Tag Archives: business presenter

Improve Business Presentation Skills for Power and Impact

Improve business presentation
Improve business presentation skills in a continuous program

When students decide to improve business presentation skills, they often make invidious comparisons that they ought to shun.

They compare themselves to some great speaker whom they admire . . . and they fret that they somehow don’t measure up.  They suspect that they never will.

They fret that they “could never speak like that.”  That the admired speaker has some kind of “natural born talent” that lifts her or him into the rarefied atmosphere of great-speakerdom.

Such comparisons lead inevitably to self-defeat.  They frustrate the motivated student, and they give excuse to the lazy.

They give up and relegate presenting to that professional punishment corner reserved for distasteful tasks that must be occasionally performed.

Now . . . forget those invidious comparisons.

A much more important question begs answer.

Is Your Trajectory True?

What’s your trajectory?  Your presentation trajectory?

Are you improving?  Staying the same?

Getting worse?

Your trajectory is most important, not how “good” you are compared to your speaking luminary of choice.

There is no such destination yardstick against which we measure ourselves.  Really.

There is only the presentation journey.

How to Improve Business Presentation Skills?

With regard to our presenting, there is only one metric by which we should evaluate ourselves, and that metric is Improvement.

Are we getting better?  Are we communicating more persuasively than before?

Through our striving, our patience and practice, through our research and rehearsal.  Bit by bit, are we improving our craft?

Answer yes to these questions, keep your trajectory true, and you are on your way to becoming an especially powerful business presenter.

For more on how to improve business presentation skills across a range of metrics, consult the USABookNews Best Business Career Book of 2012, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Don’t Hate Presentations

Business School, a chance to develop personal competitive advantage by becoming an especially powerful business presenter

If you are like most of the 1.3 million English-speaking business school population worldwide, you doubtless have issues with your business school and its treatment of presentations, which is why you’re reading this now – you might even hate presentations.

If you don’t, then you should suggest Business School Presenting to a buddy who might profit from it.

But if you have a distaste for even the thought of delivering a presentation, then this site’s for you.

One in 644 Million?

Of an estimated 644 million websites worldwide, this is the only site devoted exclusively to business school presentations.

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

Even if this is a lonely outpost today, we know that as quickly as the online community responds to the needs of its users, that could change tomorrow.

Approximately 644 million activie websites in the world

I trust you’ll let me know, so that I can link to these nooks of the web that may hold secrets that we all need.  But right now, this instant, I do believe that this is it.

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

Business school students and young executives need credible and direct resources on presenting  – solid advice and best practices, not vague generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”

In short, you want to know what works and why.

You Don’t Really Want to Hate Presentations

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

You want to know what is a matter of opinion and what, if anything, is carved in stone.

You want to know how to deliver an especially powerful presentation, because you recognize presenting as a key part of your personal professional strategy.

Here you find answers here to the most basic of questions.

  • What is this beast – the business presentation?
  • How do I stand? Where do I stand?
  • What do I say? How do I say it?
  • How do I reduce 20 pages of analysis into a four-minute spiel that makes sense and that “gets it all in?”
  • How should we assemble a group presentation? How do we orchestrate it?
  • Where do I begin, and how?
  • How do I end my talk?
  • What should I do with my hands?
  • How do I conquer nervousness once and for all?
  • How can I tell “what the professor wants?”
  • How do I translate complicated material, such as a spreadsheet, to a PowerPoint slide so that it communicates instead of bores?
2,500 Years of Presenting

Business School Presenting answers every one of these questions and many more that you haven’t even thought of yet.

You may not like the answers.  You may disagree with the answers.

Fair enough.

Let a thousand presentation flowers bloom across the land. Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.  Or not.

But you should know that I offer here the distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets, developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.

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

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

No need to hate presentations when you can deliver them with power
You can become an especially powerful presenter

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

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

If business presenting piques your interest as a keen route to personal competitive advantage, then I encourage you to consult my book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Personal Competitive Advantage . . . Through Presenting

Personal Competitive Advantage Through Presenting
Especially Powerful Personal Presence

Personal presence distinguishes the business presentation as a distinctly different form of communication, and it is the source of its power.

I should say potential power.

For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited in a shameless squandering of personal competitive advantage.

Forfeiture of Personal Competitive Advantage

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.  Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.

What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.  It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice.  It’s what they sense on a subliminal level.  That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.

Here, Paulson has described the impact of Personal Presence.

It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.

