Four of the most dreaded words in Business School are: “Break yourselves into groups.”
The group presentation in business school is so ubiquitous now that almost every upper level course has some form of “group work” requirement.
There’s good reason for it – industry expects new hires to have experience working in groups.
More than that, corporate America craves young people who can work well with others. Who can collaborate.
The upshot is that you must give the “group presentation.”
ots of them.
Don’t Scorn the Group Presentation
You find all sorts of problems in group work. Perhaps you believe these challenges are external to you? Others cause problems. Surely you must not be contributing to the challenges facing your group?
The uncomfortable fact is that we might be the cause of friction and not even know it. Working in a group requires patience. It requires the ability to see the benefits of collaboration, to listen, to understand that there are many ways to attack and resolve challenges.
Sure, you want to work by yourself. Who wouldn’t?
But today’s complex economy disallows much of the solitary work that used to occupy executives just a generation ago. Complex problems require collaboration.
So we face challenges.
Let’s try to understand and overcome these challenges before they get out-of-hand. In this interview, I address some of the dynamics of dealing in groups, particularly as a leader.
While the group presentation might not be your idea of the ideal weekend getaway, mastering its difficulties can transform you into a superb young executive, sought-after by recruiters. Pledge yourself to understand group dynamics. Learn the pinch points. Listen to others. Cultivate patience.
One of the most important job interview tips for college students that I give involves business presenting.
The job interview is likely the most important business presentation you will ever give. This is because in the interview, you present for your most important client – you.
And the question I’m asked most frequently with respect to how you present your accomplishments is this:
“How do I talk about myself and my qualifications in a way that is honest and forthright and yet does not sound like braggadocio?”
The Best of My Job Interview Tips for College Students
Few people like to boast. Instead folks go the opposite extreme of false humility. But neither boasting nor meekness is the answer.
Instead, try this . . .
Understand that you are not in the interview to talk about your resume. Your resume got you through the door and into the interview.
Now, the recruiter is looking for something more. And that “something” is often indefinable.
The recruiter evaluates you for intangible qualities, such as corporate fit, personality, working intelligence, verbal acuity. Many times, the recruiter doesn’t know what he or she is actually looking for.
But the recruiter does know what is unacceptable and is thus conscious of disqualifiers.
For the young or mid-level candidate, the atmosphere can feel akin to a minefield. Some candidates feel that if they go tightlipped, they cannot make a mistake. And so they weigh each word carefully, triangulating what they believe the recruiter wants to hear. But it is not enough to simply survive without making a slip . . . or a “mistake.”
This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.
Instead, go into your interview to make the presentation of your life about you, not what you think the recruiter is looking for. The constitutes the most important of my many job interview tips for college students.
When it comes time to talk about yourself – here is exactly how to do it.
Talk about what you learned or what you discovered about yourself.
Digest that for a moment.
Yes, it really is that simple. But it’s not easy, especially if you aren’t accustomed to talking about yourself this way. It takes practice.
Talk about a difficult group project or a difficult task that required you to adapt and use your unique skill set. In, say, a group work setting, tell of your learning about the importance of time management, of punctuality. Translation:
I have a great work ethic and I’m punctual.
Tell how you learned to deal with people from different cultures and backgrounds and to value difference. Translation:
I get along with a wide range of people.
Tell how you discovered that you gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others do their best, drawing out their best qualities and backstopping them where they are weak. Translation:
I’m a team-player who subordinates my ego to get the job done for the company, recognizing that others may need help on occasion, help that I freely give.
Tell how you learned about different work styles and of the different ways of tackling problems. Translation:
I’m flexible and adaptable to a variety of work environments and people.
For an Especially Powerful Interview
Can you see how it works?
You don’t talk about your strengths . . . you talk of what you learned about yourself during the course of a project or task. So think of a major project you’ve tackled in the past. Build your story around that.
For example, you could say something like this:
“I worked on a major three-month project in my International Business Capstone involving a multicultural team, and in the project, I learned a great deal about myself as well as others. I believe that I grew not only as a professional, but as a human being. This gave me a great deal of satisfaction, especially as I saw others developing their skills as well.”
Or, if you are a young professional, you could say:
“We received a last-minute project and it was dumped on us without warning, which made us work through the weekend. That was pivotal. It was then that I learned that this is the nature of business – chaotic, demanding, unforgiving, unpredictable – and how I respond to the challenge makes the difference between a win and a loss. That experience forged me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.”
With that statement, you have conveyed a wealth of positive information to the recruiter.
Of course, it all must be true, so you must adapt your story particulars to your own work life. And all of us have these moments and experiences, so mine your recent past for them.
Your resume itself has at least a dozen stories, and it’s up to you to find them. When you do find them, craft them, practice them, and use them. Do this, and you achieve an important personal competitive advantage.
So always remember these key words . . .
Let me share with you what I learned about myself.
But most of us rarely do, and this might be a result of simply not knowing how.
Admit it . . . most of us think we’re pretty sharp – we all think we know what a story is, don’t we? But do we really?
What is a Presentation Story?
A story is a narrative of events, either true or untrue, that appeals to the emotions more-so than the intellect.
Let me emphasize – the appeal is primarily to the emotions. Here’s an example.
The 1995 legal thriller A Time to Killis a superb storytelling film that exemplifies how a deep appeal to emotion and to the heart can overcome an appeal to logic and reason.
A Time to Kill is the story of the rape of a little girl and the subsequent killing of her rapists by a heartsick father and his trial for murder. The story takes place in racially divided Mississippi and the interracial struggle for justice and understanding is the centerpiece of the narrative.
It is really several stories. A young lawyer’s struggle, Jake (Matt McCanaughy). A father’s struggle, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson). And a town’s struggle for its soul.
