Tag Archives: business presentation

Stop Self-Sabotage with Power Words

Power Words

We should strive to infuse our presentations with energy by using positive power words, but instead we sabotage ourselves in our presentations more often than we imagine.

Negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits.

I hate presentations,” is the negative phrase I hear most frequently, and it undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.  How can we construct any positive presentation experience on such a porous, spongy foundation?

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.

We envision failure, humiliation, embarassment, and complete meltdown.

Envision Success Instead

All of this negative self-talk can translate 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?

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 and now that we must at the very least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we may have any chance of succeeding at business presenting.

Think Like an Athlete – Use Power Words

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 often 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.

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

power words -- the key to powerful presentationsQuite 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.

In my experience, it’s this fear of the unknown that drives 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.

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 a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

You lace your presentation with power words to inspire both you and your audience:  confidence . . . capability . . . thought . . . vision . . . future . . . focus . . . competence . . . strong . . . ability . . . know-how . . . victory . . . success.

When we take the stage, we put our minds on what we intend, and we charge forward boldly and confidently, executing our presentation with masterful aplomb and professionalism. 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 might wiggle in to nettle us.

More on Preparation and the Three Ps in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Magic Presentation Pills?

Nothing except your own conscious intervention can rescue your presentation from bad slides

For your presentation, do you ever throw together a half-dozen makeshift slides cut-and-pasted from a written report, with dozens of bullet points peppered throughout?

Guilty as charged?  Most of us are at one point or another.

And the results can be heinous.

The results are slides that confuse the audience rather than reinforce your major points delivered in awful, mind-numbing presentations.  There is a cost for serving up what designer Nancy Duarte calls “bad slides.”  Nancy says in her book Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations:

“Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career.  Invest in your slides, but invest in your own visual skills as well.  The alternative is to inadvertently commit career suicide.”

Absent specific instruction, you might believe that it’s acceptable to simply cut and paste graphics from a written report directly onto a slide.  Why not?  Who says this is a bad idea?  After all, the professor wants to see certain material on the screen, doesn’t he?  Well, I’m giving it to him.  ’nuff said.

This is awful for the reason that the slide presentation sometimes doubles for a written document, and this is an incredibly stupid mistake.

One . . . or the Other

Your PowerPoint can serve admirably one or the other purpose . . . but not both.

The presentation – or show – is an entirely different form of communication than the written document that is meant to be reviewed later.  Never let one serve in place of the other.

Prepare two separate documents if necessary, one to serve as your detailed written document, the other to serve as the basis for your show.

When you commit the error of letting a written document serve as your public presentation, here’s what usually happens:  You project a parade of abominably cluttered slides onto the screen while you talk about them.  Usually prefacing what you say with the words “As you can see . . . .”  [this is called As You Can See Syndrome, or AYCSS]

The results are quite often poor, if not downright ugly and embarassing for all concerned.  It is a roadmap to disaster.

But the insidious part is that no one tells you the results are disastrous.  And they do not tell you what makes your creation an abomination.

So let’s discuss the types of issues you face in assembling your show.

No Magic Pills

Start by recognizing that no slide show can substitute for a lack of ideas, a lack of preparation, and lack of a story to tell.

PowerPoint cannot rescue you with its colors, sound, and animation.  This is akin to Hollywood filmmakers who spend millions of dollars on dazzling special effects and neglect the story.  They bomb miserably.

On the other hand, you can craft a winning film with a superb story and drama, but with minimal special effects: See the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men.  You cannot craft a winning film with no story or a bad story populated with people you don’t care about.

Forget the notion that slides are somehow the backbone of your show.  They have no special properties.  They can merely enhance your show . . . and they can most assuredly help destroy it.  Presenting coach Aileen Pincus makes this point in her 2008 book Presenting:

“Slides are not a magic pill; they won’t organize a disorganized presentation; they won’t give a point to a presentation that doesn’t really have one; and they never make a convincing presentation on their own.”

So is there a reasonably easy way to get around this busy-slide pathology?

Of course, and this leads us to one solution to the problem of overburdened slides.  Remember three words when you prepare your slides, and you can eliminate 90 percent of your PowerPoint pathologies

Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize

First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.  If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.  Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.  Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.  If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.  Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.

