Tag Archives: Business presentations

“You don’t catch hell because . . .”

Earlier, I related how Malcolm X did not do much throat-clearing at the beginning of his talks.

Instead, he thrust a metaphorical sword into his audience.

He drove deeply to the heart of the issue in just a few short sentences, tapping into listener sensitivities.

His initial “grabber” was not meant simply for shock or surprise like a cheap circus feat.  It was shock and surprise linked to the needs of his audience, directly relevant and intertwined closely – even spiritually – with his listeners.

Malcolm did not engage in academic circumlocutions, oblique arguments, or vague generalizations. He said things directly, with punch and verve, with color and power.

He shunned latinate words and phraseology and drove home his point with Anglo-Saxon directness – short, powerful, repetitive sentences, constructed of the sturdiest syllables.

And once he had audience attention, he kept it.

Holding the Audience in your Grasp

One technique he used to hold his audiences rapt was the offering a single point and then colorfully making that point by means of a repetitive technique called the anaphora. It’s a technique that you can use as well.  Here’s how it works.

A powerful and carefully selected phrase is utilized at the beginning of a succession of sentences.  With each repetition, the presentation builds to a climax to produce a powerful emotional effect.  In Malcolm’s example we’re about to see, he uses the anaphora skillfully to identify a point of commonality among those in his audience that he holds with them.

I previously offered an example of one of Malcolm’s speeches delivered in 1963.  Let’s revisit that talk, review the first couple of sentences, and then see how Malcolm uses the anaphora to powerful emotional effect.  The speech was called  Message to the Grass Roots, and he delivered it in Detroit.  Note how Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

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

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

America’s problem is us. We’re her problem. The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here. And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted. Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

What comes next?

Now that Malcolm X has the full attention of his listeners, it’s time to make point # 1 – unity and commonality of purpose. He chooses the anaphora as his technique, and he does so masterfully. His phrase of choice is “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences.  When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist or Baptist, you don’t catch hell becasue you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk, and you sure don’t catch hell because you’re an American; because if you were an American, you wouldn’t catch hell.  You catch hell because you’re a black man.  You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.

 Malcolm has established beyond all doubt that he shares a commonality with his listeners that is directly tied to the central thesis of his talk. He drives his point home with the anaphora:  “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

He utilized the same theme, or trope, in the video below in this speech before another audience in 1964.  This time his anaphora was slightly different:  “We’re not brutalized because–”  And it is just as powerful with its mesmerizing effect. The entire video shows a master presenter in tune with his audience and in control of his message.

 

Malcolm’s delivery is masterful . . . his voice, his tone, his inflection, his humor, his posture, and his gestures combine with his rhetorical techniques to establish an incredible bond with his listeners.  You sense his control of the event.

So what does this have to do with you and with business presenting?

Just this.

A powerful and graceful speaker, Malcolm X utilized an entire battery of oratorical weapons.  He intuitively understood the oratorical methods developed over more than 2500 years, and he wielded them with grace and with power.  These techniques can be yours.  You need only understand them, their function, their effects, and practice them.

For instance, the anaphora of repetition.  You can use anaphora as a powerful technique to hammer home your most important points and to hold your audience in the midst of your presentation.

But you may Hesitate

You may protest that Malcolm X lived and struggled in a different place and time over issues far more important that you or I will ever face.  Yes, he did.  The stakes were incredibly high and, for him, became quite literally a matter of his death.  But regardless of the message, the techniques of powerful presenting remain the same.  They are verities handed to us over centuries.

And if you refuse to learn from our great legacy of master speakers, if you do not emulate them, who then will you learn from?  The CEO of Coca-Cola?  Hardly.

A cornucopia of especially powerful techniques is available to you.  You may not struggle for justice on an international platform, but this does not absolve you from crafting the most powerful presentation you possibly can using the techniques of the masters.

Surely while the emphasis and tone of your message changes with circumstance, but not the methods themselves.  The anaphora is one such technique you should incorporate into your repertoire.

Malcolm X used a multiplicity of techniques to engage his friends and to disarm his enemies.  You can use them, too, and we’ll look at them in future posts.

Surviving the Group Presentation

Personal Competitive Advantage in group presentations
Group Presentations can test our collaboration skills

“How come I never get a good group?”

Who hasn’t uttered this pitiful refrain during business school when laboring over a group presentation?

Leaving aside the conceit of faux martyrdom for a moment, let’s recognize that group work is a necessity in the 21st century business world.  Your group has been assembled with a professional purpose in mind, not to make your life miserable.

The Group Presentation Ethos

Hold in your heart, the group presentation ethos, which is to drive forward to your common goal regardless of personal differences.

You will disagree with each other on aspects of the presentation.  How you disagree and how you resolve those disagreements for the good of the team and of your presentation is as important as the presentation itself.

It’s essential that you maintain civil relations, if not cordial relations, with others in the group – don’t burn bridges.

You don’t want to engender dislike for people, perhaps for the rest of your life.  The people in the various group projects will form an important part of your network in years to come.

Remember that the relationship is paramount.  The group presentation itself is secondary.

The Arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”

Your job is to craft a group experience, assign responsibilities, develop a reasonable schedule.  Some group members will make time commitment choices that do not appear aligned with your group objectives.  You hear phrases such as “I can’t make the meeting.”  You may hear the outright arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”

This, of course, is simply a person’s choice to be somewhere else to spend time in other pursuits.  Everyone has the same amount of time, no more and no less.

Different people make different choices about the use of their time.

Recognize that this will happen and that it is neither good nor bad – it is simply the hand that you are dealt.

How you react to it will in large part determine the success of your group.  One part of your job to properly motivate others to contribute to the group goal.

I always communicate to my students what to expect in a 5-person group.  The 2-2-1 rule will usually hold.

