Tag Archives: business presentation

100 Things – Business Presentation Alchemy

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

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

Likewise, this is the case for business presentations.

No Easy Way Out

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

An especially powerful presentation.

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

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

What made it a great presentation?

Business Presentation Alchemy
No Global Solution Exists to Create Presentation Gold

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.

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

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

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

This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.  No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Things?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Especially Powerful
100 Things to Transform your Presentation

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

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

More than 100 things?  Surely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Presenting . . . the Business Ritual of Pain

Are Bad Presentations necessary?
Break the Painful Business Ritual

Is there some law, somewhere, that dictates that business presentations must constitute a painful business ritual?

Boring.

Barren.

Bereft of Excellence.

Given the number of long, dull, pedantic, repetitious, confusing – bad – presentations I see both inside and outside of the business school, I suspect there must be.

This dullness seeps into the consciousness.  It numbs us, and begins to legitimize itself.  It’s like a business ritual . . . a ritual of pain.

Corporate America seems addicted to this ritual.

And yet a conspiracy of silence surrounds bad business presentations and those who give them.

The Ritual of Pain is Ubiquitous

Bad Business Presentations are everywhere . . . and because they are everywhere, we think that bad business presentations must be legitimate.

They must be the norm.  They must be bad, because that’s just the way it is.

And this bad presentation business ritual perpetuates itself, like some kind of awful oral tradition . . . like a ritual.

You see a bad business presentation that some people praise as good.  It looks like this . . .

Some Vice President from a visiting company stands in front of you hiding behind a lectern.  He reads from slides with  dozens of bullet points taken from a written paper and pasted onto PowerPoint slides.  He alternates looking at a computer screen and turning to look at a projection screen behind him.  He rarely looks at you.

A Wasteland On the Screen

Unreadable spreadsheets appear.

Legions of tiny numbers march in cadence on the screen.

The presenter reads slide-after-slide verbatim, his head turned away from you.

The slides themselves are unintelligible.

It’s a bad presentation, and you can’t remember a damn thing except the three texts you received during the presentation as you checked your iPhone between yawns.

Given this familiar exercise in bad presenting, you could legitimately ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”

If bad business presentations are the norm – if this is the business ritual – you scratch your chin and perhaps you think “That’s not hard at all.”

I can be as bad as the next person.

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

Cobble something like that together, and you think you have a business presentation.  And why wouldn’t you think that?

It seems to have all the elements:  A speaker-reader of slides (you), a PowerPoint display on the screen with writing on it, some numbers, and a 10-minute time slot to fill with talk.

Bad Business Presentations are the career kiss of death
Stop giving bad business presentations!

But what you actually have is something awful – just awful.

You don’t know what you want to accomplish . . . or why.

You have no idea what you should say . . . or why.

And you don’t view yourself as benefitting from the process in any way.  Instead, you see it as something painful.  Because it is painful.

The Business Ritual of Pain.

Let’s repeat, so there’s no misunderstanding . . .  just awful.

This business ritual is painful and awful because of the way it’s been explained to you.

Because the explanations are incomplete.  Because you never get the whole story.

Teaching you how to deliver a cogent, competent, powerful business presentation is always someone else’s job.

This can be a problem.

A problem because your career often hinges on how well you can present.  And if you present badly, you needlessly handicap yourself.

I Feel Your Pain

Sure, there are “presentation”courses.  But it seems that the good folks who actually provide you some sort of presenting instruction in school are often disconnected from your business courses.

They teach you “How to give a speech” or “How to introduce yourself.”  But you don’t have the opportunity to engage in a complex group business presentation.

Oftentimes, these folks aren’t even in the business school.  They can’t show you how to incorporate business content into your presentations – tools like the SWOT, value chain analysis, financial analysis, PEST, Competitive Intelligence, and such like.

And on occasion, professors in your business can seem indifferent to this business ritual.

For most of your professors, presenting is secondary.  This makes sense, as each faculty has a specialty or functional discipline he or she is charged with teaching.  Business “Presenting” is no one’s functional discipline, and so it goes un-addressed, orphaned to expediency and neglect.

It is the same in the corporate world.  Your presenting woes are the same woes that scourge the American business landscape.

Boring, dull, numbing . . . all of this is equated wrongly with “serious.” We get the bad business presentation as the standard.

The Business Ritual in Corporate America

I attended a business conference on the west coast not long ago to watch the Business Ritual in all its ignominy.

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

It seemed that no preparation and no practice had preceded these presentations.

Papers shuffling in the audience, because handouts were given prior to the talk.

This is more common than you might imagine.  Communications consultant Andy Goodman conducted major research on the issue in 2005, surveying more than 2,500 public interest professionals and asking them to evaluate their presentation viewing experiences.

He then codified responses to this business ritual.

The average grade public interest professionals gave to the presentations they attended was C-.  The average grade given to the visuals that respondents observed in presentations they attended was also C-.

When asked to recall presentations they had seen over the last few months, survey respondents said they were more than likely to see a bad business presentation as to see an excellent one.

This is the current state of presentations in corporate America and in business schools.  Is it uniformly bleak?  No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.  I have seen a sufficient number of fine presentations to understand that, somewhere, superb instruction holds sway.

Or, at the very least, young people whose early development has trained them for the stage have found their way to the business platform.  Good for them.  But for the most part, it is as I have described here.

And this presents a magnificent opportunity.

Now that you understand the situation and why it exists, it’s time for you to join the ranks of especially powerful presenters.  Becoming a superior presenter means gaining incredible personal competitive advantage that is difficult to imitate.

By investing your presentations with passion, emotion, and enthusiasm, you deliver especially powerful shows with persuasive power.  Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time to revamp your business ritual.

Time to end the business ritual of pain.

Interested in more on fixing bad business presentations?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Self-Talk

End self-sabotage in your business presentations

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

This is especially prevalent in our business presentations.

We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.  We envision humiliation, embarrassment, and complete meltdown.

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the chief culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations.

It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a spongy foundation?

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

Negative self-talk translates into bodily reactions of nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.  Moreover, our sour and weak attitude ensures that we aren’t the greatest source of strength to our teammates if we happen to be delivering a group presentation.

The negative spiral down guarantees that things get worse before they get better . . . if at all.

There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.