When you orient, eliminate, and emphasize, you polish your meaning to a high sheen, and you are on your way to an especially powerful presentation.  You dump distractors that leech the strength and from your presentation.

And, consequently, by substraction you infuse your presentation with power.

Want more?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret # 5 – Avoid the Boring Presentation

The Boring Presentation can be fixedWe’re all familiar with the droning voice of a speaker who rarely varies pitch, tone, or pace and who inflicts on us the boring presentation.

In like fashion, you can be visually monotonous.

Visual monotony – either of repetitive constant movement or of no movement whatsoever.

We know well the “rocker” and the “swayer.”  We know Mr. “busy-hands” and the “Foxtrotter,” who quicksteps in a tight little dance.  Perhaps you have seen the occasional great Stoneface, but he is a rarity today.

The Right Movement

Movement can enhance or cripple your presentation.

And the right kind of movement can solve the boring presentation quite handily.

But don’t begin agitated hopping about the stage willy-nilly.  Recognize that you should incorporate movement into your presentation for quite specific reasons.  Your movements should contribute to your presentation by reinforcing your message.

At the risk over over-alliterating, mesh your movements with your message.

Remember that every single thing you do onstage derives its power by its contrast with every other thing you do.  If you move all the time, like a pacing jungle cat, it becomes the equivalent of white noise.  Your movements then contribute no meaning whatever to your presentation.

In fact, your movements become a distraction.  They leech energy and attention from your message.  It’s a form of visual monotony.

The Kiss of Sleep – Your Boring Presentation

Likewise, if you remain stationary 100 percent of the time, the result is again visual monotony.  You lull your audience into inattention, especially if you combine verbal and visual monotony in a single presentation – The Kiss of Sleep . . . for your audience.

You inflict . . . the boring presentation.

Those in theater know this principle well.

In his very fine Tips for Actors, Jon Jory intones that: “Your best tool to avoid this dangerous state is variety.  Three lines of loud need soft.  Three lines of quick need slow.  A big dose of movement needs still.  Or change your tactics.”

So, think of movement as one more tool in your repertoire to evoke feeling from your audience.  With it, you can convey a powerful and persuasive message.

The secret is not Movement alone . . . the secret is keen, decisive, proper, and exquisitely timed Movement.

For more on how movement can help to remedy a boring presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Focus on your Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil’s in the Details

By reversing the process and visualizing the audience in detail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put Relentless Focus on Your Audience

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

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

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

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

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

Zombies of Bad Presentation Tips

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

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

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

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

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

Bad Presentation Tips

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.

The 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 Habits Die Hard

Bad habits can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad presentation tips.

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

No more strange finger-play.  No more tugging at your fingers.  No more twisting and hand-wringing.  It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.

ZOMBIE #2     “Make eye contact.”

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

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

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

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

ZOMBIE #3     “Move around when you talk”

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

Or it might mean to roll your shoulders as you step side-to-side.

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

This bad presentation tip 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, the source of personal competitive advantage
You can defeat the bad Tips zombies by incorporating especially powerful presentation techniques into your business presentations

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 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 acquiring especially powerful personal competitive advantage.

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

Get Rid of Presentation Stage Fright

presentation stage fright
The audience won’t bite . . . in fact, 99 percent want you and your business presentation to succeed

After reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about handwringing over presentation stage fright, if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now.

When we speak of presentation stage fright, we are really talking about the battle within ourselves as we prepare to deliver our presentation.

It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.

Confidence is one of those elusive qualities.

It’s almost paradoxical.  When we have it, it’s invisible.  When we don’t have it, it’s all too apparent to us.

Confidence in public speaking is hard to come by.

Or so we think.  Let’s back into this thing called confidence.

Take the Trip Test

Have you ever stumbled on the sidewalk, your toe catching an impossibly small defect in the concrete, enough to trip you up?  You stumble and stagger a bit. And then . . .

. . . and then do you glance quickly around to see who might be looking?  Do you feel shame of some sort?  If not shame, then . . . something that gives you to mildly fear the judgment of others?  Even strangers.