Two people work hard, two cooperate and are damned happy to be there, and one rarely shows up, because he or she has a “busy schedule.”  Another popular take on it is to apply the Pareto 80-20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people.

The corollary, of course, is that 80 percent of problems are caused by 20 percent of the people.  A different 20 percent.

Group Presentations Aren’t Fair?

That’s reality.  Is it “fair?”  Maybe or maybe not, but that’s a question for philosophers of distributive justice and irrelevant to the imperatives of group work.

Regardless of how you couch it, do not take your group woes to the professor for solution.  Your professor knows well what you face.  He wants you to sort it out.

You must sort it out, because your professor is not your parent.

Your professor won’t appreciate it any more than your CEO or VP superior at your company appreciates solving your personnel issues . . . repeatedly.  It reflects badly on you and gives an impression of weakness.

Moreover, if you begin to focus heavily on who’s not carrying their “fair share,” then that becomes the dominant theme of your group dynamic rather than that of accomplishing your group goal.

Such misplaced focus and animosity reflects badly in the final product.

Keep these guiding principles in mind as you chart your course through the labyrinth of group work.  Every group is different, temporary, and frustrating in its own way.

Don’t allow the briars of this ephemeral activity catch your clothing and slow you down from your ultimate goal – an especially powerful group presentation.

And consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on Group Presentations.

Group Presentation Tips for Power and Impact

Group Presentation Tips Help You Survive
Group Presentation Tip #1: Business School Presentations help you hone your collaboration skills

You find all sorts of problems in group work, so I offer here group presentation tips to help you survive this business school rite of passage.

Anyone who has participated in even one group project in college knows that group presentations can challenge you in all sorts of ways.

Perhaps you believe these challenges are external to you?  Others cause problems, right?  Because surely you must not be contributing to the challenges facing your group?

Let’s examine, understand, and overcome these challenges before they get out-of-hand.

Why We Have Problems with Group Presentations . . .

The first major reason is the unpredictability of your situation.  One key characteristic of your group presentation is its rampant unpredictability.  The project appears submerged in ambiguity that we seem powerless to affect.

And you have the messiness of all those other people to worry about.

We all prefer to control our own destinies.  Most all of us want to be judged on our own work.  We like to work alone.  Our labors are important to us. We take pride in our work.

This is very much the craftsman’s view.

But with group work, the waters muddy.  It becomes difficult to identify who is doing what, and consequently, we worry about who will get the credit.

We worry if there will even be any credit to distribute if our presentation collapses under the burden of multiple minds and differing opinions and people who seem not to care.

Group Presentation Tips Can Help You Survive and Thrive
Group Presentations need not be the torturous ordeals they are made out to be

We worry that our contribution will be overlooked.  We worry that someone else will take credit for our work and we’ll be left with the crumbs.

We see ourselves submerged, and as we sink into a kind of group ethos, our individual identity is threatened.

How will the boss, the professor, or anyone else, know what we do?  How will they know our contribution?

With every additional person, the unknown variables multiply.  Worse, what if we get saddled with a reputation for poor work because someone else screwed up?

The second major reason for group failure is the ordeal of time management and scheduling.  Six different students, each with differing class schedules and who often are working part-time, must somehow work together.

Moreover, you may be several classes that require group projects.  And you are faced with the pathology of one or two team members who “don’t have time for this.”

So the difficulties mentioned here multiply.

Why the Group Presentation?  It’s a Complex World

The group presentation is not an easy task.  It can be downright painful.  Infuriating.

It can turn student-against-student faster than anything else in college outside of Greek rush.

So why do your professors require them?  Why do all of your B-school professors seem determined to put you through this misery?

You’ve probably heard the spurious reasons.  One pervasive student myth is that professors assign group work so they can cut their own grading work load.

The reasoning goes something like this: it is much easier for a professor to grade six presentations or papers than to grade 30 individual papers.

This myth is so pervasive that it has become conventional wisdom among students.  There are three big problems with this, and consider them supplementary group presentation tips.

Group Presentation Tips to Survive and Thrive

First, by definition, individual work is not group work.  If group work is an essential part of the workplace experience, then individual papers or other assignments do not contribute to the learning experience that is specifically designed to prepare you for the workplace.

Second, professors often are required to assign some form of group work in their courses.  The prevailing pedagogy in most business schools advocates the group work experience as essential to prepare students for the 21st Century workplace.

Frankly, this is the way it should be.

Third, this myth assumes that professors enjoy watching students stumble their way through awkward presentations, poorly prepared and half-heartedly delivered.

While you, as a student, prepare for only one or two presentations, the professor oftentimes watches 25 presentations or more during a semester and then evaluates them.

This can be an unpleasant experience.

Embrace Group Work in a Complex World

The proverbial bottom line that we all talk about in business school is this:  You do “group work” because it is essential to the 21st Century business world.  In fact, corporate recruiters list it as the second-most-desired skill in the job candidates they consider.

So as your #1 group presentation tip, why not embrace the group presentation as a necessary component of your school experience?

From a practical standpoint, we cannot produce major products by ourselves, because the days of the business generalist are all dead in corporate America.  Specialization rules the business workplace, and the manipulation of knowledge is ascendant.

You will become one of these knowledge-workers upon graduation.

You also will begin to specialize in certain work, especially if you join a large firm.  This is because business operations today are incredibly complex and fast-paced.

These two factors make it almost impossible for any one person to isolate himself or herself from the combined operations of the firm.  Major tasks are divided and divided again.  Think of it as an extreme form of division of labor.

So we must work with others.  The globalized and complex business context demands it.

In later posts, I share group presentation tips on how to thrive and turn the group business presentation into the cornerstone experience for your first job out of school . . . or your next job after getting your MBA.

For more extensive group presentation tips, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Listen, Write, Present – REVIEW!

I am all for especially powerful communication, no matter the field and no matter the topic.