At the end of the film, Jake tells Carl that he’s going to lose the case. That he should bargain with the prosecutor for a lesser charge to gain life in prison rather than the death penalty.
Carl rebukes his lawyer, Jake. He urges him to “think like the jury.”
Know the Audience for Your Presentation Story
This is actually one of the keenest lessons on “know your audience” that I have ever witnessed.
“You’re one of the bad guys, Jake,” Carl says. “That’s why I picked you. You’re one of them white folk. You think like them. That’s why you can set me free. Throw out all your ‘points of law’ and talk to them like one of them.”
How does Jake respond?
He responds with the Power of Presentation Story.
Jake prepares a closing argument without his “points of law.” He appeals to the emotions of the jury instead of their logic or sense of duty to the laws of man. He appeals to their humanity, and to do this, he must tell a presentation story.
It must be the most compelling story of his young legal career.
Jake first apologizes to the jury for his ineptitude due to his inexperience. He waves away any appeal to “points of law.” He pauses. Jake then places his hand in his pocket, and he gestures with his other hand . . . gently, firmly.
He approaches the jury box. Simultaneously, he utters the magical words, almost like an incantation.
“Now I’m gonna tell you a story.”
His Words Transform the Courtroom
Everyone in the film leans forward. The prosecutor. The defendant. The members of the jury.
All of them. You feel yourself lean forward. Perhaps you shift in your seat with expectation.
Because everyone loves a story. A story that touches emotions. A story that makes them laugh.
In this case, a sad and heinous story that makes them weep.
Why does Jake do this? Because stories touch the emotions in ways that straight exposition cannot. Jake wants the jury to feel, not just to think, and this scene of Jake pleading for his client’s life is a masterful demonstration of story’s power.
The armor we wear against fact and logic is porous and vulnerable to the gentle probing of a story. As Jake weaves his spellbinding and horrible story of rape and trauma, the stolid men and women of the jury begin to crumble. Eyes glisten. Hard swallowing.
Even the most callous and racist man on the jury is affected by Jake’s tale.
Perhaps even you are moved by the heart-rending summation.
Despite your best efforts to energize the audience, to convey yourself in authentic and enthusiastic terms, to laser your talk with über focus . . . in spite of all of that, you can’t gain traction.
Here is when you reach into your quiver and pull out your Golden Arrow.
An arrow guaranteed to hit your target every time.
The Golden Arrow
When you find yourself adrift, pause thoughtfully, eye your audience with sincerity, and say this . . .
“Let me tell you a story.”
You immediately rivet attention on yourself. Why? Presentation Master J. K. Horner shares the reason with us from 1929:
Probably everyone has experienced the universal interest and attention which results in a dull and abstract lecture when the speaker says, ‘That reminds me of a story.’ Like a dog at the back door waiting for a bone, an audience will prick up its ears at the approach of the speaker with a story or illustration that arouses mental imagery.
Because such stories are concrete, the opposite of abstract, and tend to arouse pictures which vivify an idea, setting it out in relief with bold colors against a background of drab and hazy abstractions.
Six Most Powerful Words for Business Presentations
“Let me tell you a story” are the six most powerful words you can utter in a business presentation. If your goal is to grip your audience, entertain them, persuade them, and move them to action, you always generate interest with these six most powerful words: Let me tell you a story.
“Let me tell you a secret” is just as compelling, but when you think about it, it’s really the same storytelling device worded in slightly different fashion.
The story is a powerful communicative tool. Let me say it again: It puts incredible power in your hands, on your lips.
This power of story has been known for ages. Stories are “windows that let the light in.”
And the story is an incredibly versatile tool.
Presentation Master Katherine Cather observed that its emotive effect is akin to what one finds in high art: “Because the story has power to awaken the emotions and to enlarge the range of experience, it is a tool of universal adaptability. Its appeal is like that of music, sculpture, or painting.”
We live in the 21st Century age of dazzling kaleidoscopic multimedia. Right now, a kindergartener has at his disposal more computing power in a laptop than did Neil Armstrong in his lunar module when he landed on the moon in 1969.
In such an age, why speak of an anachronism like “storytelling?”
Just this . . .
A Timeless and Powerful Tool for the 21st Century
Stories still serve as our main form of entertainment – we see and hear stories every day from many sources.
Newspapers are filled with “stories.” Films, television shows, novels, even technical manuals regale us with stories. You tell stories all the time.
Stories are as old as man and still hold fascination for us.
In an age of pyrotechnic special effects that boggle the mind, film producers have found that without a strong story populated with sharply drawn and sympathetic characters, the film flounders. And fails.
Some stories are more interesting than others, of course. But even the most pedestrian of tales keep our attention far better than dry exposition of facts delivered in a monotone. Unlike straight exposition, stories appeal to the emotions. This is the secret of their power.
And it is incredible power.
The Six Most Powerful Words
If you search for a verity in the human condition, a key that unlocks the power of persuasion, then this is it – the appeal to emotion.
Katherine Cather was a master storyteller of her generation, and her masterpiece written in 1925 captures the universal appeal of this mode of communication. We seem to have left it behind in favor of cynicism and wry gimcrackery at one end of the scale and a barren “newspeak” at the other end. Said Ms. Cather:
Human emotions are fundamentally the same in every country and in every period of history, regardless of the degree of culture or the color of the skin. Love and hate lie dormant in the human heart; likewise gratitude, and all the other feelings that move mortals to action. They manifest themselves according to the state of civilization or enlightenment of those in whose souls they surge, but the elemental urge, the motive that actuates men to right or wrong doing, is the same now as it was at the beginning of time.