Or do you stride purposely forward, oblivious to others’ reactions, because they truly don’t matter to you?

Recognize this “trip test” as a measure of your self-confidence, your conception of yourself.

Recognize that you don’t need the validation of others in what you do.

This doesn’t mean to act in ways immature and self-indulgent.  It means charting your own course with your internal moral and professional compass and having the strength of mind and purpose not to yield to kibitzers, naysayers, and kneejerk critics.

Now, bring that strength of mind and purpose to the realm of business presentations.

Presentation Stage Fright Begone!

For many, the audience is your bogeyman.  For some reason you fear your audience.  But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say.

And 99.9 percent of them mean you well.

They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.

Yes, even your fellow students want you to succeed.  They want to be entertained.  Please entertain us, they think.

They are open to whatever new insight you can provide.  And they know, for a fact, that they will be in your same place many times during their careers.  They are fellow-travelers in the business presentation journey.

And so confidence is yours for the taking.

Seize Confidence for Yourself

Confidence is not a thing.

It cannot be grasped or packaged or bought.  It’s a state of mind, isn’t it?  It’s a feeling.  When we get right down to it, it really is just the mental context within which we perform.

What does it really mean to be confident?  Can you answer that direct question?  Think about it a moment.

See?  We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action.  Our confidence – or lack of confidence – provides us the context of our activities.Presentation Stage Fright

Is it certitude?

Is it knowledge?

Is it bravery?

Is it surety?

Think of the times when you are confident.  You might be confident at playing a certain sport or playing a musical instrument.  It could be an activity.

Why are you confident?

Confidence is largely the absence of uncertainty.  For it’s uncertainty that makes us fearful.  That, and the dread of some consequence – embarrassment or ridicule.

It should be recognized that many people do fear speaking before an audience.  It is so universal and it is so pervasive that we must come to grips with it.

This presentation stage fright has made its way down through the ages.  It has paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you.  And generations of speakers have tackled this fear.

George Rowland Collins is an old master who recognized the phenomenon in 1923 and its awful effect on the would-be presenter . . .

The very first problem that faces the average man in speech-making is the problem of nervousness.  To stand up before an audience without a scrap of paper or a note of any kind, to feel the eyes of dozens and even hundreds of people upon you, to sense the awful silence that awaits your own words, to know that you must depend upon yourself and yourself alone to hold the audience’s attention is as trying a task as it is possible to undertake.  Most men find the task too great and shun it religiously.  Those who do attempt it, voluntarily, or involuntarily, testify to the severity of the physical and mental suffering it involves.

The solution to presentation stage fright?  How have centuries of speakers successfully tackled this bete noire?

Reduce your uncertainty.

Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps:  Principles, Preparation, Practice.  Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence, and we’ll talk about the Three Ps in days and weeks to come.

They are so utterly essential to Power Presenting that they bear repetition and constant reinforcement.  They are the cornerstone upon which you build your style, your confidence, your performance pizzazz.

Principles, Preparation, Practice

The 7 principles of presenting offered here at Business School Presenting™ – the “secrets” of the masters – are grouped under Stance, Voice, Gesture, Movement, Expression, Appearance and Passion. Each of these deserves its own chapter and, indeed, has its own chapter in my book The Official College Guide to Business School Presenting.

Prepare your talk, then practice your talk at least 4 times, exactly as you will deliver it – without stopping.

When you apply the Three Ps, you reduce uncertainty.  You are possess the facts.  You are prepared.  You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice.  You rehearse.

There is, of course, an element of uncertainty.  There is uncertainty because you cannot control everything or everybody, and this causes a tinge of anxiety, but that’s fuel for your creative engine.

By controlling the 90 percent that you can, you are more than ready to handle the 10 percent of uncertainty that awaits you.

So the key for you is to control what you can and to dismiss your fear of the rest.  Recognize that this fear is what makes you human, and it is this humanity that gives us commonality with all the public speakers and presenters who have come before us.

And it is their advice that we heed to our improvement.