Clear, concise, direct.

And while many books on presenting give promise to you, few deliver on that promise.

I collect those kinds of books – books on public speaking, on presenting, on oratory.  I own almost 1,000 of them, going back to original volumes published in 1762 . . . and to reprints of classic works from ancient Rome and Greece.  And, of course, books from our modern gurus of clear communication, only a handful of which I recommend.  Many books are good, some are bad . . . and a very few are great.

I recommend this one.

Listen, Write, Present.

The Keys to the Kingdom?

We all want the keys to the kingdom, the secrets to help us develop into powerful presenters.  Or at least we ought to want to become capable presenters if presenting is part of our mandate in the workplace.  This is crucial for those of who work in esoteric fields, such as in science or technology.

If you work in science or technology, recognize that those of us not facile in the vernacular of your specialty will have especial difficulty in receiving complex messages not delivered in a way that’s understandable.  And yet, you wonder how to communicate to those outside your priesthood.

So what can you do?

Listen, Write, Present is one answer to your dilemma.

Written by Stephanie Roberson Barnard and Deborah St. James for Yale University Press, this work is a tonic for virtually all of the ailments that plague the goodhearted presenter, who wants to communicate the core of her or his work – but finds the task daunting.  The task is clear and the mission important, because:

“What you say, how you say it, and why you say it speak volumes.  Make sure that the words coming from your mouth and the actions accompanying them truly reflect what you want to communicate.  Whether you’re communicating to your patients, your clients, your colleagues, or your boss, your success depends on structuring a clear message and delivering that message with confidence and conviction.”

Especially Powerful

And this book is packed with instruction on just how to do all of that . . . and more.  I am a big fan of books that seek to transform the reader in positive ways, and Listen, Write, Present stands tall in that category.  Ms. Barnard and Ms. St. James don’t provide useless communication “theory” – they tell you exactly what you must do to craft your message and deliver a winning presentation, particularly if you work in a technical field.

But even outside the science disciplines, this book can mold you into a more capable speaker, because many of the principles proffered are universal precepts from the canon of great speaker techniques.  Moreover, the book is a delight to read . . . clear, pleasant, and elegant prose

As the book’s preface contends, if you are a science professional who wants to achieve better outcomes with patients, gain more funding for research, or advance your career or receive that coveted promotion, then precision communication skills are required.

This book delivers on the promise to mold you into that especially powerful communicator,  provided, of course, that you actually commit to transforming yourself and your presenting habits.  I recommend that you do.

A worthy book and a proud addition to your collection!

Focus on Your Presentation Story MIP

Presentation Story for Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Story can Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

I advocate storytelling in your business presentations.

Stories can capture powerful ideas in a few telling strokes, and stories involve your audience better than any other competing technique.

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

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

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

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

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

What is your Most Important Point?  Your MIP?

Decide!

Decide and make that point the focus of your presentation story.  Rivet your attention on that salient feature!

Let this be core of your story and build around it.

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

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

MIP Permeates Your Presentation Story

Your MIP should run through your story, both directly and indirectly.

It informs your story and keeps you on-track as you prepare and practice your presentation.  At each stage of your presentation preparation, ask yourself and members of your group if the material at hand supports your MIP.

If it does not, then it does not belong in your story.

Telling a story does not mean reliance upon emotion only.  You must have substance.  There must be a significant conclusion with each supporting point substantiated by research and fact and analytical rigor.  This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it much better than I can:

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

Powerful presentation storytelling can be the source of incredible personal competitive advantage.  Give it a try.

And consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting to develop the entire range of presenting skills.

Uptalk Prisoner Liberated!

Eliminate uptalk in your presentationsToday, I link to an inspiring story, a story of a brave girl who, through courage and persistence, overcame her debilitating handicap – the business presentation pathology of Uptalk.

This testimony on conquering Uptalk  is too good not to share.

It relates to a young woman who recognized her own debilitating verbal pathology of Uptalk and committed herself to ovecoming it.

She corrected it. Bravo!

Uptalk Gives You a Clueless Aura

Uptalk is sometimes called, by the Brits, the “Moronic Interrogative.”

Anyone who has had my classes or read for any length of time my hectoring in this blog-space knows of my crusade against this crippling vocal trend.  Uptalk leeches all credibility from the speaker.

Sometimes called the “High rising line” or “Valley speak,” this crippling quirk confers upon the user a clueless aura of uncertainty.

This is perhaps the single biggest discriminator between mature, professional presenters and the thousands of amateurs who can’t even hear the plaintive whine in their own constantly questioning sentences.

There is a reason that powerful, confident speakers hold audiences rapt.  The strength of their oratory is its declarative nature.  You hear no constant plea for validation in their voices.  You hear no pathological valley girl uptalk.

I crusade against uptalk, but not only because of its destruction of otherwise good presentations.  Uptalk can mean professional suicide for young graduates.  The insidious thing is that the eager abuser of language, the self-victimizer, won’t even know what lost her or him the job.  Uptalk can drive job interviewers crazy.  Uptalk can drive presentation audiences crazy.

Uptalk is the line between a professional speaker and the utter amateur.  It’s completely within your power to cross that line.  The young woman in this story did.  Here’s a passage from her woman’s testimonial . . .

I wasn’t expecting a priest to equip me for life but he did.  It started on the first day of theology class in catholic high school in Pennsylvania.

My theology teacher was a blind priest.  In our discussion-based religion course, he identified students by the sound of their voices.  Like many high school girls, I was an uptalk offender.  When I talked out loud in class, everything had the spoken equivalent of an ellipsis or a question mark on the end of it.

Here’s the entire story.

Throwing off the shackles of Uptalk can be liberating.  To learn more on how to do it, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

No More Business Presentation Stage Fright!

Professional Presence no more presentation stage fright
Presentation Stage fright can leech the energy and confidence from our business presenting

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.

