Tag Archives: confidence

Presentation Greatness: Find Yours

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

Nike developed a well-known ad campaign with the theme: “Find Your Presentation Greatness.”

Well, it really didn’t refer to business presentations, but it well could have, without losing much in translation.

To wit:

“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 . . . the Path to Presentation Greatness?

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.  That’s what “habit” means.

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.

Executive Presence for Competitive Advantage

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence
Develop Especially Powerful Executive Presence for Personal Competitive Advantage

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

With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence by choosing wisely, and then acting . . .

. . . and executive presence is a source of personal competitive advantage.

The Paradox of Executive Presence

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capability for it.

It’s a kind of self-sabotage.

Many folks engage in it.

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

He tries to diminish his presence.

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.

He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height.  He employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we’ve worked on developing especially powerful executive presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.

How can you go about doing this?

Review my short instructional video here on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance and an aura of Executive Presence . . .

Power Words for Presentation Confidence

Power Words!
End self-sabotage in your business presentations with Positive Power Words!

Self-defeating behaviors come in many forms, but negative self-talk is one of the chief culprits and can be remedied by the ready application of Power Words.

I think you already know that we sabotage our own presentations more often than we like to believe.

We tell ourselves repeatedly that we’ll fail.

We envision humiliation, embarrassment, and complete meltdown.

We concoct a destructive fantasy that we then dutifully fulfill.

The Negative Spiral Down Begins . . .

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

It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

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

Negative self-talk results in physical reactions.  We essentially talk ourselves into failure.

Nervousness, trembling, faltering voice, shaking knees, sweating, and flushing.

Power Words
Replace Negative Self-Talk with Power Words

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.

We have, in fact, no greater guarantee of failure.

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

Let’s try something different . . .

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

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

At moments when confidence is most needed, many athletes go to their “power words.”

These are words that help visualize success and victory rather than failure and defeat.

The words can be anything that the athlete has found to negate nervousness.  It can be something as simple as mentally reciting “Power!” or “Victory!” at a crucial moment.  Say, just before a critical service in a tennis match.

This technique works.  And it can work for you.

I collaborate occasionally with sports psychologists and mental toughness coaches who train athletes in visualization techniques and who affirm the utility of Power Words.

They assert that power words can affect performance in positive ways.

All of them are of one opinion that the mind-body connection – healthy or unhealthy – impacts performance tremendously.

Develop professional presence with power words
Positive Self-Talk with Power Words is an Especially Powerful Technique

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

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

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

Quite possibly, it’s the widespread ignorance of how to deliver a powerful presentation.  This ignorance can mean incredible uncertainty of performance.

Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

This fear of the unknown drives up anxiety and results in stage fright.  So the key to reducing that anxiety is uncertainty reduction – thorough preparation and control of the variables within our power.

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

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?

No, of course not, and we don’t even want to.  instead, we plan everything that will go right, and we focus on that.

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

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.

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

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

We mentally recite our chosen power words to squeeze out the doubts and anxiety, wring them dry from our psychic fabric.

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

Positive self-talk . . . power words . . . 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.

Develop Your Powerful Presentation Voice

powerful presentation voice
Do you have a case of Bad Voice?

If given a choice, would you embrace the opportunity to develop a powerful presentation voice?

Or would you demur to take a stand for “natural” voices?  Whatever the hell that is.

Rather than a mere provocation, the question is real and addresses one of the most pervasive problems in business presenting today.

It’s a problem that goes unrecognized and, as such, remains a debilitating burden for many people who could otherwise be superb speakers.

Your voice.

We tend to think that our voices are off-limits when it comes to changing, let alone improving.

We believe our voice is “natural” when, in fact, it is likely the product of undisciplined and random influences – parents, peers, television, celebrities, radio, occasional mimicry.

Voices Often Develop Chaotically

Many influences in our culture have, in the last decade or so, urged on us a plaintive, world-weary whine as voice-of-choice.  Thus, voice becomes a matter of style – not just in the slang we choose to use, but in the way our voices sound when we use that slang.

So what’s a “bad voice?”