How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body, and visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition.

I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques, and all of are one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Develop professional presence with confidence
Positive Self-Talk is an Especially Powerful Technique

Leaving aside the specific techniques for a later time and the psychological underpinnings of it that go back more than a century, let’s say here that we must at least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk.

We do this to give ourselves a fighting chance of succeeding at business presenting.

So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?

Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation, and this ignorance means incredible uncertainty of performance.

Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

This fear of the unknown can drive up anxiety.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.

Preparation is the second of the Three Ps of Speaking Technique – Principles, Preparation, Practice.

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?

No, of course not, and we don’t even want to . . . instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that.  We leave to our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.

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

When we take the stage, we focus mind on our intent, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb.

With this kind of psychological commitment, we squeeze out the doubts and anxiety, wring them dry from our psychic fabric.

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

Positive self-talk is an essential part of your schema for preparing an especially powerful presentation and developing personal competitive advantage.

Find more on preparing the right way in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Case Competitions Test Your Mettle

Business Case Competition
How do you compare to the best? Or are you the best?

The business case competition puts you in front of Corporate America in naked competition against the best students from other schools.

No hiding behind a resume.

No fast-talking a good game.

No “national rankings.”

Just pure performance that puts you in the arena under lots of pressure.

Business Case Competition as Crucible

In case competitions,  your business team delivers a business presentation in competition against other teams in front of a panel of judges.

Teams display how quickly, thoroughly, and skillfully they can ingest a case, analyze it, and then prepare their conclusions.

They then present their recommendations to a panel of judges.

Business case competitions vary greatly in the details, but they do have a standard format and purpose.  The idea behind such competitions is to provide a standard case to competing teams with a given time limit and then to rate how well the teams respond.

There is, of course, no direct competition between teams.  Rather, each team is judged independently how well it handles the assigned case and presents its analysis and recommendations.  There is a time limit and specific rules.

All teams operate under the same conditions.

Business Case Competitions Far and Wide

Competitions can be internal to the Business School or involve teams from several different schools.

Sometimes there are several rounds of competition, with the final round typically judged by outside company executives.  The teams prepare a solution to the case and deliver a written report.

Teams then prepare a presentation of their analysis and recommendations and deliver the timed presentation before a panel of judges.

The judging panel sometime consists of executives from the actual company in the case.

Business case competitions, a source of competitive advantage
Business case competitions, a source of competitive advantage

The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business is good about this in its renowned Global Business Case Competition.  Twelve to fourteen schools from around the globe compete in this week-long event.  Its 2013 competition featured a case on Frog’s Leap Winery, which is known for its commitment to sustainability.

Frog’s Leap Winery produces high quality wines using organically-grown grapes and was a leader in adopting an environmental management system for production.

The competition teams, which act as outside consultants, were asked to make recommendations in three areas:   (1) the next sustainability initiative that Frog’s Leap should undertake, (2) identification of two potential markets outside the US, and (3) marketing plans for those new markets.

With 48 hours to craft a case solution and presentation, Concordia University won that 2013 competition against a range of international competing universities.

Testing Your Mettle

One excellent aspect of case competitions that are judged by outsiders is that they provide a truer indication of the competitors’ mettle.

For the most part, they are far removed from the internal politics of particular institutions, where favored students may receive benefits or rewards related more to currying favor than to the quality of their work.

In some competitions, additional twists make the competition interesting and more complicated.

For instance, Ohio State University CIBER hosts an annual Case Challenge and creates teams from the pool of participants (i.e., members will be from different schools) instead of allowing the group of students from each school to compete as a team.

In this case, once students are assigned to teams, there is a day of team-building exercises.

The key to doing well in case competitions is to differentiate yourselves beforehand.  This is much easier than you might imagine.  Start with the Three Ps of Business Presentations.  They provide a steady guide to ready you for your competition.

Principles . . . Preparation . . . Practice.

In subsequent posts, we deconstruct the business case competition to help you and your team prepare to your potential and deliver an especially powerful presentation.

You can also learn the entire process of preparing to win business case competitions from The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Learn Rocket Science Presentations (in your Spare Time)!

Rocket Science presentations
Rocket Science Presentations . . . Hesto-Presto!

YOU Can Deliver a Rocket Science Presentation in 8 Easy Steps!

10 Tips to Become a Nuclear Physics God!

3 Tips for Winning Your Next Court Case!

Great Doctors are Natural Born . . . It’s talent, not study!

5 Easy Steps to Powerful Presentations!

Pernicious Myths . . .

Two pernicious myths pervade the landscape of business presentations, and these myths refuse to be swatted down.

Well, probably more than two myths are circulating, but these two big myths persistently burden folks.

These myths influence two large groups of people.

Without knowing it, these folks subscribe to two schools of presentation thought . . . Birthers and McTips.

The first group – the “Birthers” presentation school – believes that superb public speakers are “born that way.”

Folks in this group believes that it’s nature-not-nurture and that natural talent wins the day.  Since it’s an ability you either have or you don’t, well there’s no need to even try.

Just sit back and marvel at those outstanding public speakers who make it all look so easy, but who actually utilize a host of techniques to charm and dazzle you.

Techniques that would be available to you if you would only set aside the self-defeating notion that you can’t develop especially powerful presentation skills.

Rocket Science Presentations?  No . . . just reachable goals accessible through dedication and practice.

Supersize Those McTips?

The second group – the “McTips” presentation school – believes that public speaking is both easy and easily learned.

Folks here believe that following a few presenting “McTips” or easy “McSteps” can turn them into tremendous speakers.  “Make eye contact” . . . “Move around when you talk” . . .  “Use your hands” . . .    Presto.

Especially Powerful Presentations are not Rocket Science
Rocket Science? Hardly!

This McTips view is so pernicious that  it does more damage than good.

It’s like a get-rich-quick scheme that scams people.

And who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s a painless shortcut to one of the most universally despised activities in corporate America?

One colleague told me a while back, his fingers steepled in front of him, “I can teach my people all they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes . . . all that other stuff is just B__ S___.”

Really?

Rocket Science Presentations!

And if becoming a great presenter is so incredibly easy and the product of a few tips or steps, then why does the bar stay so low with regard to business presentations?