The story has power to nurture any one of the emotions . . . . What is the secret of the power of either the spoken or written tale to shape ideals and fix standards? Because it touches the heart. It arouses the emotions and makes people feel with the characters whose acts make the plot. Mirth, anger, pity, desire, disdain, approval, and dislike are aroused, because the characters who move through the tale experience these emotions.
So use the story device to leaven your presentation with color and spice. Hook your audience and enthrall them with the Six Most Powerful Words in the English language.
Remember that this secret is powerful because it hearkens back to an almost primal urge we have as humans to share experiences with each other, and this is the ultimate source of its appeal.
When you tap the power of story, you tap into a wellspring of history and practice as old as mankind itself. So pull the Six Most Powerful Words from your quiver when you desperately need to hit your target.
Don’t assume that you know what I mean by preparation and practice, because we likely have different conceptions of both, and I’m betting you’ll like the results you get from my approach.
So, settle in . . . and for the next couple of days, we will explore the Three Ps and how their assiduous application can transform you into the Especially Powerful Presenter that you always knew you could be.
If you could have only one business presentation book to help you with your presentations, what would it be?
You have many from which to choose. Too many, in fact.
Hundreds of them.
So this question is part rhetorical and part genuine inquiry to discover what motivates, trains, and aids students and young executives in their development into capable presenters. No, not just capable presenters . . . especially powerful presenters.
I have my own answer to this question, of course, and I’ll share it with you in a moment. It’s based on reviewing a skein of presentation and public speaking books published over the course of 2,500 years. All of ’em? Close to it.
It’s an esoteric subject with a tightly circumscribed group of recognized and established authors and scholars. The mid- to late 1800s was the golden age for modern oratory and presenting. This was when Philadelphia was host to the National School of Elocution and Oratory, and departments of public speaking flourished in universities across the land.
Business Presentation Books
Today, we have “communications” courses that offer tofu and tedious texts. They offer impractical and vague suggestions that are often impossible to put into practice.
Today we have The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs supplanting the rich and powerful books of speaking masters who offer the soundest and most-proven presentation instruction in all of recorded history. This is not to harshly criticize The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. I don’t imply that it isn’t useful at all. The author, Carmine Gallo, is a delightfully engaging and powerful public speaker himself. He pens a superb column for BusinessWeek.
And sure, this book has a pocketful of useful tips.
But the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, is more about Steve Jobs than about you. It’s more about Steve Jobs than about presentation secrets that you can actually use.
Let’s put it this way: Steve Jobs’s #1 presentation “secret” is to speak only at Apple product launch extravaganzas populated with early adopter evangelicals and to ensure that he is unveiling the next generation high-technology gadget that has been hyped in the world press for the previous 12 months. In such a scenario, you and I could paint our faces blue and dress like Jack Sparrow and deliver a successful and quite powerful presentation?
Of course we could. That is Steve Jobs’s actual “secret.”
Jobs is an above-average speaker with a distinctive style. His public appearances are highly orchestrated, and his speaking competition in America’s C-Suite is abysmal.
In short, Jobs is a celebrity CEO armed with a built-in audience poised to cheer his every word. That’s surely a “secret,” but it’s not helpful to the average presenter.
So, will you learn anything from Mr. Gallo’s book? Sure, but it has nothing to do with Jobs or what he does.
Mr. Gallo laces enough fundamental advice throughout the book to help a neophyte improve his presenting in several aspects. But the question I asked at the beginning is this:
If you could have only one book to help you with your business presentations, what would it be?
Not that one.
In fact, I could recommend a dozen books that are utterly superb, none of which published after 1950, that far outstrip today’s pedestrian offerings. Business presentation books that offer a wealth of powerful and mysterious techniques to transform you into the most dynamic speaker you possibly can be. Business presentation books to stretch you to your utmost limits, books that propel you to fulfill your fullest presentation potential.
Single books that are worth any 10 “business communication” texts costing more than $1,000.
But if I had to choose one . . . and only one . . .
It would be this book . . . a book first published in 1913.
This Business Presentation Book
Subsequent to its original publication, this incredible tome went into more than 58 editions and was constantly in print until 1962. In that year, it was revised and given a different title, and it went into another 28 editions, the last one I can find published in 1992. Its title was again revised and a new edition published in 2006.
It remains in print today. Many reprint editions are available and are quite inexpensive. Like diamonds upon the ground that no one recognizes.
And of all the more than 1,000 business presentation books I own, dating from 1762 to the present day (and reprints back to 430 BC), this is the one book I commend to you. You can search it on Amazon.com and purchase an inexpensive copy today.
Post-1962, the book is called The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, an edition revised by Carnegie’s wife [I dislike the new title, because it gives the mistaken impression that great public speaking can be “quick and easy,” an addition to the original book added much later, but I’ll not cavil on that point here].
Of course, Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business doesn’t mention the PowerPoint software package, for obvious reasons. Instead, it focuses on the most important elements of any business presentation, whether delivered by Pericles to the Athenians in 430 BC or by you to your Global Business Policies course in 2011. It focuses on you . . . your message . . . your audience.
And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.
It was just a moment. But it was enough to sabotage you.
Your thoughts grind to a halt and you can’t remember what to say. Words fail you.
You have lost the proverbial “train of thought” and you’re on the cusp of a presentation meltdown.
What do You do?
Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.
In fact, it happens so often that it might do us some good to think ahead to how we should react to this common presentation malady.
Too often, it leads to a presentation meltdown. But it doesn’t have to.
Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots. Here is one stopgap solution to get you over the speedbump of lost train of thought.
When you lose your train of thought, don’t panic or you’ll spiral quickly into a presentation meltdown.
Instead, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be. You’ve prepared for this.
Dodge Presentation Meltdown with This
Flood the room with silence.
Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin. You know the posture.