Here is where you become part of the message and bring into play your unique talents and strengths.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow and pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, communicating with and persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background, into that indistinguishable mass of grays.  And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena, and they would just as soon compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.

Become an automaton, and you cede important personal competitive advantage.  You forfeit an especially powerful opportunity.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.  Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective.

It becomes a bad communication exercise and an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.

Rise of the Automatons

Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.  Faded is the notion of the skilled public speaker.  Gone is the especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, powerful and convincing.

Absent is Quintilian’s ideal orator:  “The good man, well-spoken.”

We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter, in command of the facts and delivering compelling arguments using all the tools at his or her disposal.

This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.

Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd.  Or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the personal competitive advantage it provides?

For  more on personal competitive advantage through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Engaging Your Audience . . . Video Classic!

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

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

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

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

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

How DO you Engage Your Audience?

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

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

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

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

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

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

End Self-Sabotage . . .

End self-sabotage in your business presentations

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

This is especially prevalent in our business presentations.  We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.

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

Negative self-talk begins with the most ubiquitous cliche in business school – “I hate presentations.”  This is the number one culprit that leads to inevitably awful presentations.  It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

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

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

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

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

There is, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.  How could anyone succeed at anything with this type of visualization?

The world’s elite athletes train the mind as well as the body, and visualization of successful outcomes is one of the techniques they use to prepare for competition.  I work occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques, and all of are one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Develop professional presence with confidence
Confidence is one essential key to developing a powerful professional presence on the podium

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 least rid ourselves of the negative self-talk so that we can give ourselves a fighting chance of succeeding at business presenting.

So why do we talk ourselves down into the morass of self-defeat?  Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation, and this ignorance means incredible uncertainty of performance.  Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

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.  We leave to our own adaptability and confidence to field the remaining unexpected 10 percent.

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.  Envision this, instead – you deliver a tight, first-rate presentation that hits all the right notes, weaves a story that grips your audience, that keeps the audience rapt, and ends in a major ovation and a satisfying feeling of a job well-done.

When we take the stage, we put our minds on our intent, 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.

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

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

Business Presenting (The Secret for Higher Waitstaff Tips)

Cicero was the greatest of Roman orators
Business presentation software such as PowerPoint wasn’t available to Cicero, and this likely was one reason he was an especially powerful presenter

Before computers.  Before television and radio.  Before loudspeakers.

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

The “presenter.”

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 trying to save your soul, the second to take your money, the third to save your life, the fourth to transport you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.

Skills of the Masters

Other professions utilized the proven communication skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.  These were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters, but they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.

To suck the life from “presenting.”

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

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

Business School Presenting, the source of competitive advantage
Becoming a skilled presenter is the open secret to achieving personal competitive advantage and professional presence

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

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

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 speaker to the fireworks, and this has led to such a decline to the point where in extreme cases the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

And in many awful cases, this is exactly what happens.  It’s almost as if the 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

For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.

The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.

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

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

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

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

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

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

Yes, heroic.  Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.

Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you’ll win every time.

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

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

But the principles are the same.

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 maestros who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.

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

The rest of the story is found here.

Great Presentation . . . or Presentation Greatness?

Presentation Greatness and great presentations
Finding your presentation greatness means changing the way you present to achieve personal competitive advantage through great presentations

Nike has a new ad campaign that plays off the Olympics.  Its theme is “Find Your Greatness,” and it is, frankly, a great presentation on presentation greatness.

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars.  The truth is, greatness is for us all.  This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us.”

I like the positive thrust of the ad series, which places the locus of excellence inside each of us and urges us to cultivate a desire to strive and succeed, come what may.

The Hard Truth . . . Our Greatest Enemy

Key in this is often the hard truth that often we can be our worst enemy when it comes to achieving success.

Business presenting can be like that.

More often than not, the biggest obstacle to delivering a superb presentation is our self-doubt and fear of failure.  This can stymie the best of us.  It can result in half-hearted efforts that give us an “out” when we flop.

“I wasn’t even trying,” we can say with a shrug.  And thus spare ourselves the ignominy of putting our heart and effort into a presentation, only to have it “fail.”

The exasperating truth in this is that we need not fear failure.  Or even a job poorly done.  If we invest our minds and hearts in the right kind of preparation, we need not ever “fail” at delivering serviceable, even fantastic, presentations.

We all have the tools.  We all have the potential.  We can all give a great presentation.

But . . . How to Give a Great Presentation?