Why does our business landscape resemble a wasteland strewn with mind-numbing PowerPoint slides and populated with droning executive automatons?

Both views are not only wrong, but they can stunt your development as a top-notch business presenter.

Great presenters are neither born, nor are they easily made.

To learn how, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

An Especially Powerful Presentation Appearance

Presentation Appearance - one source of personal competitive advantage
Your presentation appearance transmits a message throughout your show

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

Most certainly, the appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals.  This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your presentation appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.

You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.

And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

Your Presentation Appearance . . .

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”

If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

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

Are you the “ageless rebel” battling the “Man”?

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys.  Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.  This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.

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

The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message.  Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.

On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

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

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

You will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.  The messages must mesh.

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

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

For more on creating an especially powerful presentation appearance, as well as the other six elements of your personal style, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

No Presentation Change? No Hope . . .

Presentation Change is difficultOne of the biggest disappointments I experience as a presentation coach is watching potential go unrealized because of stubbornness against presentation change.

An inability to change.

A disinclination to accept coaching.

A refusal to recognize improvement is needed.

No Presentation Change . . . No Improvement

And possibly the worst tendency of all:  A proclivity to redefine what one already does as somehow acceptable rather than to change behavior in ways to become truly excellent at a skill.

This last proclivity – redefinition – pops up in the expected ways.  Unfortunately it appears quite often, especially in our current zeitgeist, which is loath to offer criticism of any sort and is equally eager to validate any behavior that carries “strong feeling.”

If that “strong feeling” can be attributed to “culture” in some way, then there is almost no hope for improvement.  None.

How can there be improvement when shortcomings can be redefined as “difference,” coupled with wheedling others to “respect difference.”

So poor presenting is transformed into someone else’s problem.  The entire audience’s problem, in fact.

But What About . . . ?

Several years ago, in a lecture on “charisma,” I had just related the elements of charisma to an audience.  I had given examples and had launched into a doable program of how most any speaker can develop charisma.  That’s when a young woman asked me:  “What about ‘quiet charisma?'”

Say what?

“You know, quiet charisma.”

She was serious.

Charisma requires presentation Change“No, I don’t know,” I said.

“There is no such thing.  You have something in mind, obviously, and you are attempting to describe it, certainly, but whatever else it is, it is not charisma.  Moreover, it is the exact opposite of the type of behavior we have talked about for the past 30 minutes.”

The young woman wanted charisma . . . but she did not want to develop the traits of charisma.

She wanted charisma, perhaps, but she wanted it on the cheap.

She wanted to be told that what she was already doing was charisma.  She wanted to hear that her current performance was somehow “okay.”

I’m okay . . . you’re okay . . . we’re all “okay.”

She wanted me to redefine her own behavior as “charismatic” when it, in fact, was not.

This type of phony validation is all too frequent in our modern world of nonjudgmental-ism, where for some, improvement is almost an impossibility because every suggestion is viewed as an insulting challenge to someone’s humanity.

And So We See No Presentation Change.  None.

Instead, the result is soothing assurance akin to the awarding of a T-Ball participation ribbon . . . to everyone, regardless of performance.

Unfortunately for the precious and rough-hewn, the business world is not as charitable as is the local T-Ball league.

The solution?

Humility.

That, and recognition that all of us can improve by embracing tested techniques, some of them proven over the course of two thousand years.  In fact, great business presenting is a journey that never really ends, because we always must try new methods while steadily sharpening our mettle on the ones we embrace.

In other words, we must be willing to change what we do to reflect acquired knowledge.

Don’t seek phony validation, which is like wearing a medal for valor without demonstrating valor.  Seek, instead, the wisdom that leads to especially powerful presentation change.

For the road to especially powerful presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

The Open Secret to Presentation Power

Presentation Power can be Yours
Presentation Power is within your Grasp

I deal with two large groups of people – let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!” – who seem unaware of the open secret to presentation power.

“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become an especially powerful and superior business presenter.

Neither is remotely accurate.

Blind to the Open Secret to Presentation Power

And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters.  Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways and completely self-serving.

Here’s why . . .

We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do.  If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.

This is true of business presentations as well, where the easy out is always available.  Delivering a powerful presentation is within our reach, but . . .

Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful presenters.

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.

That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.

That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.

That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills.

It’s an excuse for us not to persevere.  Why bother to try?  Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types with all that presentation power to do the heavy presentation lifting?

The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . . or unambitious.

The Second View

The second view is the opposite of the first.

This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap.  So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”

The Open Secret of Presentation PowerHas the presentation landscape changed so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?  I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!

Have the demands of the presentation become so uninspired and limp that great presenting can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Hardly.

In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.

In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.

On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.

You Must Deliver the Presentation Power

The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?

The Third View – The Presentation Power Zone

There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.

This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way.  Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.

In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence.

Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance. The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.

The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

 

Blue Pill . . . Forget Presentation Power

Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!”  Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.

One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task.

So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way.  Bon  voyage!  I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.

And you abdicate the opportunity for presentation power that is within your grasp . . .

But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . .  “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”

Then . . . Take the Red Pill

Then you can read on to the Presentation Power is within your graspnext brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever stripped of the excuse for mediocrity.

For the truth is in the Presentation Power Zone, and once there, you will never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom.  It’s completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting.

It’s your choice.

You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute.  Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . .  only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.

A method that transforms you.

Step boldly into the Presentation Power Zone

The Presentation Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become a great presenter, with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.  If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough, or believing you are good enough when you’re actually not.

Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique.  A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking.  This history informs the very best presenters and their work.  You dismiss it only to your great loss.

No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking.  In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.

But what you can and should do is this:  Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter.  When you enter the Presentation Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you.  You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.

An especially powerful presenter.

Now, you have no other real excuse.  It’s totally up to you.

For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.

Great Business Presentation Sites

awful presentationYou have arrived at the most important website on the internet . . .

. . . on delivering the great business presentation in business school.

In fact, it’s the only site in the world in English devoted exclusively to business school presenting . . . and that’s out of almost 1 billion sites.

One billion?

Great Business Presentation Websites

The internet should reach the 1 billion website milestone by the end of 2014.  And while no other site focuses on the challenges of business school presenting, plenty of other sites offer superb advice on this or that aspect of delivering a great business presentation.