Put your left hand on your hip. Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.
Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.
Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.
Your Bought Time
You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your composure, to regain your thought pattern. Time enough to cobble together your next few sentences.
But if this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.
What do I mean “default statement?”
This is a rescue phrase that you craft beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove. It consists of something like this: “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .” or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”
And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation. In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.
Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.
If you have prepared as you should, Blank-Mind should be no more than a small bump in the road for you, a minor nuisance with minimal damage. If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.
Remember the rescue techniques: Chin-scratch and Default Statement.
You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself. Failing that, the Default Statement can bail you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.
If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total presentation meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . .
Coca-Cola’s 1929 slogan was “The Pause that Refreshes,” and we can incorporate the presentation pause to powerful effect in our business presentations.
Pauses can, indeed, be refreshing, and a judicious pause can refresh your presentation.
In fact, the prudent presentation pause for reflection, for the audience to digest your message, for dramatic effect to emphasize what comes next . . . all add depth and richness to your show and communicate to audience members that they have gathered to hear something special.
So, make friends with silence so that you feel comfortable in its presence.
Power of the Presentation Pause
The correct pauses imbue your talk with incredible power. With proper timing and coupled with other techniques, the pause can evoke strong emotions in your audience.
A pause can project and communicate as much or more than mere words. The pause is part of your nonverbal repertoire and a superbly useful tool.
The comfortable pause communicates your competence and confidence. It telegraphs deep and serious thought. Pause Power is underutilized today, but has served as arrow-in-quiver of the finest presenters over centuries.
Presentation Master Grenville Kleiser put it this way in 1912: “Paradoxical tho it may seem, there is an eloquence and a power in silence which every speaker should seek to cultivate.”
When you use the presentation pause judiciously, you emphasize the point that comes immediately after the pause. You give the audience time to digest what you just said. And you generate anticipation for what you are about to say.
So save the pause for the moments just prior to each of your main points.
How do you pause? When do you pause?
Silence is Your Friend
A truly effective pause can be coupled with a motionless stance, particularly if you have been pacing or moving about or gesturing vigorously. Couple the pause with a sudden stop, going motionless. Look at your audience intently. Seize their complete attention.
You can see that you should not waste your pause on a minor point of your talk. In point of fact, you should time your pauses to emphasize the single MIP and its handful of supporting points.
Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says: “A pause is effective and very powerful if it is active and in the moment with your intentions and head and heart. . . . a pause filled with breath and attention to what you are saying to your audience will give you and your audience a bridge of transitional energy from one idea to another.”
Finally, and surely not least, the pause can rescue you when you begin to spiral out of control or lose your train of thought. Remember that silence is your friend.
Need a life-preserver? Need time to regain your composure? Try this . . .
Pause. Look slightly down. Scratch your chin. Furrow your brow. Take four steps to the right or left.
You just bought 7-8 precious seconds to collect your thoughts.
In our battle to fight through the white noise of life to communicate with others, we often ignore the most powerful of weapons at our disposal – Presentation Passion.
Passion, emotion, earnestness, brio, energy.
Sure, we pay occasional homage to emotion and to “passion.”
But more often than not, it’s only lip service.
You don’t really believe this stuff, do you? Or maybe your fear of others’ judgments pushes out thoughts of investing your talks with something interesting.
We save our presentation passion for other activities. For our sports teams and our politics and, perhaps, religion. We separate our “real” selves from our work and from our “formal” exposition in front of an audience.
Maybe we construct a barrier for the audience, to prevent an audience from seeing our vulnerabilities. Perhaps we affect an air of nonchalance as a defensive mechanism.
Nonchalance is the Enemy
Regardless of the reason, by not investing ourselves in our presentation and in our narrative, we render ourselves less persuasive. If we purge our presentation passion, we are less effective, perhaps even ineffective.
Emotion is a source of speaker power. You can seize it. You can use it to great effect.
And you can learn to do this more easily than you imagine.
James Albert Winans was a Presenting Master early in the 20th century, and he offered this beautifully crafted description of passion’s power. Brilliant discovered words from 1915:
A speaker should feel what he says, not only to be sincere, but also to be effective. It is one of the oldest of truisms that if we wish to make others feel, we ourselves must feel. . . . We know we do not respond with enthusiasm to an advocate who lacks enthusiasm. And quite apart from response, we do not like speakers who do not seem to care. We like the man who means what he says.
Do you mean what you say? Do you even care? Or do you sleepwalk through your assignments? Reading from a note card, reading from the slides behind you, oblivious to why you are up there?
Now, one purpose of this counsel is not simply for you to display powerful emotions in service to a cause. You are not simply “being emotional” for its own sake. You want to evoke emotions in your audience. You want them to think, yes, but you also want them feel.
You want to establish a visceral connection with your audience.
Don’t Purge Presentation Passion
Sometimes it may seem as if you must purge all emotion from your presentations, especially your business presentations.
It’s as if you are instructed to behave like a robot under the guise of looking “professional” or “business-like.”
We can find that we respond too readily to these negative cues. We think that if A is “good,” then twice as much of A is twice as good. And three times as much of A is even better.
And without presentation passion, our business presentations suffer.
The Indifferent Presenter?
So, let’s accept right now that emotion and professionalism are not exclusive of each other. Conversely, shun indifference.
The opposite of earnestness is indifference. An indifferent man cares no more for one thing than for another. All things to him are the same; he does not care whether men around him are better or worse. . . . There are other opposites to earnestness besides indifference. Doubt of any kind, uncertainty as to the thought or to the truth, a lack of conviction, all these tend to destroy earnestness.
You know the indifferent man or woman, delivering a presentation that obviously means nothing to him or her. Perhaps you’ve done this. Haven’t we all at one time or another?