Controlling Presentation Stage Fright

Your measure of your self-confidence is really a measure of 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 and uncaring of others’ expectations.  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.

For many, the audience is your bogeyman.  And 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.  For some reason many folks fear the audience.  Needlessly.

But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say.  And 99.99 percent of them mean you well.  They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.

Overcome presentation stage fright with power and panache
Seize the Command Position and act like you belong there to overcome presentation stage fright

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 school presentation journey.

And so confidence is yours for the taking.

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 for  a moment.

See?  We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action.

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 with which you feel comfortable, through repetition or intimate familiarity.

Why are you confident?

Paradoxically, it’s 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.  Presentation stage fright is so universal and it is so pervasive that we must come to grips with it.

This fear has made its way down through the ages.  It has afflicted and paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you.  Generations of speakers before you 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?  How have centuries of speakers successfully overcome this bete noire of stage fright?

They have done it by reducing uncertainty.

Reduce your uncertainty by following the Three Ps.

Principles, Preparation, Practice

Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps:  Principles, Preparation, Practice.  Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence.  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.

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.

Presentation stage fright
Professional presence can imbue your presentation with exceptional credibility, so eliminate that Presentation Stage Fright

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 in possession of the facts.  You are prepared.  You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice.  You eliminate Presentation Stage Fright.

There is always, of course, an element of uncertainty.  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.

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 presentation stage fright forever.

For much more on developing professional presence and achieving personal competitive advantage through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

Keys to Successful Presentation Preparation

Presentation Preparation is key to successLet’s say that you are assigned the ToughBolt business case . . . how do you begin your business presentation preparation?

It’s not an easy question.  How we prepare and practice can be as crucial as the substance of our show.

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

Now, you must present before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation.

What now?

The Key to Successful Presentation Preparation is . . .

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

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

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

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

It’s a completely different mode of communication.

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

Completely different.

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

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

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

    Presentation Preparation

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

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

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

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

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

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.  It’s totally wrong, and it’s totally unneccessary.

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

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

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

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

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 tPresentation Preparation . . . the winning edgehey “interest” you.  That’s not the point.

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

I have found the following to be true:

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

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

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

Let’s shed that attitude.

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

Crank up Interest

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

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

Let’s go . . .

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

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

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

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

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

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

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively. And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum. 

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

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

Your slides are crammed with information.

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

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

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

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

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

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

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

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

Your Procrustean Solution

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

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

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

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

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

Only three.

Here is your task now:

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

Why do we do this? Here’s why:

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

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

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

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.

You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

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

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

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

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

For more on successful presentation preparation, consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Enter the Power Zone

Enter the Power Zone for Especially Powerful Presentations

Business Presenting is filled with paradoxes.

For instance . . .  the quizzical Power Zone.

It’s a place everyone wants to be, but where almost no one wants to go.

This is really the strangest thing, and it alwayss amazes me anew the reasons people concoct for not becoming powerful speakers.

The Power Zone is a metaphor for that realm of especially powerful business presenters, a place where  everyone is a capable, confident, and competent communicator, where every meal’s a feast and every speech kissed by rhetorical magic.

Yes, you can go there.  And almost everyone claims they want to go to the Power Zone.  But even when people are told clearly how to reach the Power Zone, most don’t go.

They find an excuse.

No Argument Here

Disbelief . . .  Principle . . . Ideology . . .  Sloth . . . Disregard . . . Fear . . . even Anger.

They contrive the darnedest reasons not to, from ideological to lazy.

In my presentations to various audiences, I am invariably faced with the arguer, the gadfly who knows better, sometimes vocal, oftentimes not.  The person who is adamant, steadfastly against what is being said.  Usually for the most spurious of reasons.

And it’s an exercise in futility for the gadfly.  Because the choice to enter the Power Zone is personal and completely optional.  I make no argument against the gadfly’s objections, whatever the source.

The latest batch of objections s

Choose to enter the Power Zone and you cannot go back to your old ways of presenting

prang from one woman’s ideology.  She apparently believed in au courant political philosophy that dictates how people should behave and react to others based on . . . well, based on what she believed to be right and proper.  In short, rather than communicate with people in the most effective way possible, she wanted to do something else . . . and then lecture her audience if they didn’t like her way of presenting, whether based on appearance, voice, gestures, or movement.

She wanted to deliver prese

ntations her way, and blame her audience if they didn’t respond positively and, presumably, with accolades.

She complained that my presentation of techniques, skills, and principles  “sounds like it’s from 100 years ago.”

And I say praise the Lord for that.

I draw on 2,500 years of presentation wisdom of Presentation Masters like Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Webster, Bryant, and Roosevelt, so I’m not doing my job if it sounds otherwise.

She complained that some of the gestures seemed “too masculine” and that she would feel “uncomfortable”  doing them as she believed they don’t look “feminine.”

I replied to her this way . . .

Just Don’t Do it

I told her this:

“Don’t do them.  Don’t do these gestures.  Don’t do anything that makes you feel ‘uncomfortable.’  Don’t utilize gestures proven 100,000 times to be powerful and effective.  Go ahead, substitute what you know to be better.  Do exactly what you have been doing all along, and emerge from this lecture hall not having been changed one iota.  And then . . . wonder at how you have not improved.  At all.”

But do that with the full knowledge that you leave the competitive advantage you might gain just sitting on the playing field for someone else to pick up.

They’ll be happy you did.

Comfort?  You don’t feel “comfortable” utilizing certain gestures?  Since when did our “comfort” become the sine qua non of everything we try?  Who cooked this  “comfort” thing up, and when did it gain currency?  Has any greater cop-out ever been devised?

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” doing something you’ve never tried before.

A baby feels anything but comfort as it springs from the womb and is forced to breathe air instead of amniotic fluid and faces the cold  of a delivery room.