I’ve compiled a great many of the best presentation sites, and links to them appear on the right of this site’s home page.

So go up-top to the menu, click “home,” and then look for great links to great sites . . . on the right, in its own column.

Go ahead . . . take a look.

Click and enjoy . . .

Touch the Cave Paintings for a Powerful Business Presentation

Touch your own cave paintings in your business presentation
Take ownership of your business presentation and embrace 10,000 B.C. technology

It’s 10,000 BC, and you’ve painted a a detailed graphic on your cave wall for your upcoming presentation.

It depicts your keen analysis of the recent successful hunt.

Now, you offer to show it to your group, perhaps young hunters seeking valuable knowledge.

How would you deliver your hunting presentation?

Would you stand off to one side and gesture vaguely at your cave wall graphics as you give your presentation on how to take down a mastodon?

Would you?

More likely, you’d take ownership.

Own the Business Presentation and Touch the Cave Paintings

You’d step over to the wall and run your fingers over the colored lines.

You’d trace the outline of the images as you shared the story that the painting illustrates.  You’d use the graphic to bring your presentation to life.

Likewise, in your own business presentations today, when you interact with your PowerPoint slides, I suggest that you use 10,000 BC technology – you should  “touch the cave paintings” to meld with your presentation.

Mastodon Business Presentation
Breathe life into your Business Presentation!

Take ownership of your business presentation, and touch the cave paintings you’ve created to flesh out and support your message.

Step to the screen when you’re ready to refer to a chart or a graph.  Orient us to what we’re about to see.  Explain the vertical and horizontal axes so that we can quickly grasp the data.

By stepping to the screen and gesturing, you enhance your participation in the presentation, becoming the animation for the slides under review.

And you preclude using one of the most heinous devices ever created that can destroy potentially outstanding business presentations.

The Laser Pointer.

Think of the Laser Pointer as a Presentation self-destruct button.

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

Don’t Self-Destruct!

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

Laser Pointer Presentation Destruction
Lose the laser pointer, Skywalker

But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation, don’t you?

You’ve waited your entire life for the chance to legitimately use that laser pointer!

Haven’t you?

You’ve pictured yourself be-suited and commanding the room . . . standing back, perhaps with a jaunty posture, as you sweep the screen behind you with the little bobbing speck of red light.  The meekest among us is invested with bombast and hauteur by even the most inexpensive laser pointer.

Don’t do it.

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

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

How so?

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

Use 10,000 B.C. Technology

Merge yourself with the data.  Step into the presentation so that you, in essence, become the animation that highlights your points of emphasis.  Don’t divide audience attention between you, the data on the screen, and a nervously darting red speck.

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

Now, I issue a caveat here.

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

But probably not.

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

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

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

Rid yourself of this awful affectation today.  Pledge never to deliver another laser pointer presentation in your business life.

Instead, run your hands over the cave wall, touch the cave paintings to meld with your presentation and communicate with your visuals in especially powerful fashion.

For more on Business Presentations, consult my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentations Video Short Course

Business Presentations video courseI’m gratified to be working with Soundview Executive Summaries again, and this new product of theirs is impressive.

Soundview is moving briskly onto the cutting edge of online learning.  SoundviewPro launched today, and it’s a powerful business model that delivers great value.

Here’s how it works . . .

Business Presentations Video Instruction . . .

I’ve joined a number of other instructors to provide instruction in areas of expertise — mine, one hopes, is business presentations.  Here’s the short promotional business presentations video . . . and no, as much as the still shot might suggest it, I’m not going through a facial transformation scene.

              

The description for my own business presentations video course appears here:

Far too many business presentations feature a speaker that could easily be part of the background. Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D. will put you in the command position and teach you to be (rather than give) your presentation.

Ridgley packs weeks of learning into six strategically designed classes that cover everything a business presenter needs to know. You’ll learn how to structure your message, the correct way to create visuals that match your critical points, and how to deliver a story that is as mesmerizing as it is memorable.

You’ll even learn the vital mechanics of presenting that are too often overlooked: posture and movement, voice techniques, hand gestures and how to interact with your visuals. In an entertaining course loaded with historical examples, you will discover that great business presenters aren’t born; they’re made. This is your opportunity to make yourself the next marquee speaker.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

•The importance of the Power Zone.

•A foolproof presentation structure.

•The power posture that projects confidence.

•How to transform an ordinary slide into an extraordinary visual.

•Why it is essential to make your audience the hero of every story.

Go to:  www.soundviewpro.com to sign up for Soundview’s Business Presentations video course . . . it’s free.

The course is based on my business presentations book and has loads of visuals and supplementary materials available in addition to the videos.

The Ultimate Business Presentation?

I hate business presentations can destroy your motivation

You don’t hate business presentations?

You feel reasonably confident, competent, and thoroughly satisfied with your presenting skills?

Excellent!  I congratulate you and suggest that you pass Business School Presenting along to a buddy who might profit from it.

But if you are like most of the 1.3 million English-speaking business school population worldwide, you have muttered I hate presentations more than once.

And you probably have issues with your business school and its treatment of presentations.  That’s why you’re reading this blog.

One in 600 Million?

Of an estimated 600 million websites worldwide, this is the only site devoted exclusively to business school presentations.

I could be wrong about that, and I hope that I am.

Even if this is a lonely outpost today, we know that as quickly as the online community responds to the needs of its users, that could change tomorrow.  I trust you’ll let me know, so that I can link to these nooks and crannies of the web that may hold secrets that we all need.

But right now, this instant, I do believe that this is it.

Think of this place as your Official College Guide to Business School Presentations.

Don’t hate Business Presentations!

I believe, and you may agree, that business school students need credible, brief, and direct resources on presenting  – solid information and best practices, not vague generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”  In short, you want to know what works and why.

You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.

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

You’ll find answers here to the most basic of questions.

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

 2,500 Years of Presenting

Business School Presenting answers every one of these questions and many more that you haven’t even thought of yet.  You may not like the answers. You may disagree with the answers.

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

Or not.

But know that I offer here the distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets, developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.  Folks who certainly did not hate presentations . . .

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

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

I hate business presentations!

On the other side of things, I’d like to hear your own business presentation stories from your campus that illustrate challenges particular to your school and academic concentration.