Unknowing of emotion, believing that we cannot show we care?
Do you just go through the motions? I understand why you might cop this attitude. Layer upon layer of negative incentives weigh down the college student. Adding to your burden is the peer pressure of blasé. It’s perceived as “uncool” to appear to care about anything, to actually do your best. Certainly to do your best on schoolwork of any kind.
Understand from this moment that this is wrong. No, it is not a matter of opinion . . . it is not a “gray area.” It is incontrovertibly wrong.
If you don’t care, no one else will. And if you don’t care, you will lose to the presenter who does care.
Lose the job you want to someone else.
Lose the contract you want to someone else.
Lose the promotion you want to someone else.
Lose the influence you want to someone else.
It’s Time to Win with Presentation Passion
Does this seem too “over the top” for you? Of course it does!
That’s because you’ve likely been conditioned to look askance at the kinds of rich, lusty pronouncements that embrace emotion rather than scorn it.
And that is a major part of the B-School Presentation Problem.
When was the last time a business professor criticized you for showing too much emotion in your presentation?
Have you ever heard anyone criticized for it? For giving a presentation with too much feeling? Or for being too interesting?
For actually making you care? For actually being memorable for more than a few moments?
Now, think for a moment of the incredible power that might be yours if you embrace emotion and presentation passion when no one else does.
The wonder and delight of this is that it is entirely within your grasp to do so.
A debilitating pathology of bad presentation technique afflicts many presenters.
It starts innocently enough . . .
You click the remote and a new slide appears.
You cast a wistful look back at the screen. You pause.
And then you reach for the easy phrase.
That’s when AYCS Syndrome can strike even the best of us, cutting us down in our presentation prime.
“As you can see.”
The phrase “As you can see” is so pervasive, so endemic to the modern business presentation that there must be a school somewhere that trains people to utter this reflexive phrase-hiccup.
Is there an AYCSS Academy? Probably!
The bain of AYCSS is that it is usually accompanied by a vague gesture at a screen upon which is displayed some of the most unreadable nonsense constructed for a slide – usually a financial spreadsheet or array of baffling numbers. Probably cut-and-pasted from a written report and not adjusted at all for visual presentation.
And the audience most assuredly cannot see. In fact, there might be a law of inverse proportion that governs this syndrome – the less the audience can actually “see,” the more often the audience is told that it can see.
And that’s why we reach for the phrase.
Because we can’t “see,” either.
We look back at an abstruse slide and realize that it 1) makes no sense, 2) never will make any sense, 3) is so complicated that we should have used four slides to make the point or should have deleted it, and 4) has no chance of contributing at all to our show. At that point, AYCS Syndrome attacks.
Numb and Dumb Your Audience with AYCSS
Finance students seem particularly enamored of AYCSS.
In fact, some rogue finance professors doubtless inculcate this in students.
Financial analysis of the firm is essential, of course. There are only few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation.
Financial data are where you discover the firm’s profitability, stability, health, and potential.
But the results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.
Something about a spreadsheet mesmerizes students and faculty alike. A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas. It seems important, substantial.
Too often, you display an Excel spreadsheet on the screen that is unedited from your written report. You cut-and-paste it into your presentation. You splash the spreadsheet onto the screen, then talk from that spreadsheet without orienting your audience to the slide.
This is the incredibly bad presentation technique displayed by finance students, in particular, that is accompanied by the dreaded words: “As you can see.”
You, the presenter, stare back at the screen, at the phalanx of numbers.
Perhaps you grip the podium with one hand and you airily wave your other hand at the screen with the words . . . “As you can see—”
And then you call out what seem to be random numbers. Random? Yes, to your audience, the numbers seem random because you have not oriented the audience to your material.
You have not provided the context needed for understanding. No one knows what you’re talking about. Your classmates watch with glazed eyes. Perhaps one or two people nod.
Your professor sits sphinx-like.
And no one has a clue. You get through it, finally, and you’re relieved. And you hope that you were vague enough that no one can even think about asking a question.
AYCS Syndrome is the tacit agreement between audience and presenter that neither of us really knows or cares what’s on the slide. And we promise each other that there won’t be any further investigation into whatever this abominable slide holds.
It can’t be good. Not for the audience, not for presenter.
All of this sounds heinous, I know. And probably too familiar for comfort. But you can beat bad presentation techniques with a few simple changes that we’ll discuss in days to come.
At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble, and having this rescue device near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course, that is flirting with disaster.
Your Life Preserver to Conclude a Presentation
Occasionally we must be reminded of this quite simple device that can serve us well near the end of our talk.
When your talk is winding down and you feel yourself suddenly spent . . .
When you begin to spiral out of control and cannot remember your train of thought . . .
When your pulse quickens and your mind goes blank . . .
Grasp for two words.
“In conclusion . . .”
That’s it. Just two words.
Conclude a Presentation with Pith and Power
These two words have rescued thousands of presenters before you, and they’ll rescue you as well.
These two words work a magic on your psyche that is almost inexplicable in terms that a logical, reasonable person would believe. As soon as you speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.
Speak them, and suddenly you know what to say and do.
Here is what you do. Confidently tack on another phrase . . .
“In conclusion, we can see that . . .”
“In conclusion, our recommendation makes sense for reasons just given . . .”
“In conclusion, this means that . . .”
See how it works? You see how incredibly easy it is to get out of the sticky wicket of a talk spiraling down out of control?
“In conclusion” leads you out of the wilderness and back onto your prepared path. It leads you to restate your thesis in concise manner and then . . .
Every presentation – every story – has this framework.
Let me rephrase.
Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.
You should build a business presentation, whether individual or group, according to this structure.
Beginning . . . Middle . . . End
If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well. Your segment has this structure.