A child feels anything but comfort as he learns the periodic table and the multiplication table or riding a bike or a new sport or meets new people and is forced to hear contrary opinions.

An athlete feels discomfort as she trains to develop skill, power, speed, and strength in the gym so as to perform at a superior level.

Does it feel “comfortable” to push forward and extend our capabilities into new and desirable areas?  Likely as not, it’s a difficult process, but we certainly don’t accept “discomfort” as a reason not to do something necessary to achievement of a goal.

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

Of course you don’t feel “comfortable” speaking before a group if you’ve never done it before or done so with no success.  That’s the whole point of especially powerful presenting – expanding the speaker’s comfort zone to encompass powerful communication techniques that lift you into the upper echelon of business presenters.  And drawing upon 25 Centuries of wisdom and practice to do so.

But some folks scowl at this.  It requires too much of them.

Or it conflicts with the way they think the world ought to work.  Or the Seven Secrets for Especially Powerful Presenting aren’t mystical enough for them.  Secrets ought to be . . . well, they ought to have magic sparkles or something, right?

So . . .  if you find this somehow unsatisfactory and unsatisfying or in conflict with your own ideology or philosophy . . . if you believe the answer should somehow be more mystical or revelatory or tied to the high-tech promises of our brave new world, then I say this to you:  “Go forth and don’t use these techniques.”

There is no need to fume over this or that nettlesome detail.  It’s completely unnecessary, because no one compels you to do anything.  And this is what is so infuriating for the habitual naysayers – complete freedom. The freedom not to travel into the Power Zone.

I show you the way to the Power Zone, where you can be one of the exceptional few who excels in incredible fashion . . . but you can choose not to go.

If not, good luck and Godspeed with your own opinions and philosophies and endless search for presentation excellence located somewhere else.  Let 1,000 presentation flowers bloom!

But if you elect to draw upon the best that the Presentation Masters have to offer . . . then I extend congratulations as you step onto the path toward the Power Zone, toward that rarefied world of especially powerful presenters.

For more on how to enter and thrive in the Power Zone, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Voice – The Secret Video

Not many of us readily accept coaching or suggestions of how to improve ourselves, particularly when it comes to highly personal aspects of our very being.  For instance . . .

Your voice.

There’s nothing sacred, sacrosanct, or “natural” about your speaking voice.  Your voice is the product of many years of development from numerous influences, many of which you may be unaware of.

Why not evaluate your voice today?  See if it gets the presentation job done for you.

Does your voice crack?  Does it whine?  Do you perform a Kim Kardashian vocal fry at the end of every sentence?  Does it tic up at the end of every sentence for no good reason?

Do you lard your conversation with nonsensical filler such as “whatever,” “umm,” “totally,” and “like” hundreds of times per day?

Why not change for the better?

Develop an Especially Powerful Voice

It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being.  It is an instrument with which you communicate.

You can sharpen your communication skills by improving your voice.  Simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality. Working to improve it will improve its quality dramatically and build your voice into an especially powerful skill for personal competitive advantage.

Let’s consider here several things you can do to improve your voice. Nothing extreme at all.  Have a look . . .

Especially Powerful Gesture – Video

Reagan Gestured like a Master. So Should You.

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

We gesture to add force to our points, to slam home the major theme of our presentation.

To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness . . . even fear.

A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?

While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning.  Speaking Master James Winans noted in 1915 that this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues.  Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Another Arrow in Your Quiver

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.  You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can pack power into your presentation.  On rare occasion, they can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

Your careful, thoughtful gestures increase your talk’s persuasiveness and lend gravitas to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to an especially powerful level, a level far above the mundane.

You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.  Let’s look at some examples . . .

An Especially Powerful Stance – Video

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.

The good news is that we can develop it, and it goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence.

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capacity for it.  It’s a kind of self-sabotage that many engage in.

One client I have from a foreign country has incredible charisma and the fundamental tools to develop personal magnetism and powerful personal presence; but he plays it down and attempts to diminish his presence.

An Especially Powerful Stance

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy, and so we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.  He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height and employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.  He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we worked together on developing an especially powerful presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.  How can you go about doing this?

Have a look at my short instructional video on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance . . .

Walk like Loki . . . for Professional Presentation Appearance

Your walk communicates confidence . . . or not
Walk like Loki to add to an especially powerful and professional presentation appearance

Loki is a diminutive fellow, and yet he projects a powerful and professional presentation appearance.

You get that from the first minutes of the film Thor, and in the newly released Avengers.

Loki is played by British actor Tom Hiddleston, whose other roles include F. Scott Fitzgerald in the light Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris.  He’s classically trained and quite good.  My humble opinion in this out-of-school-for-me area is that his best roles are ahead of him.

While he is small in stature, Hiddleston’s Loki comes across as imposing at times, even regal.  Just as evil incarnate should be.

How does this little guy pull it off?  Is it clever camera angles?  Make-up?  Voice modulator?

One reason that Loki is imposing is . . . his walk.

Walking the Walk for Professional Presentation Appearance

Loki’s walk is astonishingly good.  Graceful and especially powerful.

How is this so?  What, exactly, is he consciously doing?  And if we call Loki’s walk good, then does that mean—?

Does it mean that there is something we might call a “bad walk?”

That depends.

As a means of locomotion, I imagine most any walk can get the job done, except exaggerated striding or pimp-swaggering that can damage joints over time.

But if we consider business presenting, we see something totally different.  If we examine the walk as a means to enhance or degrade your effectiveness as a business presenter, then there most assuredly is something we can identify as a “bad walk.”

Bad Walking

Consider the “bad walks” you see every day . . . all the time.  Watch people.  On the street.  In the gym.  At the park.

You see all kinds of walks.