The various subdisciplines in business – finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, and such like – have their special needs, even as they are all tractable to the fundamental and advanced techniques of powerful presenting.

So think deep.

Consider the personal competitive advantage that can be yours when you develop world class business presentation skills.

And learn not to hate business presentations by consulting my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Awful Presentations?

Are Awful Presentations necessary?

Is there some law, somewhere, that dictates that awful presentations must be norm?

Is there a Law of Awful?

LAwful Presentations?

Given the number of overly long, dull, pedantic, repetitious, boring, confusing – bad – presentations I see both inside and outside of the business school, I suspect there must be.

This dullness of the awful presentation seeps into the consciousness.  It numbs us, and begins to legitimize itself.

Awful presentations can be a career-killer.

Of course, no one will tell you this.  A conspiracy of silence surrounds awful business presentations and the people who give them.

And yet, they are everywhere.

Awful Presentations are Everywhere

Awful presentations are everywhere . . . and because they are everywhere, we think that bad business presentations must be legitimate.

They must be the norm.  They must be bad, because that’s just the way it is.

But this is myth.

And this myth perpetuates itself, like some kind of awful oral tradition.

You see an awful presentation that some people praise as good.  It looks like this . . .

Some Vice President from a visiting company stands in front of you hiding behind a lectern.  He reads from slides with  dozens of bullet points taken from a written paper and pasted onto PowerPoint slides.  He alternates looking at a computer screen and turning to look at a projection screen behind him.  He rarely looks at you.

A Wasteland On the Screen

Unreadable spreadsheets emerge on the screen.  Legions of tiny numbers march in cadence.

The presenter reads slide-after-slide verbatim, his head turned away from you.  You realize, finally, that he is reading the slides together with everyone in the audience.

It’s boring.

It’s unintelligible.

The slides are unreadable or irrelevant.

It’s an awful presentation, and you can’t remember a damn thing except the three texts you received during the presentation as you checked your iPhone between yawns.  You could legitimately ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”

If awful presentations are the norm, you scratch your chin and perhaps you think “That’s not hard at all.”  I can be as bad as the next person.

Just Cobble Together an Awful Presentation

Cobble something like that together, and you think you have a business presentation.  And why wouldn’t you think that?

It seems to have all the elements:  A speaker-reader of slides (you), a PowerPoint display on the screen with writing on it, some numbers, and a five-minute time slot to fill with talk.

Awful Presentations are the career kiss of death

But what you actually have is something awful – just awful.

You don’t know what you want to accomplish . . . or why.

You have no idea what you should say . . . or why.

And you don’t view yourself as benefiting from the process in any way.  Instead, you see it as something painful.  Because it is painful.  It’s painful and awful.

Let’s repeat, so there’s no misunderstanding . . .  just awful.

It’s an awful business presentation that is painful because of the way it’s been explained to you.

Because the explanations are incomplete.  Because you never get the whole story.

Teaching you how to deliver a cogent, competent, powerful business presentation is always someone else’s job.

This can be a problem.  A problem because your career often hinges on how well you can present.

And if you present badly, you needlessly handicap yourself.

I Feel Your Pain

Sure, there are “presentation”courses.  But it seems that the good folks who actually provide you some sort of presenting instruction in school are often disconnected from your business courses.

They teach you “How to give a speech” or “How to introduce yourself.”  But you don’t have the opportunity to engage in a complex group business presentation.

Oftentimes, these folks aren’t even in the business school.  They can’t show you how to incorporate business content into your presentations – things like the SWOT, value chain analysis, financial analysis, PEST, Five Forces, and such like.

And on occasion, professors in your business courses demonstrate the same malaise that plagues business at-large.

For most of your professors, presenting is secondary.  This makes sense, as each faculty has a specialty or functional discipline he or she is charged with teaching.  Business “Presenting” is no one’s functional discipline, and so it goes unaddressed, orphaned to expediency and neglect.

It is the same in the corporate world.  Your presenting woes are the same woes that scourge the American business landscape.

Boring, dull, numbing . . . all of this is equated wrongly with “serious.”  What what we get is the awful presentation as the standard.

Awful Presentation Malaise in Corporate America

I attended a business conference on the west coast not long ago.  I had the occasion to dip my toes into some of the worst speaking I have ever heard coupled with use of incredibly bad visuals.  Primarily PowerPoint visuals.

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

No preparation and no practice attended these presentations.

Papers shuffling in the audience, because handouts were given prior to the talk.

This is more common than you might imagine.

Communications consultant Andy Goodman conducted major research on the issue in 2005, surveying more than 2,500 public interest professionals and asking them to evaluate their presentation viewing experiences.

The average grade public interest professionals gave to the presentations they attended was C-.  The average grade given to the visuals that respondents observed in presentations they attended was also C-.

When asked to recall presentations they had seen over the last few months, survey respondents said they were more than likely to see an awful presentation as to see an excellent one.

This is the current state of presentations in corporate America and in business schools.  Is it uniformly bleak? No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Immense Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.

I have seen a sufficient number of fine presentations to understand that, somewhere, superb instruction holds sway.  Or, at the very least, young people whose early development has trained them for the stage have found their way to the business platform.

Good for them.

But for the most part, it is as I have described here.

And this presents you with magnificent opportunity.

Now that you understand the situation and why it exists, it’s time for you to join the ranks of superior presenters.  Becoming a superior presenter means gaining incredible personal competitive advantage that is difficult to imitate.

By investing your presentations with passion, emotion, and enthusiasm, you deliver especially powerful shows with persuasive power.  Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time for your debut.

Time to break the Law of Awful Presentations.

Interested in more on fixing awful presentations?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Express Yourself . . . the Right Way

Express yourself for personal competitive advantage

You communicate far more with your face than you probably realize, so be aware that how you express yourself can enhance or degrade your business presentation.

Your facial expressions can reinforce your message, confuse your audience, or detract from your message.

Yes, there is something called bad expression, and at its worst, it can generate hostility in your audience.

Look no further than the accompanying photo to absorb the lesson of how our expressions can enhance our presentation . . . or cripple it.

Express Yourself with Brio

A thorough knowledge of how our expressions can lift our talk or derail it is essential to becoming a powerful business communicator.