Do you swallow your voice in the back of your throat so that you produce a nasal twang?  Is it pinched?  Do you use your chest as the resonating chamber it ought to be to produce a powerful presentation voice, or does your voice emanate from your throat alone?

High-pitched.  Small.  Weak.  Unpleasant.  Pinched.  Nasal.  Raspy.

Ugh.

Especially Powerful
Listen to the people around you

Next time you stand in line at the convenience store, listen to the people around you.

Focus on the voices.

Listen for the trapped nasal sound, the whine of precious self-indulgence.

Or the sound of air rasping across vocal cords.  A voice that has no force.  No depth.  A voice you could swat away as you would backhand a fly.

A voice from reality television.  A cartoon voice.  The opposite of a powerful presentation voice.

Cartoon Voice

The cartoon voice is more prevalent than you might imagine.  Many reasonably-known celebrities have cartoon voices, and they usually dwell in the wasteland of daytime television.

You know exemplars of the squeaky, whiney cartoon voice are people who appear to have achieved a degree of questionable fame for all of the wrong reasons:  a group of people calling themselves “Kardashians.”

Their voices are barely serviceable for even routine communication and embody all that is wrong with regard to delivering powerful presentations.

They exhibit habitual pathologies of the worst sort.

And yet people mimic them.

Lots of people.

But . . . my voice is “natural!”

If you want to become a good speaker, but you do not accept that you can and should improve your voice, it means that you are much like an un-coachable football player.  Oh, you want to become a superb football player, but you refuse to listen to the coach.

He tells you to develop your muscles and coordination in the gym, but you refuse.

Instead, you respond that your body’s musculature is “natural.”  You believe that you can become a great football player without “cheating” with weight training or cardio conditioning.  Or by modifying your “natural” physique by exercising and building your muscles and coordination.

I’m sure you see the absurdity in this.

The same is true when it comes to your voice.  Voice is an extremely personal attribute, and people don’t take criticism lightly, perhaps viewing it as a self-esteem issue or an attack on personhood.  It’s not.

An Especially Powerful Presentation Voice

Don’t bristle at the notion that you should change your voice.

This is naiveté and vanity and ego masquerading as a noble stand for who-knows what.

This is a self-imposed handicap and an excuse for inaction.  You hold yourself back for no good reason.  It’s also a manifestation of fear.

Clare Tree Major identified this fear almost a century ago in college students of her time:

“People are exceedingly sensitive about changing their methods of speech for fear it will bring upon them the ridicule of their families and friends. . . . Charm and grace and beauty will come only when speech is unconscious – not while you have to think of every word and tone. If a thing is right there can be no question of affectation. It is a greater affectation to do the wrong merely to pander to the less cultured tastes of others. If you know a thing is right, do it. If you have not this ideal and this courage, then it will waste your time to study correct speech. ”

What is your voice but a means of communication?

Does it have purposes other than speaking or singing?  Other than communicating?  And if we consider this carefully, it’s easy to see that clear communication depends upon the timbre of your voice.

It does matter what others think of your voice, since you use it to communicate, and it is others who receive your messages.  Doesn’t it make sense, then, to cultivate the most effective voice you possibly can?  So that you might communicate most effectively?

So that you might develop a personal competitive advantage?

Put another way, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate what is unpleasant, ineffectual, shrill, and dissonant from your voice, if possible?

For more on developing an especially powerful presentation voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Posing

Power Posing
Power Posing Yields Presentation Confidence

I don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering business students, but one power posing exercise that elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

It consists of everyone standing up and then striking a stance of confidence and power.

Feet are shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Posing Personified

Then visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, which indicate a robust embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.

Second, the exercise achieves superb physiological goals that improve many characteristics associated with business presenting.

Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.  Power Posing.

Especially Powerful Body Language

Especially Powerful Posing
Power Posing Carries Gravitas

We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message.  Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.

Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message, and power posing is some of the most effective body language you can use.

But it’s essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood.  It’s a secret that I’ve use with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.  Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:

“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion.  Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.  The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …

Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth.  We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”

And if you aren’t satisfied with the narrative of a 19th Century social scientist you never heard of, then take the theory of Charles Darwin, who in 1872 was one of the first to speculate that your body posture can have an effect of generating emotions rather than simply reflecting them.