But it requires us to do the most difficult thing imaginable, and that is actually change the way we present.  This may seem obvious, but it’s not.  Many folks think that a great presentation exists somewhere outside themselves – in the software, in the written notes, in the prepared speech, in the audience somewhere.

The thought that we must step outside our comfort zone and actually adopt new habits while shedding the old ones is . . . well, it’s daunting.  And I hear every excuse imaginable why it can’t be done.  Usually having to do with “comfort.”

“I’m just not comfortable with that.”

Of course you’re not “comfortable” with that.  You’re comfortable with your old bad habits.

These are new habits of superb presenting, and when you adopt them as your own, you become comfortable with them.  When you do, you will be on your way to your own greatness.

You’ll be on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations.  Great presentations!

To further your journey to delivering great presentations, 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 . . .

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.

 

 

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.

Prepare your Presentation . . . Don’t Wing it!

Prepare Your Presentations
Prepare Your Presentations . . . Don’t “Wing” Them.

Always prepare your presentation for your audience in ways that move them.

Offer them something that speaks to them in the language they understand and to the needs they have.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

That’s the paradox.  We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.  We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear in language that gives us comfort.

Then we blame the audience if they don’t “get it.”

Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why they have gathered to hear the message.  Often, a presenter may simply offer an off-the-shelf solution message.

A message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it.

Why Prepare Your Presentation?

Paradoxically, this occurs quite often when men and women of power and accomplishment address large groups of employees or conference attendees.  Infused with the power, arrogance and hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.

They don’t prepare.  They offer standard tropes.

They rattle off cliches, and they pull out shopworn blandishments . . . and they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.  What he says and the way he says it, whatever it was, becomes gospel.

But what we actually witness from presenters of this type is actually a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by any speaker communicates a kind contempt for the audience and for the time of people gathered to listen.

For instance, last year a successful young entrepreneur spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea and then pitching that idea to venture capitalists.  His idea was tremendously successful and, as I understood him, he sold it for millions.

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.  What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

Just a few moments’ thought makes clear how pedestrian this is.  What does it truly mean?  You need a millionaire entrepreneur to tell you this?

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.   It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.

And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.  He obviously did not prepare, but you should prepare your presentation.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful presenters if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  We can gain much by respecting the audience enough to speak to them as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

Conversely, we all can learn from the people we meet and the speakers we listen to, even the bad ones.

Don’t Prepare Your Presentation?

In business school, you sometimes espy classmates who demonstrate this pathology of unpreparedness.  It’s called “winging it.”

Many students tend to approach presentations with either fear or faux nonchalance.  Or real nonchalance.  It’s a form of defensiveness.  This results in “winging it,” where contrived spontaneity and a world-weary attitude carries the day.

No preparation, no practice, no self-respect.  Just embarrassment.  Almost a defiant contempt for the assignment and the audience.

This kind of presentation abomination leaves the easy-out that the student “didn’t really try.”

It is obvious to everyone watching that you are “winging it.”  Why would you waste our time this way?  Why would you waste your own?  You have as much chance of achieving success “winging it” as a penguin has of flying.

Winging it leads to a crash landing of obvious failure, and whether you care or not is a measure of character.

The chief lesson to digest here is to always respect your audience and strive to give them your heart.  Prepare your presentation, and you will always gain a measure of success.

You never will if you “wing it.”

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

Heinous Voices

On the issue of voice, there is much to be said . . . but much better than the written word are examples.

Particularly examples of bad voices.

Egregious voices.

Heinous voices.

Voices of persons in the public eye, who really ought to know better.

I encourage people to take control of their voices rather than allowing them to develop in a chaotic and undisciplined way, perhaps mimicking the ignorant elite.  Voice development is essential for the improvement of your business presentation delivery.

Here, I point out what makes a pleasant communicative voice and what makes for annoying, weak, distracting voices.

A voice that undermines your credibility without you being aware.

CAVEAT:   Heinous Voices . . .

Here I offer two examples from reasonably well-known personages.  Examples of heinous voices that irritate and grind upon the senses.  They offer textbook instruction on what not to do if you are presenting.

The first video features actress Demi Moore, who is afflicted with two glaring voice pathologies.

Her first issue is a verbal grind that sounds as if she needs to clear her throat of something thick and unpleasant.  Her voice gurgles and grinds along because she is not pushing enough air across her vocal cords to hold a steady, let alone mellifluous, tone.

Demi also is plagued with the infuriating verbal uptick – sometimes called the moronic interrogative – in which every declarative sentence is formed as a question, as if she isn’t sure of what she’s saying, as if she is seeking validation from you for everything she says.

