learn to become a pretty good presenter from this book.

But not from Steve Jobs.

The Extraordinary Jobs

Steve was a visionary and an extraordinary entrepreneur many times over.  He grew tremendously since the early days when he thought that his self-absorbed bombast gave him license to insult Microsoft and Bill Gates mercilessly.

He emerged as a celebrity CEO, a man who loved the limelight and whose strong and quirky personality guaranteed him a following among a certain segment of the American populace.

But presenting?

On an absolute scale, Steve was a slightly above-average presenter.

Remove Steve’s high-tech prop that the entire wonk-world was waiting to see, and remove the employee/early adopter audiences that cheered his every eye-twitch, and we are left with a shabbily dressed average sort of fellow given to aimless pacing and whose high-pitched voice grates a bit on the senses with its “ummms” and “ahhhhs.”

Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs?  Just one . . .

You and I know that there is only one reason that Steve Jobs was on that stage and one reason that he has a book purporting to reveal the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs.

It’s not for his presenting skills.

While Jobs himself was not someone whose presenting skills deserve emulation, he is obviously the subject of the book because of his built-in audience, and so we must deal with that.

Dismiss it, in fact.  But the book does have a gem.

The gem of the book is the author.

The author of the Jobs book is Carmine Gallo, who is an extremely polished and superb presenter and presentation coach, and he embeds solid presenting nuggets throughout the book.  Carmine is, in fact, a much better presenter than Jobs was on his best day.  Have a look . . .

 

 But even Carmine is not perfect.  He begins by gushing at Jobs’s stature as a presenter that is almost embarrassing in its lavish excess: “Steve Jobs is the most captivating communicator on the world stage . . . He is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller!”

Really?  Really?

But . . . well, we’re selling books here, and hype is understandable.  I’d probably gush, too, if given a similar opportunity, so let’s give Carmine a pass on this one.

But one great danger that I see from this type of gushing is that we can begin to think of the presenter as hero.  And what better hero than the great Steve Jobs?

All of us would like to be the hero of our presentation, wouldn’t we?  And we are sorely tempted to put the focus on our product and ourselves.

No.  Don’t do it.

Your Audience is the Hero

There is room for only one hero in the presentation, and that hero is not you.

The hero is in the audience, and you are there to help your audience become heroic.  As with all presentation instruction, you can ignore or accept what you choose, and this point is no different.

Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
No Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

You can try to be the hero.  Or, you can focus on your audience and its needs and its desires.

And make your audience members heroes of a sort.

In sum, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs offers a reasonable exposition of presentation methods that can benefit us all, but recognize that these methods have nothing to do with Steve Jobs and they do not help us become “insanely great” presenters.

But there is good news for you on the presentation front.  The best news in all of this is, in fact, great news.

With dedication, coachability, and the right method, virtually anyone – and I mean anyone – can become a better business presenter than Steve Jobs.

For more on the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs that are really no presentation secrets at all, consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

A Great Business Presenter . . . the Best of All Time?

Quintilian -- a Great Business Presenter
Who is a Great Business Presenter?

Quintilian was the greatest presentation coach to ever stride the streets of Rome during the reigns of Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian . . . and was a great business presenter.

Of course, Rome had many presentation coaches at the time, because public speaking – oratory – was considered an art.

But Quintilian was the undisputed master of the 1st Century, and he penned one of the most important presentation works in all of history.

It was published in 95 AD and was called . . .

The Institutes of Oratory.

But like so many literary works in the ancient world, it disappeared in subsequent centuries as the dark ages engulfed Europe.

Only fragments remained . . . and the legend of Quintilian.

Lost to History?

It was thought lost forever . . . but a Benedictine monk by the name of Poggio Bracciolini discovered a complete manuscript of Quintilian in a dungeon at the Abbey of St. Gall 13 centuries later in present-day Switzerland.

Quintilian was a great coach and great business presenter
Quintilian was a Superb Coach and Great Business Presenter

Bracciolini had established a reputation as a master copyist.

He was elated to have discovered the ancient manuscript, and he wrote to a friend about his find in the year 1416.