For instance, master J. Berg Esenwein from 109 years ago:

Even when you are quaking in your boots with the ague of fear, and your teeth fain would beat “retreat,” you must assume a boldness you do not feel.  For doing this there is nothing like deep stately breathing, a firm look at the dreaded audience . . . .  But do not fear them.  They want you to succeed, and always honor an exhibition of pluck.  They are fair and know you are only one man against a thousand.  . . .  Look at your audience squarely, earnestly, expressively.

And banish stage fright forever.

Interested in more on how to eliminate presentation stage fright? Click here.

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

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

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

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

You must become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Three D Presentations

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

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

And you’re able to connect more readily with varied audiences.

You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.  By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.

Expand Your World

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

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

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

Read a book outside your specialty.  Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

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

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

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

Business Presentation Passion?

Presentation Passion“Earnestness” is a word that we neither hear much nor use much these days, but it sits at the core of what we call presentation passion.

The word captures much of what makes for an especially powerful business presentation.

Edwin Dubois Shurter was a presenting master in the early 20th Century, and he said way back in 1903 that “Earnestness is the soul of oratory.  It manifests itself in speech by animation, wide-awakeness, strength, force, power, as opposed to listlessness, timidity, half-heartedness, uncertainty, feebleness.”

What was true then is surely true today.

And yet, “earnestness” is frowned upon, perhaps, as somehow “uncool.”

Showing Too Much Interest?

If you appear too interested in something, and then you somehow are perceived as having failed, then your business presentation “defeat” is doubly ignominious.

Better to pretend you don’t care.

So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance, so that no defeat is too damaging.  No presentation passion for you!  And you save your best – your earnestness – for something else.

For your friends, for your sports contests, for your facebook status updates, for your pizza discussions, for your intramural softball team . . .

But this also means that all of your presentation victories, should ever you score one or two, are necessarily small victories.  Meager effort yields acceptable results in areas where only meager effort is required.

Leave Mediocrity to Others and Embrace Presentation Passion

Mediocrity is the province of the lazy and nonchalant.  Shurter was a keen observer of presentations and he recognized the key role played by earnestness in a successful presentation: “When communicated to the audience, earnestness is, after all is said and done, the touchstone of success in public speaking, as it is in other things in life.”

Wrap your material in you.

This means giving a business presentation that no one else can give.  A presentation that no one else can copy . . . because it arises from your essence, your core.

It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject.  It means recognizing that the subject of your presentation could be the love of someone else’s life, whether it be their business or their product or their service.  You should make it yours when you present.

In the process, you craft your persona, your powerful personal brand that differentiates you from the great hoi-polloi of undistinguished speakers.  And you achieve remarkable personal competitive advantage.

Embrace your topic with earnestness, and you will shine as you deliver an especially powerful business presentation.

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

The Business Presenter

Business Presenters are powerfulBefore computers.

Before television and radio.

Before loudspeakers.

Before all of our artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, there was the public speaker – the earliest “business presenter.”

The Business Presenter

Public speaking was considered close to an art form.  Some did consider it art.

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

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

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

Skills of the Masters

The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over centuries.  The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument.  The knew the power of words.

In fact, Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory.  He filled his presentations with the “wrong” ideas.

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

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have supplanted them.  Each advance in technology creates another barrier between the business presenter and the audience.

PowerPoint Can Cripple the Business Presenter
Business Presenter
Become a Powerful Business Presenter

Today’s presenters have fastened hold of the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.

The idea is that PowerPoint has removed responsibility from you to be knowledgeable, interesting, concise, and clear.  The focus has shifted from the business presenter to the fireworks.  This has led to such a decline that the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

And in many cases, this is exactly what happens.  Almost as if the business presenter becomes a member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.  You should be able to present without them.

And when you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.

In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university.  Some of them give fabulous presentations.  Most give adequate presentations.

They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

Waiters and waitresses are business presenters.

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

Most students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress.  They view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.

Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.  Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.

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

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

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

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

Yes, heroic.  Every business presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Great business presenters evoke a sense of heroism in customers.  Do this, and you win every time.

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

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

But the principles that inform the great business presenter are the same.

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

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

Their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful business presentations.

For more on becoming a great business presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.