The grinding and upticking go on interminably . . . truly painful to hear.  It begins at the 60-second mark . . .

 

 

This second example is a young lady by the name of Danica McKellar — an actress, author, and “mathematician.”  She is certainly not a public speaker, given her cartoon voice and her own verbal grind pathology.

She sounds suspiciously like a Disney Channel-trained former kid actor, possessed as she is with the tell-tale end-of-sentence rasp and shrill cartoon words sourced direct from a pea-sized voice-box.

 

 

If you find yourself afflicted with these pathologies, you can correct them with a few minor adjustments – push air across your vocal cords, use your chest as a resonating chamber, and stop inflecting your voice up at the end of each sentence.

With just a few changes, you can dramatically improve your presenting voice.

The False Gods of Finance Business Presentations

Finance business presentations can be a source of competitive advantage
Finance business presentations can be challenging, for executives as well as business school students

Whether the finance business presentations class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . . or Singapore . . . I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students everywhere—

“Finance is different.”

“We don’t do all of that soft-skill kumbaya presentations stuff.”

“For us, the numbers tell the story.”

The Talisman of Numbers

Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways.  It’s as if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language, less subject to manipulation.

In a chaotic world, a spreadsheet exudes familiarity, a firm valuation offers comfort, an income statement serves as anchor.

For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.  This illusion of certitude exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them.  They see themselves as purveyors of cold hard objective numerical analysis.

Finance presentations are somehow harder, more firmly rooted in . . . well, rooted in the very stuff of business.

The Finance Business Presentation Myth Exploded

But this is an illusion.  The result is 2D presenting, full of voodoo and bereft of nuance and subtle analysis.

Where business presentations are concerned, finance folks are not different, special, unique or otherwise gifted with special powers or incantations denied the mere mortals who toil in marketing or human resources.

We all are subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast, demands that nettle us equally and indiscriminately during the finance business presentation process.

As with most things, there is bad news and good news in this slice of life provided here.

The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica.  It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.

Finance Business Presentation Hell

In fact, many finance business presentations crumble into little more than meeting “discussions” about a printed analysis distributed beforehand, picked apart by jackals with nothing on their minds except proving themselves worthier than who might be unlucky enough to be the presenter du jour.

A presenter or group of presenters stands and shifts uncomfortably while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of gotcha questions, usually couched to demonstrate the mastery of the questioner rather than to elicit any worthy piece of information.

Several finance business presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life . . .

“Just the facts”

Exhortations of “Just the facts” serve as little more than a license to be unoriginal, uninteresting, and unfocused.

“Just the facts”

Folks believe that this phrase gives the impression that they are no-nonsense and hard-core.  But there is probably no more parsimoniously pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase yet to be devised.  It achieves incredible bombast in just three syllables.

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”  Which facts?  Why these facts and not those facts?

Events are three-dimensional and filled with people.  They require explanation and analysis.  Mere “facts” are flat, unemotional, and unsatisfactory proxies for what happens in the real world.  “Just the facts” masks much more than it reveals.

“The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of folks who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them.  “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling,” finance majors often tell me.  “We deal in hard numbers.”

There’s so much wrong with this that it’s difficult to find a reasonable starting-point.  Not only do numbers, alone, tell no story at all . . . if numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be an incomplete story.  A story with distorted reality.

The end result of these presentation shenanigans is mediocrity and outright bad presentations.  If firms want nothing more than a group discussion about a handout, with the only thing distinguishing the “presenters” from the audience is that they are standing, then so be it.

It may be useful.  It may be boring.  It may be morale-building. It may be team-destroying.  It may be time-wasting.

But whatever else it is, it is not a presentation.

“Cut ’n’ Paste”

This is the heinous data dump that all of us see at some unfortunate time in our careers.  PowerPoint slides crammed with data in tiny, unreadable font.  The display of these heinous slides is accompanied by a sweep of the arm and the awful phrase: “As you can see . . . ”

The cause of this pathology is the rote transfer of your written report to a PowerPoint display, with no modification to suit the completely different medium.  The result?

Slides from Hell.

The Presentation Good News!

In every obstacle exists an opportunity.  Because the bar for finance business presentations is so low, if you invest your presentations with the powerful principles that apply to all business presentations, your own shows will outstrip the competition by an order of magnitude.

This, of course, implies that your content is rock-solid.  It should be.  Your ratio analysis, your projected earnings, your sophisticated modeling should all reflect the superb finance education you have received.