There amid a tremendous quantity of books which it would take too long to describe, we found Quintilian still safe and sound, though filthy with mold and dust.  For these books were not in the Library, as befitted their worth, but in a sort of foul and gloomy dungeon at the bottom of one of the towers, where not even men convicted of a capital offense would have been stuck away . . . .  Beside Quintilian we found the first three books and half of the fourth of C.  Valerius Flaccus’ Argonauticon, and commentaries or analyses on eight of Cicero’s orations by Q. Asconius Pedianus, a very clever man whom Quintilian himself mentions.  These I copied with my own hand and very quickly, so that I might send them to Leonardus Aretinus and to Nicolaus of Florence; and when they had heard from me of my discovery of this treasure they urged me at great length in their letters to send them Quintilian as soon as possible.

Today, the manuscript that Poggio found still exists and is housed in Zürich’s Central Library.

Why should we care about Quintilian except as an historical figure?  What could he possibly say to us of worth?

Timeless Secrets of a Great Presenter

To begin with, he was a great business presenter, one of the greatest of all time.

And business presenting hasn’t changed in 2000 years.

Not really.

It’s still a presenter before an audience.  The good news is that Quintilian solved for us almost every pathology that plagues the modern speaker.

His work influenced orators for centuries and, through the adoption by the great rhetorician Hugh Blair in the 19th Century, continues to influence us today in ways we are completely unaware of.

Here is a small sample of the wisdom of Quintilian, this from Book 7.

Let him who would be an orator be assured that he must study early and late; that he must reiterate his efforts; that he must grow pale with toil; he must exert his own powers, and acquire his own method; he must not merely look to principles, but must have them in readiness to act upon them; not as if they had been taught him, but as if they had been born in him. For art can easily show a way, if there be one; but art has done its duty when it sets the resources of eloquence before us; it is for us to know how to use them.

The treasures housed in the Institutes of Oratory are vast.  It remains only for us to delve into this trove of wisdom produced by a great business presenter to pluck the nuggets that can transform us into . . . well, into much better presenters than we are today.

In fact, if Quintilian would have his way, he would transform you into an especially powerful presenter, worthy of pleading from the law courts of ancient Rome to the boardrooms of modern New York City.

For more on the powerful history and techniques of presenting and secrets on how you can become a great business presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Know your Audience . . . for an Especially Powerful Presentation

Know Your Audience is still good advice
Know what it means to really Know Your Audience

“Know your audience” is an hoary folk-wisdom kind of phrase that we’ve all heard and said at some point.

But what does it mean?

It’s almost like an incantation, similar to that trusty chestnut make eye contact!

So what’s this mysterious . . . know your audience?

Many of us in the presentation enterprise define it to our taste to mean what we want it to mean.

And that’s where we go wrong.

Hector that Audience! Show ’em Who’s Boss!

“But the audience should want to learn this.”

Invariably I hear this lament, or something akin to it.  A plaintive whine, really.

“The audience shouldn’t care how I dress/sound/gesture/move/squint/laugh inappropriately/show bad slides.  The audience should adapt to my style . . . which, frankly, is just fine.

“The audience ought to appreciate a gender-enlightened method of speaking!”

I have actually heard this.

Elaborate explanations follow as to why the audience should do this or be that, or simply doesn’t appreciate what the speaker has to offer in the way it’s offered.  Self-righteous and even haughty explanations follow.

And of course, all of this springs from premises as rotten as a plank in a 19th century waterfront pier.

The Audience Marketplace Judges You

The marketplace is a wondrous place with much power seething below the surface.

It gives feedback with ruthless honesty.

It doesn’t give a damn what anyone learned in a philosophy course as a grad student.  It thumbs its nose at the idealism of what “ought” to be.

If you have a product that nobody’s buying, no amount of hectoring will change that.

Knowing that marketplace means know your audience.

And know your audience means inspiring your listeners, not hectoring them.  It means giving them a chance to be a hero.  Every audience wants and needs that, and it’s your job to give it to them.

Not to lecture them on their sins and on your supposed superiority.