In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.
In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.
In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation. The first speaker delivers the beginning. The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle. The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”
Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.
This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.
You can be innovative. You can be daring, fresh, and new.
You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.
Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.
Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.
Build a Business Presentation to Stand the Fire
Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.
I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.
You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.
Please do so. But do so with careful thought and good reason.
And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.
One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends. You should Bookend your show. This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.
Hence, the term “Bookends.” And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.
Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the zombies of bad presentation tips never die.
We can’t eradicate bad presentation tips completely, because these zombies are impervious to every remedy known to 21st century civilization.
When Armageddon finally comes, cockroaches and bad tips zombies will be the only survivors.
But let’s give it a shot anyway.
Bad Presentation Tips
The process of becoming a great presenter is not so much prompting students to do something the right way.
It’s getting you – yes, you – to stop doing things the wrong way.
And this is much tougher than you might expect, given that 1) people generally dislike the idea of change, and 2) I have discovered that most folks tend to think that the presentation is something that exists outside of themselves . . . in a PowerPoint software package, or in notecards, or in a book.
The notion that the presenter actually has to change is not welcome news.
Accordingly, I instruct students to stop what they’re doing now as a result of bad habits and bad advice.
And I do not entertain or engage in lengthy discussions of various opinions of what constitutes good presenting or how people want leeway granted for their own tics or habits. All it takes is one film session to disabuse people of the notion that a bad habit is somehow acceptable.
Once they stop engaging in bad habits and misconceptions about presenting, they become de facto reasonably competent presenters.
That’s right. Just stop the bad habits, and what remains can be downright decent.
But Bad Habits Die Hard
Bad habits can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad presentation tips.
The problem is recognizing what constitutes bad advice. This isn’t easy, because much bad advice paradoxically masquerades as good advice, and lots of these bad advice zombies stalk the land.
Here are some of the most common examples of awful, vague, or incomplete presentation advice you invariably hear during your business school career from the most well-meaning of folks.
ZOMBIE #1 “Don’t Put your hand in your pocket . . . it looks ‘unprofessional.’”
This is absurd and carries the stink of oral tradition about it. From presidents to preachers, the hand in the pocket – if done properly – conveys assurance and confidence.
For many speakers, it also removes one hand from the equation as an unnecessary distraction. Put that left hand in the pocket and you keep it out of trouble.
No more strange finger-play. No more tugging at your fingers. No more twisting and hand-wringing. It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.
ZOMBIE #2 “Make eye contact.”
This advice is insidious in that it actually carries a large kernel of truth. It sounds reasonable. But it doesn’t tell you how to do it.
And, yes, there is such a thing as bad eye contact.
Too long, and you come across as creepy. Too short, and you come across as untrustworthy.
Make eye contact with people in your audience long enough to ascertain eye color, then move on.
ZOMBIE #3 “Move around when you talk”
This gem was given to me by a student, passed on from one of his other professors. This advice suggests that you wander aimlessly about the stage in hopes that it will improve your presentation in some unspecified way.
Or it might mean to roll your shoulders as you step side-to-side.
It actually can mean most anything, and as such, it is terrible advice.
This bad presentation tip is worse than no advice at all. See my previous posts on movement for ideas on how to incorporate movement into your talk . . . and how to incorporate pauses for effect.
ZOMBIE #4 “Just the facts.”
Really? Which facts are those?
What does it mean, “Just the facts?”
Folks believe that this phrase makes them appear no-nonsense and hard-core. But a more pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase has yet to be devised. Again, it means nothing and is arrogance masquerading as directness.
“Facts” must be selected in some way, and context must be provided to give them meaning.
“Facts” must be analyzed to produce alternatives and to render a conclusion. This is a euphemism for “I don’t like what you’re saying . . . tell me what I want to hear.”
ZOMBIE #5 “The numbers tell the story.”
This is a favorite of finance folks, who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them. “ We’re special,” finance majors like to say. “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling; we deal in hard numbers.”
There is so much wrong with this, it is difficult to locate a reasonable starting-point.
Not only do numbers, alone, tell no story at all . . . if the numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a woefully incomplete story, providing a distorted picture of reality. Numbers provide just one piece of the analytical puzzle, important to be sure, but not sufficient by themselves.
Moreover, the business presenter who elects to serve the god of numbers sacrifices the power and persuasiveness that go with a host of other presenting techniques. Underlying this myth is the notion that you “can’t argue with numbers.”
You certainly can argue with numbers, and you can bring in a host of analysis that changes completely what those numbers actually mean.
ZOMBIE #6“You have too many slides.”
How do you know I have “too many” slides?
Say what? You counted them?
I assure you that you don’t know. You can conclude nothing about my presentation by looking only at the number of slides in it.
You will hear this chestnut from folks who believe that the length of a presentation dictates the number of slides you use.
Absurd on its face, people who use this believe that every slide will be shown a fixed amount of time.
They likely do some sort of calculation in their heads, dividing the time available by the number of slides to yield a number they believe indicates there are “too many” slides.
This is because they usually deal with folks unschooled in Business School Presentations methods.
If you follow the presentation principles laid down here in Business School Presentations, you learn the glorious method of crafting frugal slides that pulse with power, surge with energy . . . slides that people remember, because they are smartly crafted and snap crisply, and they carry your audience along for an exciting and joyous ride.
And no one can tell anything about this by the number of slides in your presentation.
Bad Advice Zombies – these are just some that will come after you.
It’s probably not a good idea to argue with folks who give this sort of advice. What’s the use? Just ignore it and replace it in your own work with enduring and especially powerful presenting principles.
You can’t eliminate the zombies, but you can outrun them and outfox them.