Business School Presenting can improve your finance business presentations
Swim against the tide of bad finance business presentations and imbue your presentations with power and brio

But how you present that content is the key to presentation victory.

All of the presentation principles that we discuss here apply to finance business presentations.  Particularly the parsimonious display of numbers and the necessity for their visual clarity.  If anything, finance business presentations must be more attentive to how masses of data are distilled and displayed.

A situation statement must be given.

A story still must be told.

Your analysis presented.

Conclusions must be drawn.

Recommendations must be made.

And external factors must be melded with the numbers so that the numbers assume clarity and meaning in an especially powerful 3D presentation.

If you do the above, and nothing more, then your finance business presentations will outshine the hoi polloi with ease.

But you can push even further, delving even more deeply into the masterful techniques and principles available to you, learning to use your tools skillfully.  You can rise to the zenith of the finance business presentations world because you are part of the tiny minority who seizes the chance to deliver an especially powerful presentation.

Your best source for deeper insight on delivering especially powerful finance business presentations is my book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Quintilian

Quintilian, one of the greatest business presenters of all time

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

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

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

The Institutes of Oratory.

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

Lost to History?

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

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

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

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

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

Timeless Secrets

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the powerful history and techniques of presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Who is “The Business Presenter?”

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

Before computers.  Before television and radio.

Before loudspeakers . . .

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

The “presenter.”

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

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

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

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

Skills of the Masters

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Words for Business Presentations

Power Words for Business imbue your business presentation with impactHere I speak of Power Words for Business.

Words are the stuff of power.

Anyone who works with words for a living knows their power.  Well, let me issue a caveat.  Anyone who works with words ought to know their power.

Every profession has its power words.  Words that elicit emotion.  Power words that move people to action.

When we use the right power words for business presentations, the effect on an audience can be electric.

And this is why we should be concerned about power words for business.

Power Words for Business

Words have power.  A power that is amorphous, deceptive, difficult to master, if it is at all possible to master.

It’s necessary to respect words and their function.  To understand the visceral strength in well-structured phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that hang together seamlessly in such a tight formation that a reader cannot imagine them written in any other way.

While teaching writing is not my primary function,  I do provide fundamental instruction of a Strunk and White nature so as to raise the bar to an acceptable level.  Before you eye-roll at such a rudimentary approach, let me assure you that today’s undergraduate students desperately need the salving coolness of William Strunk and E.B. White.  If only for clarity, concision, and pith.

For the pleasure of reading Strunk and White’s masterpiece, The Elements of Style.  For it is a minor joy to read.  To re-read.

Many young people – not all, but enough – want to be creative and innovative, to think outside of that box we always hear about.  I note that they must first understand the box and what it contains before they can profitably “think outside” of it.  Because likely what they consider fresh and new and sparkling has been done before.

Cliches heard for the first time are like that.

They must understand how words fit together to convey ideas, notions, fact and fiction.  They must understand the communicative function of words as well as their evocative power.

Power words for business can imbue a business presentation with impact and energy.

Just as power words against business have been in use for decades.  So much so, they’ve become shopworn cliches.

Power Words Against Business

I urge students to recognize tendentious surliness masquerading as neutrality, entire social, political, cultural arguments embodied in single phrases – sometimes single words.  Listen for those arguments that use power words against business.

They must recognize sloganeering in their own writing and arguments.  If not, they face being caught short when challenged on a lack of depth or understanding.

Recognize sloganeering in your writing.

Example?

At the risk of agitation, let me detour into the realm of the classroom, where words that characterize well-hashed issues come freighted with all kinds of baggage.

Certain phrases can embody one-sided faux arguments.  Anti-business arguments with no substance.

Power words against business.

“Widening gap between rich and poor” is one of those tropes.  It has become a kneejerk pejorative.  Regrettably, it’s used more frequently by young people these days and some of my overeager colleagues.

They supposedly identify a “problem” that must be corrected without pausing in their feverish idealism to recognize that the gap between rich and poor is always getting wider.  This happens whether an economy is strong or weak.

It’s the nature of economic growth.

The proper question to ask is this:  “Is everyone getting richer and better off than before in a dynamic and thriving economy?”

Or is the situation one in which the poor are getting poorer with no chance or even hope of improvement?  These are two quite different situations, conflated by the trope “widening gap between rich and poor.”

Making the distinction, however, brings more complexity into the picture than some folks feel comfortable with.  The issue no longer fits on a bumper sticker.