They don’t want to hear from Indiana Jones.  They want to be Indiana Jones.

Many sources are ensconced on the web that address the issue of know your audience . . . in different ways and to different purposes.  Here’s one for engineers, for example.  Here’s another for marketers.  And here is yet another for general communication purposes.

A Powerful Example of Know Your Audience

One of the greatest public speaking instructional films available is A Time to Kill, based on the novel by John Grisham.  The film is filled with presentation examples and powerful scenes that illustrate great presentation techniques.

“Know your audience” is exemplified in a powerful scene toward the end of the film, the night before the closing arguments are to be made in a murder trial.  The defendant, Samuel L. Jackson, urges his lawyer Matthew McConaghey, to get inside the heads of the jurors.

Jackson reveals to McConaughey the key to the case – emotional involvement of the jury, and this means know your audience.

Here is the powerful Jackson monologue, urging McConaughey to know your audience when the stakes are life itself:

America is a wall and you are on the other side.  How’s a black man ever going to get a fair trial with the enemy on the bench and in the jury box?  My life in white hands?  You Jake, that’s how.

You are my secret weapon because you are one of the bad guys, you don’t mean to be but you are – it’s how you was raised.  Nigger, Negro, black, African-American, no matter how you see me, you see me different, you see me like that jury sees me, you are them.

Now throw out your points of law Jake.  If you was on that jury, what would it take to convince you to set me free?  That’s how you save my ass.  That’s how you save us both.

View the entire film for a powerful lesson in speaking and in knowing your audience.  The trailer appears here . . .

 

For more insight on how to analyze and to know your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Most Important Point of Your Presentation

Storytelling conveys your Most Important Point
Powerful Storytelling conveys your Most Important Point

I advocate storytelling in your business presentations, and your story should embody your presentation’s Most Important Point.

Stories are powerful tools of communication that can capture complex ideas in a few telling strokes.  They involve your listeners better than any other competing technique.

They can serve you well and confer personal competitive advantage over your entire business presenting career.  And they can convey your Most Important Point better in masterful fashion.

But It Takes Practice

But in telling a story, we can sometimes veer off-course.  We become so enamored with our own words that they build a momentum of their own, and they draw us along with their own impetus.

That’s why it’s imperative that we stay tethered to our main point.

Professional storyteller Doug Lippman calls this the Most Important Thing.  I like to call it the MIP – the Most Important Point.

Christopher Witt is a competent coach for today’s executives, and he makes a powerful point about a story’s MIP.  He calls it the Big Idea:

A good movie tells one simple, powerful story.  If you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two, it’s not a good story – and it won’t make a good movie. The same is true for a speech.  A movie tells one story.  A speech develops one idea.  But it’s got to be a good idea – a policy, a direction, an insight, a prescription.  Something that provides clarity and meaning, something that’s both intellectually and emotionally engaging.  It’s got to be what I call a Big Idea.

What is your Most Important Point?  Your MIP?

Decide!

Decide and make that point the focus of your story.  Rivet your attention on that salient feature!  Let this be core of your story and weave your tale around it.

I urge you to focus on one point, because our tendency as business people is to include everything initially, or to add-on infinitum until the story collapses under its own weight.  The military calls this “mission creep,” and we can call it “story creep.”

Simple awareness of story creep is usually sufficient guard against it.

Your Most Important Point

Your MIP should run through your story, both directly and indirectly.  It informs your story and keeps you on-track as you prepare your presentation.  At each stage of your presentation preparation, ask yourself and members of your group if the material at hand supports your MIP.  If it does not support your most important point, then it does not belong in your story.

Telling a story does not mean reliance upon emotion only.  You must have substance.  There must be a significant conclusion with each supporting point substantiated by research and fact and analytical rigor.

This should go without saying, but I decided to say it anyway.  Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it much better than I can:

Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative.  Afterward it may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color, and speaks only through the most poetic forms; but, first and last, it must still be at bottom a statement of fact.  The orator is thereby an orator, that he keeps his feet ever on a fact.  Thus only is he invincible.  No gifts, no graces, no power of wit or learning or illustration will make any amends for want of this.