Pigeon-toed shuffles, duck-walks, shambling gangsta walks, choppy-stepping speedwalks.  You see  goofy addlepated walks, languorous random-walks, hunchbacks yammering into cell phones.

Let a thousand walks scourge the sidewalks!

But if you want a walk that gives you a professional competitive advantage, then . . .

Then watch actors.

Watch actors or anyone trained to perform in the public eye, and you see a distinctive difference.  A big difference, and a difference worth bridging in your own walk if you wish to take your presenting to the highest level.

Walk like Loki . . . for Professional Presentation Appearance
Don’t let a bad walk detract from your Professional Presentation Appearance when it’s simple to adopt a confident posture and magnificent stride

Why?

It should be obvious that carriage and poise play into how an audience perceives you and your message, and much of this emanates from your presentation appearance.  We must remember that no one has a right to be listened to.  It’s a privilege, and we must earn that privilege.

One way to earn the privilege is by projecting purpose and poise, which carries into your message and invests it with legitimacy.  A powerful, purposeful walk can do just that, helping you to develop an enduring professional presence.

You gain gravitas and confidence.  You add to your personal competitive advantage in a significant and yet subtle way.

Loki’s walk is classic and provides us instruction for creating an impression of power, confidence, and competence.

In an earlier time, it was called the “Indian Walk.”  Here it is:  Shoulders square, you walk with one foot in front of the other, but not as exaggerated as that of runway models.

This achieves an effect of elegance, as the act of placing one’s feet this way directs the body’s other mechanical actions to . . . well, to perform in ways that are pleasing to the eye.  It generates the confident moving body posture that invests actors, politicians, and great men and women in all fields with grace and power.

Watch Loki in film.  Understand the power generated by an especially powerful walk.

Then make it your own.  Add power to your personal brand, and walk like Loki for Professional Presentation Appearance.

For more on how to improve your presentation appearance, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

 

Uptalk Undermines the Best Presentations

Uptalk can kill your professional reputation
Why handicap your business presentations with juvenile uptalk?

Uptalk is the most ubiquitous speech pathology afflicting folks under thirty.

Once it grips you, uptalking is reluctant to let go.

It’s maddening, and it infests everyone exposed to this voice with doubt, unease, and irritation.  It bellows amateur when used in formal presentations.

It cries out:  “I don’t know what I’m talking about here . . . I just memorized a series of sentences and I’m spitting them out now in this stupid presentation.”

If you have this affectation – and if you’re reading this, you probably do – promise yourself solemnly to rid yourself of this debilitating habit.

Quash Uptalk!

But recognize that it’s not that easy.  Students confide in me that they can hear themselves uptalking during presentations, sentence after questioning sentence.  But for some reason, they simply cannot stop.

So exactly what is this crippling Verbal Up-tic?

Uptalk is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.”

This is an unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked.  It radiates weakness and uncertainty and doubt.

It conveys the mood of unfinished business, as if something more is yet to come.

Sentence after sentence in succession is spoken as if a series of questions.

Uptalk  =  “I have no idea what I’m talking about”

You create a tense atmosphere with uptalking that is almost demonic in its effect.  This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness, a general creepiness.

At its worst, your listeners want to cover ears and cry “make it stop!”   . . . but they aren’t quite sure at what they should vent their fury.

In certain places abroad, this tic is known as the Australian Questioning Intonation, popular among young Australians.  The Brits are less generous in their assessment of this barbarism.  They call it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.

In United States popular culture, Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain, has made a brisk living off her uptalk.  Listen for it in any interview you stumble upon or popular youth-oriented television show.  Disney Channel is a training camp for uptalk.

Reality television females, as a breed, seem unable to express themselves in any other way.  Their lives appear as one big query.

But you can fix it.  And recognizing that you have this awful habit is halfway to correcting it.  For many young speakers, uptalk is the only roadblock standing between them and a major step up in presentation power.

Evaluate your own speech to identify uptalk.  Then come to grips with it.

For more on presentation pathologies like uptalk and how to overcome them in especially powerful fashion, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

If you could have only one business presentations guide . . .

This is one Business Presentations GuideIf you could have only one business presentations guide to help you with your presentations, what would it be?   [Aside from my own]

You have many from which to choose.  Too many, in fact.

Hundreds of them.

So this question is part rhetorical and part genuine inquiry to discover what motivates, trains, and aids students and young executives in their development into capable presenters.  No, not just into capable presenters . . . especially powerful presenters.

I have my own answer to this question, of course, and I’ll share it with you in a moment.  It’s based on reviewing a skein of presentation and public speaking books published over the course of 2,500 years.  All of ’em?  Close to it.

It’s an esoteric subject with a tightly circumscribed group of recognized and established authors and scholars.  The mid- to late 1800s was the golden age for modern oratory and presenting, when Philadelphia was host to the National School of Elocution and Oratory.  Departments of public speaking flourished in universities across the land.

Today’s Tedious Tofu

Today, we have “communications” courses that offer tofu and tedious texts.  They offer impractical and vague suggestions that are often impossible to put into practice.

Today we have The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs supplanting the rich and powerful books of speaking masters who offer the soundest and most-proven presentation instruction in all of recorded history.  This is not to so harshly criticize The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs as to imply that is isn’t useful at all.

The author, Carmine Gallo, is a delightfully engaging public speaker himself.

Gallo pens a superb column for BusinessWeek.  And sure, this book has a pocketful of useful “tips.”

Business Presentations GuideBut the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, is more about Steve Jobs than it is about you.  It’s more about Steve Jobs than about presentation secrets that you can actually use.

Let’s put it this way:  Steve Jobs’s #1 presentation “secret” was to speak only at Apple product launch extravaganzas populated with early adopter evangelicals and to ensure that he was unveiling the next generation high-technology gadget hyped in the world press for the previous 12 months.