It’s almost too much to bear the notion that “everyone is better off” while simultaneously there is a “widening gap between rich and poor.”

“Everyone is better off” is a first-rate example of power words for business presentations.

“Sweatshops” Anyone?

Single words sometimes embody entire arguments.

This relieves the user of the burden to make the point of the begged question.  In my own bailiwick, “sweatshop” is one such politically and socially freighted word.  As in the “debate over sweatshops.”  In my classes on Globalization, this “debate” is addressed forthrightly.

But in its proper terms and in its proper context.

The preening certitude of a person posturing against “sweatshops” is a sight to behold.  No gray area, no moral conundrums.  It seems as clear-cut an issue as anyone could imagine.  It’s like arguing against “dirty dishtowels.”  There is no pro “dirty dishtowel” lobby.  Just as there is no pro “sweatshop” lobby.

See how easy to get on the side of the angels?  Who other than an evil exploiter could possibly take a stand for “sweatshops?”  Right.  No one does.

A part of me envies that kind of hard-boned simplicity.  It’s borne of shallow naivete.

“Cultural Imperialism” Anyone?

Hand-in-hand with “sweatshops” comes something called “cultural imperialism.”

This is merely a pejorative reaction against the introduction of goods and services and ideas into modernizing societies.  Such “cultural imperialism” supposedly constitutes an attack on the “traditional way of life” and local culture.

In my lectures to Russian students in Izhevsk and in Ufa, BashkortoPower Words for Business Presentation impactstan, I meet this kind of attitude quite frequently, as if someone is compelling locals to drink Coca-Cola, to smoke Marlboros, to wear Italian shoes, or to dine at Chinese restaurants.

The call for preserving “traditional” ways of life smacks of condescension of the worst type.  It is, for example, an attitude that suggests that locking subsistence farmers into their pristine “traditional” circumstances as delightful subjects for exotic picture postcards is a positive.

“Traditional” is one of those power words against business.  When you hear it as part of an argument, look closely for anti-business bias.  You’ll find it.

Some students are angry and somewhat confused when I note that all that is offered is a choice.

Choice is one of those Power Words for Business.

A choice to work as one’s ancestors did, ankle-deep in dung-filled water of rice paddies, or to work in a new factory, earning more money in one day than the traditional villager might ever see in a year.

A choice to purchase goods and services previously unavailable.

A choice to live better.

Exploitation . . . or Choice?

A choice, that’s all.  An alternative.

Some people, professional activists among them, just don’t like the choice being offered, even as earlier there was no choice.  There was no chance for improvement.

Rather than offer their own range of additional choices, these folks harass those companies that provide economic opportunity, a chance for a better life.  The chance for newly empowered local workers to earn beyond subsistence wages and to then spend money at the kiosks that quickly spring up courtesy of entrepreneurs who instinctively know how the market works.

The chance to utilize the new roads built by the foreign company as part of infrastructure improvement.

So, in my classes, I refer to Nike and other firms that manufacture abroad as establishing Economic Opportunity Centers throughout the developing world.  Companies that expand the range of economic choices open to local workers.

Power Words for Business – Economic Opportunity Centers

Some students express a kind of confused disbelief that local factories contracted by Nike (Nike does not own or operate them) could in any sense of the phrase be called Economic Opportunity Centers.  But, in fact, that phrase is more accurate as to what is actually happening when compared in many caPower Words for Business ses to a subsistence farming economy that it augments.

With that point made, we shift to compromise language of a more neutral cast – Nike and many other companies that contract manufacturing with local producers are engaged in Economic Activity Abroad.

Whether that activity is in some sense “good” or “bad” depends upon whom you ask – an activist sitting in an air conditioned Washington office, hands steepled, giving an interview to National Public Radio on the evils of Globalization?  Or a young foreign worker, who now has a choice and a chance to work indoors, to earn more money than before, to better his lot and that of his family.

A choice and a chance to move up.

A choice that earlier was not available.

If we then proceed from less politically charged premises, we can then understand the actual dynamics at work, building from the ground-up.  At the end of the discussion – which is usually vigorous give and take –  an understanding emerges that economic activity abroad in the form of contract manufacturing has both positive and negative aspects.

Power Words for Business Presentations

Now, I have dipped into the hot, turbid political waters of Globalization only because that happens to be the topic at hand for me now, daily.

I have roamed a bit, but the theme that runs through this essay, I think, is the power of words – to persuade, to deceive, to communicate, to obfuscate.