For more on storytelling to convey your Most Important Point in your business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Telling Your Story for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

No Need to Boast . . .

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

Instead, try this . . .

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

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

Tell your story for personal competitive advantage

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

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

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

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

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

This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.

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

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

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

That’s it.

Digest that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

        I get along with a wide range of people.

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

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

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

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

For an Especially Powerful Interview

See how it works?

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

For example, you could say something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

So always remember these key words . . .

Let me share with you what I learned about myself.

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

Focus on Your Audience

Focus on your audience as a source of personal competitive advantage

Too often, we can find ourselves rambling or roaming in a presentation, and this usually means we’ve strayed from the hoary principle of focus on your audience.

We haven’t established a tightly focused subject, and we’ve not linking it to a tightly focused conception of your audience.

Without tight focus on 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.

Focus on Your Audience

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.

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 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, and you’ll be on-target every time.

Find more secrets of especially powerful presenting in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Quintilian

Quintilian, one of the greatest business presenters of all time

Quintilian was the greatest presentation coach to ever stride the streets of Rome during the reigns of Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian.

And Rome had quite a few presentation coaches at the time, because public speaking – oratory – was considered an art.

But Quintilian was the undisputed master of the 1st Century, and he penned one of the most important presentation works in all of history.  It was published in approximately 95 AD and was called . . .

The Institutes of Oratory.

But like so many literary works in the ancient world, it all but disappeared in subsequent centuries as the dark ages engulfed Europe.  Only fragments remained . . . and the legend of Quintilian.

Lost to History?

It was thought lost forever . . . but a Benedictine monk by the name of Poggio Bracciolini discovered a complete manuscript of Quintilian in a dungeon at the Abbey of St. Gall 13 centuries later in present-day Switzerland.

Bracciolini had established a reputation as a master copyist.  He was elated to have discovered the ancient manuscript, and he wrote to a friend about his find in the year 1416.

There amid a tremendous quantity of books which it would take too long to describe, we found Quintilian still safe and sound, though filthy with mold and dust.  For these books were not in the Library, as befitted their worth, but in a sort of foul and gloomy dungeon at the bottom of one of the towers, where not even men convicted of a capital offense would have been stuck away . . . .  Beside Quintilian we found the first three books and half of the fourth of C. Valerius Flaccus’ Argonauticon, and commentaries or analyses on eight of Cicero’s orations by Q. Asconius Pedianus, a very clever man whom Quintilian himself mentions.  These I copied with my own hand and very quickly, so that I might send them to Leonardus Aretinus and to Nicolaus of Florence; and when they had heard from me of my discovery of this treasure they urged me at great length in their letters to send them Quintilian as soon as possible.

Today, the manuscript that Poggio found still exists and is housed in Zürich’s Central Library.

Why should we care about Quintilian except as an historical figure?  What could he possibly say to us of worth?

Timeless Secrets

Presenting hasn’t changed in 2000 years.  Not really.  It’s still a presenter before an audience.  The good news is that Quintilian solved for us almost every pathology that plagues the modern speaker.

His work influenced orators for centuries and, through the adoption by the great rhetorician Hugh Blair in the 19th Century, continues to influence us today in ways we are completely unaware of.

Here is a small sample of the wisdom of Quintilian, this from Book 7.

Let him who would be an orator be assured that he must study early and late; that he must reiterate his efforts; that he must grow pale with toil; he must exert his own powers, and acquire his own method; he must not merely look to principles, but must have them in readiness to act upon them; not as if they had been taught him, but as if they had been born in him.  For art can easily show a way, if there be one; but art has done its duty when it sets the resources of eloquence before us; it is for us to know how to use them.

The treasures housed in the Institutes of Oratory are vast.  It remains only for us to delve into this trove of wisdom to pluck the nuggets that can transform us into . . . well, into much better presenters than we are today.

In fact, if Quintilian would have his way, he would transform you into an especially powerful presenter, worthy of pleading from the law courts of ancient Rome to the boardrooms of modern New York City.

For more on the powerful history and techniques of presenting, 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.