The problem of bad expression has plagued speakers for centuries.  Some of our earliest writers on oratory lamented the poor expressive skills of the folks who take to the stage to speak.

Quintilian was a great Roman teacher of oratory in his time, and he’s influenced many generations of public speakers since the recovery of his classic manuscripts in the 15th Century.

Perhaps you’ve not heard of Quintilian?  It’s time you did.

Expression in Presentation for 1,900 Years

Quintilian published his monumental Institutes of Oratory at the end of the 1st Century AD, and it continues as a powerfully influential treatise on presentations today.  It’s rich with insight and practical instruction.  Take this passage on expression:

[The teacher] will have to take care that the face of his pupil, while speaking, look straight forward; that his lips be not distorted; that no opening of the mouth in moderately distend his jaws.  That his face be not turned up, or his eyes cast down too much, or his head inclined to either side.  The face offends in various waysl.  I have seen many speakers, whose eyebrows were raised at every effort of the voice.  Those of others I have seen contracted.  Those of some even disagreeing, as they turned up one towards the top of the head, while with the other the eye itself was almost concealed.  To all these matters, as we shall hereafter show, a vast deal of importance is to be attached.  For nothing can please which is unbecoming.

Express Yourself in Presentation

Would that our modern instructors of presentations would take a moment to share even the most modest of insights offered by great orators such as Quintilian.

He remains relevant and incisive after 1,900 years on the need for coordinated and thoughtful expression, and a great many other timeless techniques.

That’s staying power.  And a heckuva personal brand.

And as he notes with respect to expression, nothing can please which is unbecoming.  Your facial expression should reflect your spirit.  It should reveal your heart and your soul, and if it does, you’ll avoid appearing “unbecoming.”

Your face should transmit sincerity and earnestness consonant with your words.  So I urge you in your presentations to express yourself in ways “becoming” . . . smile often . . . frown sparingly . . . stare never . . . question occasionally . . . and show sincerity throughout.

To continue exploring how to express yourself in ways that enhance your personal brand and personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Lessons from the Great Battles

Business Lessons from the Great BattlesIt’s always exciting to reprise a successful lecture, and Friday in Philadelphia I did just that with a six-hour seminar for business executives on Business Lessons from the Great Battles of History.

Three months in the crafting, the Great Battles seminar had its germination in the suggestion by one of my colleagues.

He had engaged me to deliver my earlier lecture series on Competitive Intelligence, which used historical military examples and multimedia, and thought that a full-blown seminar focused on the nexus between business strategy and military strategy might be well-received.

It was received well.  It called for an encore

What follows is the gist of this powerful offering . . .

War, Conflict . . . and Business Lessons

In business, we have adopted the language of war and of conflict.

We talk of market penetration . . .  we counterattack a competitor . . . we out-flank our opponents.

We get ambushed in office meetings . . . we form alliances and we battle against alliances . . . we conduct “hasty retreats” when facing a superior foe . . . we “make peace” with our enemies.

And we craft our strategy for our next campaign.

Perhaps it’s only natural that we Business Lessons from the Civil Warshould speak this way.  Ours is a world of conflict and cooperation.

And sometimes the cooperation seems only a prelude to conflict.

But rather than simply adopt the machismo of war-words, we can go beyond the surface similarities.

We can study and learn something about planning and executing business strategy from the actual techniques of martial combat.  Here, we look at some of the tactical techniques utilized by the military and codified in military manuals worldwide.

Some of techniques of maneuver and attack are familiar to most people.  Others, not so well-known.

The best strategic maneuver, of course, is one that Sun Tzu recommended more than 2,000 years ago.  Sun Tzu urged us to consider techniques that would yield bloodless victories.

He said:  “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

Most of us are not blessed with the kind of acumen or situation that affords us the luxury to win without battle.  And so we must make do with techniques that can yield victory, if applied judiciously and the proper place and time.

Business Lessons:  Circumspection a Must

But we must be circumspect and shrewd.

We must observe certain principles, and the hallmark of a sound principle is its successful application, across time, to situations in which the terms and technology may change, but the principle still holds.

Principles serve as a north star to guide us, to keep us going in the right direction.

In conflict situations, The Principles of War offer us guiding ideas for executing any straBritish Business Lessons from their Stupendous Loss?tegy against a determined opponent – Objective, Offensive, Economy of Force, Maneuver, Unity of Command, Mass, Security, Surprise, and Simplicity.

The point is to think strategically . . . to exert a measure of control over a chaotic world, a sometimes hostile world.

All smart and successful organizations make use of war principles but call them something else.  We call them efficiency tools and such like.

But let’s call them what they are.

Let’s do call them “Principles of Competition” . . . because they can be utilized by anyone involved in any conflict, great or small . . . they can be used at the organizational level . . . and they can be used at the personal level.

Many countries and many theorists have devised principles of war over the centuries.  This noble and venerable lineage stretches back to the time of Sun Tzu, Thucydides, Vegetius, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Jomini, Foch, and many other notables.  But regardless of the time and place and personality, the principles have always retained a sameness . . .

Principles may change at the periphery, but they maintain a steadfast core character.

Business Lessons:  Principles of Competition

For this seminar on Business Lessons, we appropriate for ourselves a set of Principles of War distilled by British Colonel John Frederick Charles Fuller during World War One and into the mid-1920s and adopted almost immediately in a slightly differKursk offers a Business Lesson against the Frontal Attackent form, by the United States military.

These are principles that had been handed down less formally for centuries.

The lessons learned on the battlefield can help us in the boardroom and they can help us compete effectively against a determined and equally capable competitor.

Here, we examine business lessons from the great battles of history – General Pagondas at Delium in 424 BC, Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC, Lee at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in 1863.  We look to Zulu Chief Cetshwayo at Isandlwana in 1879, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg of France in 1940, the Battle of Kursk in 1943, Israel’s Raid on Entebbe in 1976, and the First Gulf War, among others.

Was Friday’s seminar delivered with elan and panache?  With brio?

Was it an especially powerful presentation?

One hopes, and we’ll see.

The jury is still out on this one and we await the verdict.

For more in-depth discussion of Business Lessons from the military realm, consult Strategic Thinking Skills.  For more on delivering business lessons in the most powerful way, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

What We Don’t Know about Business Presentations

“What we don't know”

In 2002, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was widely ridiculed for his “what we do not know” convolution that tended to confound his critics.