In such a scenario, don’t you believe that you and I could paint our faces blue and dress like Jack Sparrow and deliver a successful and quite powerful presentation?

Of course we could, and that was Steve Jobs’s actual “secret.”

Jobs was an above-average speaker with a distinctive style.  His public appearances were highly orchestrated.  His competition in America’s C-Suite was, and remains, abysmal.

In short, Jobs was a celebrity CEO armed with a built-in audience poised to cheer his every word.

That’s surely a “secret,” but it’s not very helpful to the average presenter.

So, will you learn anything from Mr. Gallo’s book?  Sure, but it has nothing to do with Jobs or what he does.

Mr. Gallo laces enough fundamental advice throughout the book to help a neophyte improve his presenting in several aspects.  But the question I asked at the beginning is this:

If you could have only one book to help you with your business presentations, what would it be?

Not that one.

In fact, I could recommend a dozen books that are utterly superb, none of which published after 1950, that far outstrip today’s pedestrian offerings.  Books that offer a wealth of powerful and mysterious techniques to transform you into the most dynamic speaker you possibly can be.

Books to stretch you to your utmost limits, books that propel you to fulfill your fullest presentation potential.

Single books that are worth any 10 “business communication” texts costing more than $1,000 in toto.

But if I had to choose one . . . and only one business presentations guide . . .

It would be this book . . . a book first published in 1913.

This Business Presentations Guide

Subsequent to its original publication, this incredible tome went into more than 58 editions and was constantly in print until 1962.  In that year, it was revised and given a different title, and it went into another 28 editions, the last one I can find published in 1992.  Its title was again revised and a new edition published in 2006.

This book remains in print today.  Many reprint editions are available and are quite inexpensive.  Like diamonds upon the ground that no one recognizes.

And of all the more than 500 presentation books I own, dating from 1762 to the present day (and reprints back to 430 BC), this is the one book I commend to you.  You can search it on Amazon.com and purchase an inexpensive copy today.

The one book I recommend is . . .

Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, by Dale Carnegie.The Business Presentations Guide for all time

Post-1962, the book is called The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, an edition revised by Carnegie’s wife [I dislike the new title, because it gives the mistaken impression that great public speaking can be “quick and easy,” an addition to the original book added much later, but I’ll not cavil on that point here].

The newest edition is called:  Public Speaking for Success.

Of course, Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business doesn’t mention the PowerPoint software package, for obvious reasons.

Instead, this powerful business presentations guide focuses on the most important elements of any presentation, whether delivered by Pericles to the Athenians in 430 BC or by you to your Global Business Policies course in 2012 – you . . . your message . . . your audience.

Buy this book . . .

Read this book. . .

Learn from this book . . .

. . . and then enjoy the fruits.

And if you have room in your library for another business presentations guide, you can always add this superb volume, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Finance Presentation – Four Words for Power and Impact

Add Power and Impact to your Finance Presentation
Add Power and Impact to your Finance Presentation

In working with your slides in your finance presentation, follow the formula Orient … Eliminate … Emphasize … Compare.

This formula produces superb results every time, especially if you are working with difficult financial information.

As preface to this, on all of your slides, ensure that you use a sans serif font and that its size is at least 30 point.

Your numbers should be at least 26 point.

Finance Presentation Clarity

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 briefly display the balance sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.

Tell the audience they view a balance sheet:  “This is a balance sheet for the year 2012.”

Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Touch the screen.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.  This means clicking to the next slide, which has been stripped of irrelevant data.  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.

Sure, put the entire balance sheet or spreadsheet on your first slide, orient your audience as to what it is to provide context, and then click to the next slide.  This next slide should display only the figures you refer to.

Finance Presentation
Your finance presentation need not be unintelligible

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing their size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  Illustrate what the numbers mean by utilizing a chart or graph.

Fourth, compare your results to something else.  Remember that numbers mean nothing by themselves.  Comparison yields meaning and understanding.

For example, think of a children’s dinosaur book.  You’ve seen the silhouette of a man beside a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus, or a Brontosaurus.  The silhouette provides you a frame of reference so you understand the physical dimensions of something new and strange.  You can compare the size of a man with the new information on dinosaurs.

Likewise, we want to provide a frame of reference so that our audience understands the results of our analysis.  We provide a comparison as a baseline.

For instance, if you are talking about financial performance, and you have selected an indicator (such as ROI, or yearly sales revenue growth, or something similar), don’t simply present the information as standalone.  Compare your company’s financial performance against something else.  Do this to make your point and to tell your story.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against itself in prior years or quarters.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against a major competitor or several competitors.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against the industry as a whole.

Compare your firm’s financial performance against similar sized firms in select other industries.

When you Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize . . . and Compare, you create a finance presentation experience that is intelligible and satisfying to your audience.

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

The Only Presentation Structure You Need

The Complete Guide to Business Presentation Structure: What your professors don't tell you... What you absolutely must know
Do you even think about the overall structure of your business presentation, or do you plunge right in?

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.  Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this presentation structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.  Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story part that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.  The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure adds Impact
Your presentation structure should be simple and sturdy, smart and strong

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative, you can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.  Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Presentation Structure Tested in the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.  I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.  Please do so.

But do so with careful thought and good reason.  And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.  This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.  Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what the book is about.

Build your story within this presentation structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

For a more elaborate explanation on how presentation structure can enhance the power of your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Super-Size those McTips?

Personal competitive advantage is yours with a devotion to becoming the best business presenter you possibly can be

With regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people.

For sake of descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”

“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.

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 is 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.  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 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.”

Has 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 weak 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.

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 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.

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.

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 next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity.  For the truth is in the 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 is 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.

Choose the Red Pill.  Step boldy into the Power Zone.

The 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 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.

Move Like Jagger in Your Business Presentation?