Who is “The Business Presenter?”

Cicero was doubtless as good at business presentations as he was at arguing before the Roman Senate

Before computers.  Before television and radio.

Before loudspeakers . . .

Before all of our artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, there was the public speaker.

The “presenter.”

From the time of Corax in the 5th century B.C., public speaking soon developed into what was considered close to an art form.  Some did consider it art.

Public speaking – or the “presentation” – was the province of four groups of people:  Preachers, Politicians, Lawyers, and Actors.  The first to save your soul, the second to take your money, the third to save your life, the fourth to transport you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.

Other professions utilized the proven communication skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.

These were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters, but they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.  To suck the life from “presenting.”

Skills of the Masters

The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over centuries.  The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument, the persuasive powers of words.  Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory, coupled with his unpopular ideas.

In our modern 21st century smugness, we likely think that long-dead practitioners of public speaking and of quaint “elocution” have nothing to teach us.  We have adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to improve, embellish, amplify, exalt our presentation message.  Yet the result has been something quite different.

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have served to supplant them, providing barriers between speaker and audience.  Each new advancement in technology creates another layer of insulation.

 

Seize every opportunity to deliver a powerful and persuasive business presentation, and you’ll find your personal competitive advantage increasing

Today’s presenters have grasped feverishly at the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.  The idea is that PowerPoint has removed responsibility from you to be knowledgeable, interesting, concise, and clear.  The focus has shifted from the speaker to limp fireworks, and this has led to such a decline to the point where in extreme cases the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

In many cases, this is exactly what happens.  The presenter pivots, shows us his back, and edges away from the stage to become a quasi-member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.  You should be able to present without them.  When you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.

In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university.  Some of them give fabulous presentations.  Most give adequate presentations.  They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.  The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.

Most students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress – they view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.  Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.

Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.

As a waiter, ask yourself: “What special thing can I offer that my customers might be willing to pay more for?”

Your answer is obvious . . . you can offer a special and enjoyable experience for your customers.  In fact, you can make each visit to your restaurant memorable for your customers by delivering a show that sets you apart from others, that puts you in-demand.

I do not mean putting on a juggling act, or becoming a comedian, or intruding on your guests’ evening.  I do mean taking your job seriously, learning your temporary profession’s rules, crafting a presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity, and then displaying enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

Yes, heroic.  Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you will win every time.

I have just described a quite specific workplace scenario where effective presenting can have an immediate reward. Every element necessary to successful presenting is present in a wait-staff restaurant situation.  The reverse is likewise true.

The principles and techniques of delivering a powerful presentation in a restaurant and in a boardroom are not just similar – they are identical.  The venue is different, the audience is different, the relationships of those in the room might be different.  But the principles are the same.

So, back to the early practitioners of oratory and public speaking.  Here is the paradox: a fabulous treasure can be had for anyone with the motivation to pluck these barely concealed gems from the ground, to sift the sediment of computerized gunk to find the gold . . . but few bend to pick them up.

Adopt the habits of the masters.  Acquire the mannerisms and the power and versatility of the maestros who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.

They and their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful presentations.

For more on powerful presentations, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

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.

Best Job Interview Tips for College Students

The Best of my Job Interview Tips for College StudentsOne of the most important job interview tips for college students that I give involves business presenting.

The job interview is likely the most important business presentation you will ever give.  This is because in the interview, you present for your most important client – you.

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

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

The Best of My Job Interview Tips for College Students

Few people like to boast.  Instead folks go the opposite extreme of false humility.  But neither boasting nor meekness is the answer.

Instead, try this . . .

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

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

The recruiter evaluates you for intangible qualities, such as corporate fit, personality, working intelligence, verbal acuity.  Many times, the recruiter doesn’t know what he or she is actually looking for.

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

For the young or mid-level candidate, the atmosphere can feel akin to a minefield.  Some candidates feel that if they go tightlipped, they cannot make a mistake.  And so they weigh each word carefully, triangulating what they believe the recruiter wants to hear.  But it is not enough to simply survive without making a slip . . . or a “mistake.”