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.  On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions . . . .  Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.

So how does this relate to powerful business presenting?

Every way you can think of.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language.  We ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.  Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.

Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen.  We get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?

Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

Especially Powerful Positive Energy

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

Power Posing
Power Posing is an especially powerful component of Confidence and Charisma

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.

Consciously strike a pose that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.  This is power posing.

This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”

No, there’s no catch.  And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.

Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Management would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.

A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.  The Kellogg study early this year yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous that power posing can actually imbue us with power.

Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power and yourself with professional presence.  If you want to acquire personal competitive advantage.

In our 21st Century vernacular, power posing means you should stand the way you want to feel.

Power posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery in ways you’ve likely not imagined.

Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.

The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.  Square your shoulders.  Fix a determined look on your face.

Speak loudly and distinctly.

Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.

Seize the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

For more especially powerful guidance on power posing, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Presentation Paradox

Especially Powerful Presenting
Business Presentation Paradox . . . “I don’t want all those eyes on me!”

The presentation paradox afflicts many people:

“I want to give an especially powerful presentation . . . but I don’t like to be the center of attention.”

This is the presentation paradox for more people than you might imagine.

In fact, you may be one of them.

You dream of delivering a powerful business presentation.  An interesting presentation.  A presentation that sets everyone nodding.

A show that earns the accolades of the professor and your peers.

If you’re an executive delivering a report in the C-Suite, you note with satisfaction that no one surreptitiously checks email.

It’s a presentation that exhilarates you as a fist-pumping job well-done.

And yet . . .

Presentation Paradox Paralysis

And yet, you don’t want to be the center of attention.

You believe that you can get by with directing everyone’s attention to a screen behind you.  To slides filled with gibberish in tiny font.

If the room is dark enough, people may not even see you, and you think this is fine.

You see the disconnect here.

Delivering an especially powerful business presentation means changing what you do now . . . changing your behavior to achieve what you envision yourself becoming.

You actually must do something different to achieve different results.

To deliver an especially powerful business presentation means that you must become the center of attention.  In fact, you become the message itself, a sincere proponent of a position that you convey to an audience in animated and convincing style.

Presentation Paradox
Break out of the Presentation Paradox Prison

And yet this center-of-attention is the last thing that many business students want to be.

Many presenters would rather become part of the audience.

And some actually do.

They pivot to show the audience their backs.  Then they edge backward toward the audience, almost becoming part of the assembled listeners.

They assume the role of Slide-Reader-in-Chief.

Everyone reads the slides together . . . if they’re legible at all to the audience.  And this is an awful presentation, and you know it’s an awful presentation, and yet you do it anyway.

Why?  Why not change that?

Let’s break out of the presentation paradox prison today and adopt techniques that can hone our skills to a scalpel-like edge.  This won’t happen overnight, so let’s adopt one new thing each week and practice it to start building a personal competitive advantage.

You choose which technique out of many.  My recommendation?

This one . . . especially powerful self-talk.

Start now.

 

Secret #1 – Power Posing for a Winning Stance

Stance-214x300
An Especially Powerful Stance is One Key to Delivering a Great Presentation

You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation, and an especially powerful technique is to utilize “power posing” as the basis of your stance.

Stance is the first of our Seven Secrets to especially powerful presenting and is fundamental to projecting your strong image.

Let me preface with assurance that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But at the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, which has been researched and popularized by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?

Have you ever consciously thought about it?

What is my pose?  Sheepish?  Mincing?  Unsure?  Domineering?  Awkward?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others non-verbally.

You send messages to those around you.  Folks around us take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

Presentation Power
Power Posing at its Finest

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.

Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just what is the message you unconsciously send to people?

Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  Your listeners form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

This has always been true.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?  Melt-down?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Call this defeatist behavior non-power posing.

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.

Another effect is in play, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

Especially Powerful Power Posing
Plant yourself like a paving stone

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.

It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.

We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic, and this is the secret at the core of power posing.

Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.  Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Amy Cuddy’s Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.  This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders.

Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly, firmly, and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

So what is a confident posture?

Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

For any structure to endure, we must build on strength.  And I mean this both in the metaphorical and in the literal sense with regard to business presentations.

You must not only project strength and stability, you must feel strength and stability.  The two are inseparable, and a moment’s thought reveals to you why.

For an especially powerful presentation
Power Posing Projects Confidence

Consider the confident speaker.

To appear unstable and fearful before an audience, a confident speaker must take a conscious effort to strike such a weak pose.  Likewise, it would take a conscious effort for a person, who has planted himself firmly in the prescribed confident posture, to feel nervous, uncertain, or unsure of himself.

The key is to adopt the confident pose and maintain it relentlessly against all of the body’s involuntary urges to crumple and shift, to equivocate and sway.

The point and the goal is to establish a foundation that exudes strength, competence, and confidence.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.  It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

This strong personal foundation is your ready position, your standard posture for your presentation.  It serves as the foundation for everything else to follow.

For elaboration on power posing for confident stance and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

The second part of Secret #1 appears tomorrow . . .

Especially Powerful Self-Talk

End self-sabotage in your business presentations

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

This is especially prevalent in our business presentations.

We sabotage our own presentations more often than we imagine.

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

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

It undermines everything we strive for in business school presenting.

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

Think Like a World-Class Athlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignorance, uncertainty, and pressure to perform breed fear.

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

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

Can we foresee everything that might go wrong?

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

Envision Your Triumph

No one can win by constantly visualizing failure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Competitions Test Your Mettle

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

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

No hiding behind a resume.

No fast-talking a good game.

No “national rankings.”

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

Business Case Competition as Crucible

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

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

They then present their recommendations to a panel of judges.

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

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

All teams operate under the same conditions.

Business Case Competitions Far and Wide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Your Mettle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principles . . . Preparation . . . Practice.

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

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

Become a Presentation Colossus for Executive Presence

Business Presentation Colossus and Executive Presence

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.  With it, you can become a presentation colossus!

The good news is that we can develop executive presence . . .

. . . it goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence.

The Paradox of Executive Presence

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capability for it.

It’s a kind of self-sabotage that many engage in.

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

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy.  So we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.  He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height and employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.

He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

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

Have a look at my short instructional video on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance and an aura of Executive Presence . . .

“What’s the job market like?” That’s the Wrong Question

How about make your own Job Market?Asking “What’s the job market like?” is the wrong question.

Let’s say you get an answer.

What, exactly, will you do with the answer?  Hmm?

What?

It’s reminiscent of the young man who came to me for advice on getting his MBA, and his first question was “What are the hot jobs?”

“Hot jobs?  I don’t understand your question, exactly.”

“I ask about the hot jobs, so I can move into that concentration,” he said.  He was serious.

That’s a foolish approach, and I told him so.  It’s like chasing a will-o’-the-wisp.  You expend energy, money, time.  Fruitlessly.  Or for extremely meager fruit.

Dump the “Hot Jobs” Approach

First, I don’t know what the “hot jobs” are or even what a “hot job” might consist of.  Perhaps a field that has a temporary shortage of skilled candidates?  If so, that shortage gets filled mighty quick.

Second, it gets filled mighty quick because there is no a lack of folks who latch onto the “hot jobs” mantra and swarm.Make your own Job Market

Third, if you base your studies on someone’s assessment of the “hot jobs,” you could end up in a program that you hate.

To top it off, when you graduate, that “job” might no longer be “hot.”

What a fine fix that would be, eh?

Make Your Own Job Market

In retrospect, I’m less critical now than I was at the time of such a question.  Yes, it’s a dumb question if the purpose is to guide your study.

A much better question is “How can I create personal competitive advantage so that I win in whatever kind of market exists?”

It’s become almost cliche to “do what you love.”  But there’s a good reason why successful people say this.

I recommend pursuing your passion and make it your goal to become the best at it in the entire world.  Is that a foolish goal?  Exaggerated ambition?  Hardly.

Within the bounds of a chosen profession, there is always room for the woman or man driven by passion and a thirst for self-improvement.  At the firm level, it can be called becoming “a category of one.”  I direct you to the book by Joe Calloway of the same name.