But when analyzed, his succinct turn of phrase showed that his critics had much to learn.

Just as we have much to learn about business presentations.

What We Don’t Know . . .

Rumsfeld said this:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Without going too deeply into the philosophy behind it all, let’s simply note that this construction dates back to Confucius . . . and perhaps earlier.

Broken down, it can be stated this way:

There are things we know.

There are things we do not know.

There are things we know we do not know.

There are things we do not know we do not know.

Much insight is bound up in this matrushka doll of logic.

In fact, lurking within this formula is a key to our business success, to our differentiation, to our personal brand.  Understanding what we don’t know.

Rumsfeld’s trope is simply a call for humility and recognition that false certitude can be far more harmful than healthy skepticism.  No, we don’t know at all.

In fact, there may be a great deal of what we know that isn’t so.

Take, for example, the following two experiences of people who have a fundamental misunderstanding of their own abilities.

“These Pictures Just Didn’t Come Out”

Photography – good photography – is a skill.  The framing and composition of superb photographs is not “natural” or intuitive.

And yet, the vast majority of us believe that we can take spectacular photos.  A professional photographer who worked for me years ago was tickled by a co-worker who believed he was an excellent photographer, even as evidence to the contrary was abundant.

She told how he repeatedly engaged in a fantasy.

His latest batch of photos of a reception would come in, and his coworkers would gather ’round him.  He would thumb through the photos one at a time, and he would cast many of them aside peevishly.

“These pictures just didn’t come out,” he’d say with a shake of the head.  “They just didn’t come out,” and he would invariably imply that some mechanical malfunction had ruined his photos.

What we don't know can make us look dumb
This picture just didn’t “come out.”

Or hazy weather.

Or bad karma.

Anything but his own lack of skill.

Through it all was his inability to actually see and understand that the “picture did not come out” because of the most obvious reason in the world:

He did not know how to take photographs.

In fact, he was terrible.

But he claimed that out-of-focus, poorly framed, underexposed, overexposed photos were the result of some external problem, not his own lack of skill.  This type of hubris borne of blissful ignorance has its counterpart in the innocence of children.

Who’s the teacher?  That depends on your perspective . . .

A tennis instructor friend of mine tells the story of working with a six-year-old child.

You have to admire the chutzpuh of children, who, in their innocence, are unaware of the larger world and oftentimes unaware of their role as students in this world, subject to the instruction of teachers.

Upon starting the first tennis lesson, the child quietly watched the tennis pro demonstrate the basic forehand.  Then, the child boasted to her: “This is how I hit the ball.”

And the youngster proceeded to demonstrate the proper technique to the tennis instructor, as if the two of them were accomplished tennis pros simply sharing pointers with each other.

The child was blissfully ignorant of the depth and breadth of the game of tennis.  So the child speaks with a confidence and easiness that betrays that ignorance.

Honest ignorance in this case.

And what a wonderful confidence it is, the confidence of a child.  A superb tennis instructor works with this raw confidence and molds into it an actual expertise and respect for the game without destroying it.

When you hear people dismiss public speaking as “easy” or a “cinch” or something that they’ll “wing” in their next class, remember the phrases . . .

“These pictures just didn’t come out.”

This is the way I hit the ball.”

Many folks are simply ignorant of the depth and breadth of the public speaking domain.

So they wax eloquently and ignorantly about it, believing it to be something that it is not. Easier than it is.

Especially Powerful Presenting – What we don’t know

Powerful presenting is actually the judicious application of high-order skills of gesture, voice, movement, style, focus, elocution, and even intuition.  This concept is alien to the “Easy Presenting” group.

Moreover, the very nature of these skills is foreign to them.

The skill set of the advanced and effective presenter is much akin to that of the actor, and these skills would seem irrelevant to someone with only a superficial understanding of the art of presenting.

After all, business is serious, right?  Wheareas mere “acting” is . . . well, frivolous.

Acting is talent-based, right, with no role for learned techniques?  Hardly.  Acting coach Anita Jesse zeroes-in on the basic skills necessary to powerful acting, and they are as easily applied to the art of powerful presenting:

Almost any proficient actor will tell you that expertise [in acting] depends upon a short list of basic skills. Those building blocks are concentration, imagination, access to emotions, listening, observation, and relaxation.

Concentration, imagination, access to emotions, listening, observation, and relaxation. These are the qualities necessary to an actor’s powerful performances, and these are likewise qualities essential to the power presenter.

They are elements of Personal Presence, and they are essential to the delivery of an especially powerful presentation.

For more on learning what we don’t know we do not know about especially powerful presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

MBA Case Competition

MBA Case Competition Basics

A major business student rite of passage is the MBA case competition.

It’s tough . . . it’s pressure-packed . . . it’s demanding and stressful.

It can also be lucrative, as prize money for winning teams can be substantial . . . from $1,000 all the way up to $25,000.

Sure, you’ve presented in class in front of your professor and folks that you know, but you’ve not felt pressure until you’ve competed against the finest MBAs from other schools.

How do you and your school stack up against the best of the rest?

Business School Rankings are one thing, but MBA Case Competitions offer one of the few head-to-head matchups between schools.

And all the PR in the world can’t substitute for victory over your rivals.

Who Competes in MBA Case Competition . . . and How?

Let’s take, as an example, a Finance MBA Case Competition.

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

Substantively, this is a talented lot.

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

MBA Case Competition
MBA Case Competition Tests Your Mettle

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

Along this dimension, the teams are relatively well-matched.

But stylistically, much remains to improve.

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

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

In this sense, style becomes substance in an MBA case competition.

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

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

1) Throat-clearing

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

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

2) Lack of confidence

Lack of confidence is revealed in several ways, some of them subconscious. Uptalk, a fad among young people, undermines even the best substance because of its constant plaintive beg for validation.

Dancing from foot to foot, little dances around the platform, the interjection of “you know” and “you know what I mean” wear away the power of your message like a whetstone.

3) Unreadable PowerPoint slides

The visuals are unreadable because of small fonts and insufficient contrast between numbers/letters and the background.  Ugly spreadsheets dominate the screen to no purpose.