This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.

Instead, go into your interview to make the presentation of your life about you, not what you think the recruiter is looking for.  The constitutes the most important of my many job interview tips for college students.

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

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

That’s it.

Digest that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

     I get along with a wide range of people.

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

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

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

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

For an Especially Powerful Interview

Can you see how it works?

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

For example, you could say something like this:

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

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

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

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

Of course, it all must be true, so you must adapt your story particulars to your own work life.  And all of us have these moments and experiences, so mine your recent past for them.

Your resume itself has at least a dozen stories, and it’s up to you to find them.  When you do find them, craft them, practice them, and use them.  Do this, and you achieve an important personal competitive advantage.

So always remember these key words . . .

Let me share with you what I learned about myself.

For more on job interview tips for college students, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Story . . . Your Secret Weapon

Presentation StoryWe all believe that we should weave a business presentation story.

Sort of.

But most of us rarely do, and this might be a result of simply not knowing how.

Admit it . . . most of us think we’re pretty sharp – we all think we know what a story is, don’t we?  But do we really?

What is a Presentation Story?

A story is a narrative of events, either true or untrue, that appeals to the emotions more-so than the intellect.

Let me emphasize – the appeal is primarily to the emotions.  Here’s an example.

The 1995 legal thriller A Time to Kill is a superb storytelling film that exemplifies how a deep appeal to emotion and to the heart can overcome an appeal to logic and reason.

A Time to Kill is the story of the rape of a little girl and the subsequent killing of her rapists by a heartsick father and his trial for murder.  The story takes place in racially divided Mississippi and the interracial struggle for justice and understanding is the centerpiece of the narrative.

It is really several stories.  A young lawyer’s struggle, Jake (Matt McCanaughy).  A father’s struggle, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson).  And a town’s struggle for its soul.

At the end of the film, Jake tells Carl that he’s going to lose the case.  That he should bargain with the prosecutor for a lesser charge to gain life in prison rather than the death penalty.

Carl rebukes his lawyer, Jake.  He urges him to “think like the jury.”

Know the Audience for Your Presentation Story

This is actually one of the keenest lessons on “know your audience” that I have ever witnessed.

“You’re one of the bad guys, Jake,” Carl says.  “That’s why I picked you.  You’re one of them white folk.  You think like them.  That’s why you can set me free.  Throw out all your ‘points of law’ and talk to them like one of them.”

How does Jake respond?

He responds with the Power of Presentation Story.

Literally.

Jake prepares a closing argument without his “points of law.”  He appeals to the emotions of the jury instead of their logic or sense of duty to the laws of man.  He appeals to their humanity, and to do this, he must tell a presentation story.

It must be the most compelling story of his young legal career.

Jake first apologizes to the jury for his ineptitude due to his inexperience.  He waves away any appeal to “points of law.”  He pauses.  Jake then places his hand in his pocket, and he gestures with his other hand . . . gently, firmly.

He approaches the jury box.  Simultaneously, he utters the magical words, almost like an incantation.

“Now I’m gonna tell you a story.”

His Words Transform the Courtroom

Everyone in the film leans forward.  The prosecutor.  The defendant.  The members of the jury.

All of them.  You feel yourself lean forward.  Perhaps you shift in your seat with expectation.

Why?

Because everyone loves a story.  A story that touches emotions.  A story that makes them laugh.

In this case, a sad and heinous story that makes them weep.

Why does Jake do this?  Because stories touch the emotions in ways that straight exposition cannot.  Jake wants the jury to feel, not just to think, and this scene of Jake pleading for his client’s life is a masterful demonstration of story’s power.

The armor we wear against fact and logic is porous and vulnerable to the gentle probing of a story.  As Jake weaves his spellbinding and horrible story of rape and trauma, the stolid men and women of the jury begin to crumble.  Eyes glisten.  Hard swallowing.

Even the most callous and racist man on the jury is affected by Jake’s tale.

Perhaps even you are moved by the heart-rending summation.

“Let me tell you a story.”

For more on how to tell a compelling corporate presentation story, consult The Complete Guide to Business School 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.