Business Presentation
Your movement during your business presentation is as important to plan as your talk itself

After I delivered an incredibly inspiring lecture in a class last year – one of many, I am certain – a student approached me and shared this:

“I stand in one spot for the most part during my presentations,” he said. “But another professor told me to move around when I talk.”

Hmmm.

Move around when you talk.

“Did he tell you how?” I asked.

“Tell me what?”

“Did he tell you how to ‘move around?’  Did he tell you what it would accomplish?”

“No, he just said to ‘move around’ when you talk.”

“Just ‘move around?’”

“Yes.”

Ponder that piece of advice a moment.

Ponder that advice and then reject it utterly, completely.  Forget you ever read it.

What rotten advice.

Never just “move around” in Your Business Presentation

Never just “move around” the stage.

Everything you do should contribute to your message.  Movement on-stage is an important component to your message.  It’s a powerful weapon in your arsenal of communication.

Movements can and should contribute force and emphasis to your show.

But some people move too much.  Like the professor urged, they just “move around” because they don’t know better.  And why should they know better, when some professor urged them to start prowling the stage for the sake of it.

Just as there are those who are rooted to one spot and cannot move while they speak, some folks just can’t stop moving.  They stalk about the stage like a jungle cat, constantly moving, as if dodging imaginary bullets.

They are afraid to cease pacing lest their feet put down roots.

Business Presentation
Never move just to “be moving.” Proper movement can lift your business presentation to a higher level of effectiveness

This kind of agitated movement is awful.

Aimless pacing around the stage is worse than no movement at all.  Aimless movement usually indicates indecision, the sign of a disorganized mind.  It’s usually accompanied by aimless thoughts and thoughtless words.

“Move around when you talk.”

It’s not the worst piece of advice a professor has ever given a student, but it’s incredibly naive.

At first, the advice seems innocent enough.  Even sage.  Aren’t we supposed to move around when we talk?

Don’t we see powerful presenters “move around” when they talk?  Didn’t Steve Jobs “move around” when he presented at those big Apple Fests?

Yes, we see them “move around” quite well.

But do you know why they “move” and to what end?

Do you understand how they orchestrate their words and gestures to achieve maximum effect?  Do you recognize their skilled use of the stage as they appeal to first one segment of the audience, and then another?

Do you think that Bill Clinton or Barack Obama just “move around” when they talk?

If I tell you to “move around when you talk,” what will you actually do?  Think about it for a moment, how you might actually follow-through with that sort of vague advice.  Will you flap your arms?  Do Michael Jackson isolations with your shoulders?  Shake your fist at the crowd?

Move During Your Business Presentation, You Say?

How?  Where?  When?  Why?  How much?

Awful advice.

We will never know how much damage such well-meaning naiveté has done to our presentation discourse.  Like much of what is said, it carries a kernel of truth, but it is really worse than no advice at all.  Centuries of practice and delivery advise us on this question.  Edwin Shurter said in 1903 . . .

Every movement that a speaker makes means – or should mean – something.  Hence avoid indulging in movements which are purely habit and which mean nothing.  Do not constantly be moving; it makes the audience also restless.  Do not walk back and forth along the edge of the platform like a caged lion.  Do not shrug your shoulders, or twist your mouth, or make faces.

You are well on your to mastering your voice and to speaking like a powerful motivator.  Now it’s time to incorporate essential movement.

What must you actually do during your talk?  Where to do it?  How to do it?  Why should you do it . . . and when?

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll answer those questions and show you how to incorporate meaningful movement into your presentation – exactly the types of movement that add power, not confusion.

Interested in more especially powerful techniques for your business presentation?   Click here and discover the world of business presentations.

Your Business Presentation Story

Business Presentation Story for Power
Tell a Business Presentation Story for Power and Impact

We all believe that we should weave stories into our business presentations, and who wouldn’t want to weave a compelling Business Presentation story?

But most of us rarely do.  This might be a result of simply not knowing how.

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

But do we really?

What is a Business Presentation Story?

Here’s my definition of a business presentation story, and it’s honed from a series of definitions that by their nature are slippery.  It’s like trying to define “culture.”  Most folks offer up definitions to suit the points they try to make.

A story is a narrative of events, either true or untrue, that appeals to the emotions more-so than the intellect and which features a character’s struggles to overcome obstacles and reach an important goal.

A business presentation story is . . . well, it’s no different.

Now, why is this important?  Don’t we all somewhat believe, maybe, that stories are important in presenting?

Sure, but when it comes to “serious” presenting, many folks back off what they profess and offer up the usual tofu.  Who knows why, but that’s usually what happens.

Maybe it’s the fraud that many perpetuate that business presentations are a “soft skill” that must yield to . . . something else.

You choose that something else:  “facts,” “numbers,” “hard data.”

These substitutes for a compelling business presentations story offer false precision and faux comfort.

The Presentation Masquerade is Perpetuated

Now, science has come to the rescue.

Social science, at least.

Have a look at this 2007 book by Kendall Haven called Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story.

In this book, Haven compiles a wealth of sociological stories that inform us exactly what is meant by “story” and the source of its power.  He contends that stories work so well because our brains are hardwired to learn most effectively from story-based narratives.  “The mind-boggling and extraordinary truth is that each and every one of thousands of original sources agrees that stories are an effective teaching and learning tool.”

The results of this research are compelling and difficult to believe.  Here is a small sample of findings:

“Story is the best vehicle for passing on valuable information . . . .  Story structure proved equally more effective for teaching theorems, facts, concepts, and tacit information all across the curriculum and the spectrum of human communications.”

The bad news is that most folks remain ignorant of this power.  Not through any fault of their own, but because of the impetus in modern business thought that has erected barriers against story narrative.

The good news is the same point.  You can gain incredible power and advantage by embracing the power of a great business presentation story.

Have a look at Kendall Haven’s book, and be convinced.

For more on the power of telling a good business presentation story, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.