Power Words against business have been used far too long without challenge.  Realize that we can harness Power Words for Business and leaven our business presentations with impact, immediacy, and positivity.

Regardless of one’s opinion of the issues I surfaced here to illustrate the theme, I believe that folks in this forum recognize more than most this especially powerful medium.

Whatever conclusions my students arrive at with regard to the debates at hand, they will have at least been exposed to the power of words for business and the subtlety of language.

Words are the stuff of power.

For more on the power of words for business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Voodoo Presenting: A Finance CLASSIC!

Finance Presenting offers special challenges, but it’s also a chance to increase professional presence

Whether the presentations class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . . I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students.

“Finance is different.”

“We don’t do all of that soft-skill presentations stuff.”

“For us, the numbers tell the story.”

Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways, as if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language, less subject to manipulation.

In a chaotic world, a spreadsheet exudes familiarity, a firm valuation offers comfort, an income statement serves as anchor.

False Certitude, Faux Anchor

For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.  And this illusion of certitude and precision exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, well . . . that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them in the coldness and hardness of objective numerical analysis.

But this is an illusion. And the result is 2D presenting, full of voodoo and bereft of nuance and subtle analysis.

Where business presentations are concerned, finance folks are not different, special, unique or otherwise gifted with special powers or incantations denied the mere mortals who toil in marketing or human resources.

We are all subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast, demands that nettle us equally and indiscriminately during the business presentation process.

As with most things, there is bad news and good news in this slice of life provided here.

The Bad News

The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica. It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.

In fact, many finance presentations devolve into basic meeting discussions about a printed analysis distributed beforehand, with the group of presenters merely standing while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of questions.  Several presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life . . .

“Just the facts”

Exhortations of  “Just the facts” serve as little more than a license to be unoriginal, uninteresting, and unfocused.

“Just the facts”

Folks believe that this phrase gives the impression that they are no-nonsense and hard-core.  But there is probably no more parsimoniously pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase yet to be devised.  It achieves incredible bombast in just three syllables.

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”  Which facts?  Why these facts and not those facts?

Events are three-dimensional and filled with people; they require explanation and analysis.  Mere “facts” are flat, two-dimensional, unemotional, and unsatisfactory proxies for what happens in the real world.  “Just the facts” masks much more than it reveals.

“The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of folks who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them.  “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling,” finance majors often tell me.  “We deal in hard numbers.”

There’s so much wrong with this that it’s difficult to locate a reasonable starting-point.  Not only do numbers, by themselves, tell no story at all . . . if numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a considerably incomplete story, giving a distorted picture of reality.

The end result of these presentation shenanigans is an overall level of mediocrity and outright bad presentations.  If firms want nothing more than a group discussion about a handout, with the only thing distinguishing the  “presenters” from the audience is that they are standing, then so be it.  It may be useful.  It may be boring.  It may be morale-building.  It may be team-destroying.  It may be time-wasting.  But whatever else it is, it is not a presentation.

“Cut ’n’ Paste”

This is the heinous data dump that all of us inevitably see.  PowerPoint slides crammed with data in tiny, unreadable font.  The display of these heinous slides is accompanied by a sweep of the arm and the awful phrase:  “As you can see . . . ”  The cause of this pathology is the rote transfer of your written report to a PowerPoint display, with no modification to suit the completely different medium. The result?

Slides from Hell.

The Good News

In every obstacle exists an opportunity.  Because the bar for finance presenting is so low, if you invest your presentations with the powerful principles that apply to all business presentations, your own shows will outstrip the competition by an order of magnitude.  This, of course, implies that your content is rock-solid. It should be.  Your ratio analysis, your projected earnings, your sophisticated modeling should all reflect the superb finance education you have received.

Build Credibility With a Powerful Presentation

But how you present that content is the key to presentation victory.

All of the presentation principles that we discuss here apply to finance presentations, particularly the parsimonious display of numbers and the necessity for their visual clarity.  If anything, finance presentations must be more attentive to how masses of data are distilled and displayed.

A situation statement must be given.

A story still must be told.

Your analysis presented.

Conclusions must be drawn.

Recommendations must be made.

And external factors must be melded with the numbers so that the numbers assume clarity and meaning in an especially powerful 3D presentation.

If you do the above, and nothing more, then your finance presentations will outshine the hoi polloi with ease.

But if you delve even more deeply into the masterful techniques and principles available to you, learning to use your tools skillfully, you can rise to the zenith of the finance presentation world precisely because you are part of the tiny minority who seizes the opportunity to deliver an especially powerful presentation.