You’ve almost mastered your voice and material, and now it’s time to build on that and incorporate essential presentation movement.
What should you do during your talk?
Where to do it? How to do it? Why should you do it . . . and when?
Today we begin to incorporate meaningful movement into your presentation – movement that adds power, movement that reinforces your message in positive ways.
First, think about distance. Your distance from your audience significantly impacts the degree of connectivity you share with audience members.
Distance Matters in Presentation Movement
Many speakers are unaware of the effect that distance-from-audience can have on their talk. The formal term for how distance affects the relationship between speaker and audience is called “proxemics.”
This is simply lingo for your proximity to the audience – how far from your audience you stand. Altering that distance throughout your talk can enhance your message in ways you intend.
You achieve four distinct effects by varying the distance that you maintain between you and your audience. A distinguished anthropologist, Edward T. Hall, developed the concept of how these four distances communicate vastly different messages from speaker to audience.
Let’s look at the Four Spaces and how you can use them to achieve certain effects with your presentation movement. They can animate your business presentation and enhance that 3D effect I often refer to.
First, the most common space is public space, and this is a distance of more than 12 feet from your audience. Obviously, this space is necessary when you deliver a lecture to a large audience of, say, 200 persons or more.
The second space is social space.
This space is occupied by the speaker who wants to connect in a personal way with his audience. It’s the space from four feet to 12 feet from your audience.
Think of a seminar of 12 students with a professor in close proximity. Here, eye contact is frequent and effective.
A conversational style is possible and desirable. In fact, conversational and relaxed style is essential in this scenario.
The third space is personal space. This space begins at 18 inches from a person and extends out to approximately four feet. It is conversational space and is generally not utilized in public speaking.
The fourth space is intimate space. This space is highly personal and you must be invited into this space. Without an invitation, you invade this space at your own risk. You make others feel uncomfortable, and they may respond in any number of ways, few of which will please you.
Now, it’s time to think about scripting your presentati0n movements.
Coordinate your movements with major segments of your talk. Script them into your presentation as if you were performing a play.
For instance, follow the script below. Following each quote, the indented statements describe the actions you take:
SPEAKER: “My talk has three major points. As I share these points with you tonight, I want you to consider how each of these powerful issues affect you, personally. The first major point?”
<<Bow head and walk slowly to the left. Take ready stance. Look up at audience. >>
SPEAKER: “The first major point is Humility. In this we are the same as our earliest fathers and mothers . . . .”
<<Look to your right and walk slowly, meeting the eyes of several audience members in turn. Stop in ready position. >>
SPEAKER: “The second major point is Confidence. Surely there is not one among us who has not felt the fear of failure, of being judged unworthy . . . .”
<<Look to the center and walk slowly to center-stage. Stop and assume ready position. Gesture with both hands in supplication.>>
SPEAKER: “The third and most important point is this – Understanding of a kind that passes beyond . . . etc., etc. . . .”
The movements thus accomplished are displayed in the diagram. This type of broad presentation movement accentuates the major points of your talk. You anchor each point at a different part of the stage:
Point 1 to the Left
Point 2 to the Right
Point 3 to the Center
This scripted movement series is a highly visual reinforcement to the organization of your talk. Coupled with the proper hand gestures and expressiveness of face and voice, this series movement invests your message with immediacy and dimensionality and increases its impact.
You hammer home the three points with a visual element coupled with the aural element.
All of this carefully considered presentation movement about the stage also conveys to the audience that you are in control. You own the stage. So act like you own it; don’t behave like a visitor who cannot wait to depart.
It’s your space, so make good use of it. Learn to be comfortable in that space and to utilize all of the space at your disposal.
At the same time, apply the principles found here. Do not move, just to be moving.
The combined effect of movement, position, and spoken message connects you firmly with your audience; appropriate movement deepens the connection and moves you from 2D Presenting to 3D Presenting. And when you make this jump to 3D presenting, you enhance your professional presence on the stage and add to your personal competitive advantage.
After I delivered an incredibly inspiring lecture in one of my classes last semester,* a student approached me and shared this snippet about presentation body movement.
“I stand in one spot during my presentations,” he said. “But another professor told me to move around when I talk.”
“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?’”
Never just “move around when you talk”
Ponder that piece of advice a moment. Ponder it and then reject it utterly, completely. Forget you ever read it.
What rotten advice.
Never just “move around” the stage. Everything you do should contribute to your message. Presentation body movement on-stage is an important component to your message. It’s an especially 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 can’t stop moving. They stalk about the stage like a jungle cat, constantly moving, as if dodging imaginary bullets, afraid to cease pacing lest their feet put down roots.
Such 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? Doesn’t Steve Jobs “move around” when he presents?
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,” just 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?
What Kind of Presentation Body Movement?
How? Where? When? Why? How much?
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 coming posts, I’ll answer those questions and show you how to incorporate meaningful presentation body movement into your show – exactly the types of movement that add power, not confusion.
After reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about handwringing over presentation stage fright, if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now.
When we speak of presentation stage fright, we are really talking about the battle within ourselves as we prepare to deliver our presentation.
It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.
Confidence is one of those elusive qualities.
It’s almost paradoxical. When we have it, it’s invisible. When we don’t have it, it’s all too apparent to us.
Confidence in public speaking is hard to come by.
Or so we think. Let’s back into this thing called confidence.
Take the Trip Test
Have you ever stumbled on the sidewalk, your toe catching an impossibly small defect in the concrete, enough to trip you up? You stumble and stagger a bit. And then . . .
. . . and then do you glance quickly around to see who might be looking? Do you feel shame of some sort? If not shame, then . . . something that gives you to mildly fear the judgment of others? Even strangers.
Or do you stride purposely forward, oblivious to others’ reactions, because they truly don’t matter to you?