This sends the audience scrambling to shuffle through “handouts” instead of focusing attention on the points you want to emphasize.  You have created a distraction.

You have created a competitor for your attention that takes focus off your presentation.

4) Ineffective interaction with visuals

Rare is the student who interacts boldly with his or her slides, touching the screen, guiding our eyes to what is important and ensuring that we understand.

Instead, we often see the dreaded laser pointer.  This is one of the most useless tools devised for presentation work (unless the screen is so massive that you cannot reach an essential visual that must be pointed out).

The laser pointer divides your audience attention three ways – to the presenter, to the slide material, and to the light itself, which tends to bounce uncontrollably about the screen.

I forbid the use of laser pointers in my classes as a useless affectation.

No time for Modesty or Mediocrity

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

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

See The Complete Guide to Business Presenting for an entire chapter on winning case competitions.  You can also sign up for the LinkedIn MBA Case Competition group.  This is where folks from around the world congregate to share the latest information about competiting in the top contests.

Bad Presentation Advice . . . Zombies

Bad Presentation
Bad Presentation Advice Zombies

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

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

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

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

Bad Presentation Advice

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

And this is much tougher than you might expect, given that 1) people generally dislike the idea of change, and 2) I have discovered that most folks tend to think that the presentation is something that exists outside of themselves . . . in a PowerPoint software package, or in notecards, or in a book.

Bad Presentation ZombiesThe notion that the presenter actually has to change is not welcome news.

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

And I do not entertain or engage in lengthy discussions of various opinions of what constitutes good presenting or how people want leeway granted for their own tics or habits.  All it takes is one film session to disabuse people of the notion that a bad habit is somehow acceptable.

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

That’s right.

Just stop the bad habits, and what remains can be downright decent.

But Bad Presentation Habits Die Hard

Bad habits can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad advice.

The problem is recognizing what constitutes bad advice.  This isn’t easy, because much bad advice paradoxically masquerades as good advice, and lots of these bad advice zombies stalk the land.

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

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

This is absurd and carries the stink of oral tradition about it. From presidents to preachers, the hand in the pocket – if done properly – conveys assurance and confidence.

For many speakers, it also removes one hand from the equation as an unnecessary distractor.  Put that left hand in the pocket and you keep it out of trouble.

No more strange finger-play.

No more tugging at your fingers.  No more twisting and handwringing.  It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.

ZOMBIE #2 “Make eye contact.”

This advice is insidious in that it actually carries a large kernel of truth. It sounds reasonable. But it doesn’t tell you how to do it.

And, yes, there is such a thing as bad eye contact.

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

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

ZOMBIE #3 “Move around when you talk”

This gem was given to me by a student, passed on from one of his other professors. This advice suggests that you wander aimlessly about the stage in hopes that it will improve your presentation in some unspecified way.  Or it might mean to roll your shoulders as you step side-to-side.

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

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

ZOMBIE #4 “Just the facts.”

Really? Which facts are those?

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”

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

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

“Facts” must be selected in some way, and context must be provided to give them meaning. “Facts” must be analyzed to produce alternatives and to render a conclusion. This is a euphemism for “I don’t like what you’re saying . . . tell me what I want to hear.”

ZOMBIE #5 “The numbers tell the story.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZOMBIE #6 “You have too many slides.”

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

Say what?  You counted them?

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

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

Business School Presenting Beats Bad Presentation Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are interested in acquiring proper and powerful presentation skills, I suggest you consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Cosmopolitan MBA Business Presenting – India

It’s my privilege to not only travel a great many miles to special places, but also to work with some of the brightest young people of the latest generation who constitute the finest business leaders of tomorrow.

And the new cadres of great MBA business presenting.

MBA business presenting
Powerful MBA business presenting is the key to competitive advantage

Take India, for instance.

Today, I fly to Mumbai for two weeks of working with MBA students at the Welingkar Institute of Management.

India is a potential economic powerhouse, whose engine of domestic and international commerce is only just starting.

With incredible knowledge resource capability and government that finally recognizes the power of individual initiative and the economic benefits that accrue from relaxing regulation, India is set for an economic renaissance that will stagger the world when its gears finally engage.

MBA students at Welingkar, many of whom appear on this page, show a drive, determination, optimism, and coachability that should be the envy of the world.  My lecturing has also taken me to Lonavala, to the iFEEL institute, where equally motivated young people pursue their graduate degrees.

Powerful MBA Business Presenting

Inquisitive and cosmopolitan to a startling degree, these young people are poised to enter middle-management as a sage class of entrepreneurial knowledge workers.

They are steeped in the latest management techniques.

Lonavala, home of iFEEL Institute
Lonavala, home of iFEEL Institute

They are armed with the techniques of especially powerful MBA business presenting that confer unmatched competitive advantage.

I’d go so far as to say that they constitute a new cadre of global executives, a new breed of 21st Century Managers.  Unencumbered with notions held over from the industrial revolution.

And, of course, they see the power inherent in superb MBA business presenting.

They constitute a cadre imbued with the qualities of:

        • Technical Proficiency
        • Flexibility and Adaptability
        • Cosmopolitan Outlook
        • Cultural Competence
        • Team-work orientation
        • Personal and Professional Aligned Strategic Focus

The rest of the business world should take note.

India is an economic giant that no longer sleeps.

For more on MBA business presenting and the great big world, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

MBA business presenting is the key to competitive advantagePowerful MBA business presenting is the key to competitive advantage

MBA business presenting is key

Prepare the Business Presentation . . . the Second P

Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way
Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

You are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations.  Your task is to provide a report and then prepare the business presentation.

. . . to prepare it the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

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

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.  And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.  They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.

Prepare the Business Presentation

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

Your task is clear.  You present your conclusions to an audience.

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 prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?  But they are different.

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.

How Different?

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.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report
As you Prepare the Business Presentation, Recognize that it Differs Significantly from the Written Report

These many differences between written and oral reports are, to many people, seemingly invisible.  Or, at least, they are not considered significant.

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.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

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 wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

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?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation

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 as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

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 as you prepare the business presentation?

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.  And this 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 when you prepare the business presentation.  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

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.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way
Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation in Ruthless Fashion

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 delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present 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 analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, 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 this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover how to Prepare the Business Presentation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.