For more on presenting financial information in a suitable way, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Zombie Advice . . . an Especially Powerful Classic

Beware the Zombies of bad business presentation advice

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

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

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

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

Bad Advice

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

Accordingly, I instruct students to stop what they’re doing now as a result of bad habits and bad advice. 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 can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad advice.  The problem is recognizing what constitutes bad advice. This isn’t easy, because much bad advice paradoxically masquerades as good advice, and lots of these bad advice zombies stalk the land.

Let’s Have a Look

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

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

This is absurd and carries the stink of oral tradition about it.  From presidents to preachers, the hand in the pocket – if done properly – conveys assurance and confidence.  For many speakers, it also removes one hand from the equation as an unnecessary distractor.  Put that left hand in the pocket and you keep it out of trouble.  No more strange finger-play.  No more tugging at your fingers.  No more twisting and handwringing.  It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.

ZOMBIE #2     “Make eye contact.”

This old chestnut is insidious in that it actually carries a large kernel of truth.  On the surface, it sounds reasonable, but is such a cliche that we don’t really think about the words themselves.  People don’t really talk this way.  Instead, you “look someone in the eyes.”  You don’t “make eye contact.”  That make no sense.  This gem of a cliche doesn’t tell you how to “make eye contact.”  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.  Look individual audience members in the eyes long enough to ascertain eye color, then move on.  This connects in a way that is comfortable for all concerned.

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

ZOMBIE #4     “Just the facts.”

Really? Which facts are those? 

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”

Folks believe that this phrase makes them appear no-nonsense and hard-core.  But a more pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase has yet to be devised.  Again, it means nothing and is arrogance masquerading as directness. “Facts” must be selected in some way, and context must be provided to give them meaning.  “Facts” must be analyzed to produce alternatives and to render a conclusion. This is a euphemism for “I don’t like what you’re saying . . . tell me what I want to hear.”

ZOMBIE #5     “The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of finance folks, who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them. “We’re special,” finance majors like to say. “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling; we deal in hard numbers.”

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

Not only do numbers, alone, tell no story at all . . . if the numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a woefully incomplete story, providing a distorted picture of reality. Numbers provide just one piece of the analytical puzzle, important to be sure, but not sufficient by themselves.

Moreover, the business presenter who elects to serve the god of numbers sacrifices the power and persuasiveness that go with a host of other presenting techniques. Underlying this myth is the notion that you “can’t argue with numbers.” You certainly can argue with numbers, and you can bring in a host of analysis that changes completely what those numbers actually mean.

ZOMBIE #6    “You have too many slides.”

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

Say what? You counted them?

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

You will hear this from folks who believe that the length of a presentation dictates the number of slides you use. Absurd on its face, people who use this believe that every slide will be shown a fixed amount of time. They likely do some sort of calculation in their heads, dividing the time available by the number of slides to yield a number they believe indicates there are “too many” slides. This is because they usually deal with folks unschooled in Business School Presentations methods.

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

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

Bad Advice Zombies – these are just some that will come after you. It’s probably not a good idea to argue with folks who give this sort of advice. What’s the use? Just ignore it and replace it in you own work with sound power presenting principles. You can’t eliminate the zombies, but you can outrun them and outfox them.

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

Interested in more? Click here to consult the only book in the English language devoted to business school presenting.

Develop Powerful Personal Presence

Personal Presence
Personal Presence confers Personal Competitive Advantage

Personal presence distinguishes the business presentation as a distinctly different form of communication, and it is the source of its power.

I should say potential power.

For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited.

Forfeiture of Power

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.  Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.

What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.  It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice.  It’s what they sense on a subliminal level.  That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.

Here, Paulson describes the impact of Personal Presence.

It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.

Here is where you become part of the message.  You bring into play your unique talents and strengths to create a powerful personal presence.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow.  We see pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background.  And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.  They would rather compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.

Become an automaton, and you cede important personal competitive advantage.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.  Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective.

It becomes an incredibly bad communication exercise and an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.

The Secret of Personal Presence

Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.  Gone is the skilled public speaker, an especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, powerful and convincing.  Gone is Quintilian’s ideal orator:  “The good man, well-spoken.”

We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter.  A presenter commanding the facts and delivering compelling arguments  A presenter using all the tools at his or her disposal.

This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.

Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd . . . or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the incredible personal competitive advantage that personal presence provides?

To develop personal presence through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.