Recognize this “trip test” as a measure of your self-confidence, your conception of yourself.
Recognize that you don’t need the validation of others in what you do.
This doesn’t mean to act in ways immature and self-indulgent. It means charting your own course with your internal moral and professional compass and having the strength of mind and purpose not to yield to kibitzers, naysayers, and kneejerk critics.
Now, bring that strength of mind and purpose to the realm of business presentations.
Presentation Stage Fright Begone!
For many, the audience is your bogeyman. For some reason you fear your audience. But understand that they are not gathered there to harm you . . . they are gathered to hear what you have to say.
And 99.9 percent of them mean you well.
They want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.
Yes, even your fellow students want you to succeed. They want to be entertained. Please entertain us, they think.
They are open to whatever new insight you can provide. And they know, for a fact, that they will be in your same place many times during their careers. They are fellow-travelers in the business presentation journey.
And so confidence is yours for the taking.
Seize Confidence for Yourself
Confidence is not a thing.
It cannot be grasped or packaged or bought. It’s a state of mind, isn’t it? It’s a feeling. When we get right down to it, it really is just the mental context within which we perform.
What does it really mean to be confident? Can you answer that direct question? Think about it a moment.
See? We can’t even think of confidence outside of doing something, of performing an action. Our confidence – or lack of confidence – provides us the context of our activities.
Is it certitude?
Is it knowledge?
Is it bravery?
Is it surety?
Think of the times when you are confident. You might be confident at playing a certain sport or playing a musical instrument. It could be an activity.
Why are you confident?
Confidence is largely the absence of uncertainty. For it’s uncertainty that makes us fearful. That, and the dread of some consequence – embarrassment or ridicule.
It should be recognized that many people do fear speaking before an audience. It is so universal and it is so pervasive that we must come to grips with it.
This presentation stage fright has made its way down through the ages. It has paralyzed thousands of speakers and presenters who have come before you. And generations of speakers have tackled this fear.
George Rowland Collins is an old master who recognized the phenomenon in 1923 and its awful effect on the would-be presenter . . .
The very first problem that faces the average man in speech-making is the problem of nervousness. To stand up before an audience without a scrap of paper or a note of any kind, to feel the eyes of dozens and even hundreds of people upon you, to sense the awful silence that awaits your own words, to know that you must depend upon yourself and yourself alone to hold the audience’s attention is as trying a task as it is possible to undertake. Most men find the task too great and shun it religiously. Those who do attempt it, voluntarily, or involuntarily, testify to the severity of the physical and mental suffering it involves.
The solution to presentation stage fright? How have centuries of speakers successfully tackled this bete noire?
Reduce your uncertainty.
Reduce your uncertainty by applying the Three Ps: Principles, Preparation, Practice. Through these, you achieve a wealth of self-confidence, and we’ll talk about the Three Ps in days and weeks to come.
They are so utterly essential to Power Presenting that they bear repetition and constant reinforcement. They are the cornerstone upon which you build your style, your confidence, your performance pizzazz.
Principles, Preparation, Practice
The 7 principles of presenting offered here at Business School Presenting™ – the “secrets” of the masters – are grouped under Stance, Voice, Gesture, Movement, Expression, Appearance and Passion. Each of these deserves its own chapter and, indeed, has its own chapter in my book The Official College Guide to Business School Presenting.
Prepare your talk, then practice your talk at least 4 times, exactly as you will deliver it – without stopping.
When you apply the Three Ps, you reduce uncertainty. You are possess the facts. You are prepared. You know what to expect because you have been there before, and because you practice. You rehearse.
There is, of course, an element of uncertainty. There is uncertainty because you cannot control everything or everybody, and this causes a tinge of anxiety, but that’s fuel for your creative engine.
By controlling the 90 percent that you can, you are more than ready to handle the 10 percent of uncertainty that awaits you.
So the key for you is to control what you can and to dismiss your fear of the rest. Recognize that this fear is what makes you human, and it is this humanity that gives us commonality with all the public speakers and presenters who have come before us.
And it is their advice that we heed to our improvement.
For instance, master J. Berg Esenwein from 109 years ago:
Even when you are quaking in your boots with the ague of fear, and your teeth fain would beat “retreat,” you must assume a boldness you do not feel. For doing this there is nothing like deep stately breathing, a firm look at the dreaded audience . . . . But do not fear them. They want you to succeed, and always honor an exhibition of pluck. They are fair and know you are only one man against a thousand. . . . Look at your audience squarely, earnestly, expressively.
And banish stage fright forever.
Interested in more on how to eliminate presentation stage fright? Click here.
How can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience?
To deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?
You must become a 3-D presenter.
Now, this means several things, including how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage, but a major component is the exercising of your mind.
And I talk about that here.
Three D Presentations
It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories. Yes, it’s a process of becoming learned in new and wondrous ways.
Think of it as enlarging your world. You increase your reservoir of usable material.
And you’re able to connect more readily with varied audiences.
You accomplish this in a pleasant and ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area. By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.
Expand Your World
And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.
By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or allows you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.
By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty, and by rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.
Read a book outside your specialty. Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.
Dabble a bit in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.
We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world, forgetting that other fields can offer insights. For myself, while teaching in the Fox School’s strategic management department this semester, I am also sitting in on a course sponsored by the History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”
What a leavening experience this promises to be: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .
How will this help in preparing my own classes? At this point, I can’t be certain.
And that’s the beauty and potential of it.
I do know that it will enrich my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue in 3-dimensional fashion, connected to the “real world” – textured, deep, and richer than they otherwise would have been.
It will do the same for yours, and it will likely aid in your developing into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.
For more on how to give interesting business presentations, click HERE.