Calloway’s book demonstrates how firm’s can move their brands from the commodity column into the premium brand column.  You can do the same with yourself and your passion.

Become a Category of One

Let’s take the topic of cosmetic industry supply chain management.  I’m not jazzed by this topic, but I guarantee that somewhere, someone is.

And that person should chase that profession insanely, becoming the finest cosmetic industry supply chain manager in the world, in both the micro and macro sense: learned in the industry, knowledgeable of the major players, and steeped in the intricacies of the specialty.

Relentless focus and study sharpens you like a surgical instrument.

And as your skills increase, the number of your viable personal competitors begins to fall off.

You increase your value to potential employers . . . you speak with far greater knowledge and surety than someone more superficially educated.

And it is this way that you find your calling.  This is how you find your “blue ocean.”

It is here that you find your job market . . . not the job market.

Forget about pursuing the “hot jobs” of the moment, like the herd.

In all of this, in every bit of this, you can add value to your personal warehouse of skills by becoming a superb presenter.  Every firm and every profession lacks great presenters.

Become that Category of One and showcase your skills as a powerful and competent presenter.  Here’s how . . .

 

 

Win Your Case Competition

Win your case competition (every time)
Win Your Case Competition

In earlier posts, we examined the lead-in steps for your case competition preparation – now your team is on the cusp of delivering a business presentation to win your case competition.

Recognize that your presentation differs from the written report.

Accept that your presentation is a wholly different communication mode than your final written solution.

Treat it this way, and your chances that you win your case competition increase dramatically.

How to Win Your Case Competition

The analytical competency of most case competition teams is relatively even.

Your analysis is robust and your conclusions are sound, as should be with all the entries.

With this substantive parity among competing teams, a powerful and stunning presentation delivered by a team of confident and skilled presenters will win the day most every time.

Could be Big Money if you Win Your Case CompetitionIf a team lifts itself above the competition with a stunning presentation, it wins.

If you have reviewed the step-by-step preparation to this point and internalized its message, you understand that you and your teammates are not something exclusive of the presentation.

You are the presentation.

By now, you should be well on the way to transforming yourself from an average presenter into a powerful presentation meister.

You know the techniques of the masters.

You are skilled.  Confident.

You have become an especially powerful and steadily improving speaker who constantly refines himself or herself along the seven dimensions we’ve discussed:  Stance, Voice, Gesture, Expression, Movement, Appearance, and Passion.

Employ the Seven Secrets to Win Your Case Competition

When I coach a team how to win a case competition, the team members prepare all of their analysis, conclusions, and recommendations on their own.  Here are some tips how to do this.  Their combined skills, imagination, and acumen produce a product worthy of victory.

The team then creates their first draft presentation.

It is at this point that the competition is most often won or lost.

Powerful winning presentations do not spring forth unbidden or from the written material you prepare.  The numbers “do not speak for themselves.”

The “power of your analysis” does not win your case competition on its own.  You cannot point to your handout repeatedly as a substitute for a superb presentation.

Your case solution is not judged on its merit alone, as if the brilliance of your solution is manifest to everyone who reads it.

It is judged on how well you communicate the idea.

Powerfully.  Persuasively.

Each member of your team must enter the presentation process as a tangible, active, compelling part of the presentation.  And you must orchestrate your presentation so that you work seamlessly together with each other, with the visuals you present, and with the new knowledge you create.

You are performing, like a cast in a play.  Ensure everyone plays the part well.

For more deep secrets on how to win a case competition, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Case Competition Preparation . . . Step II

Business Case Competition Preparation is key to victory
Business Case Competition Preparation is key to victory

Phase 2 of your business case competition preparation begins when you’re issued the case.

Recognize that the nature of this case may differ from what you are accustomed to.

It could be more incomplete and open-ended than the structured cases you’ve dealt with before.

In fact, it could be a contemporary real-world case with no “solution.”  It could be a case crafted especially for the competition by the competition sponsor.

Business Case Competition Preparation

Your first step – your team members read the case once-through for general information and understanding.

You inventory issues.

You define the magnitude of the task at hand.

Here, you draw a philosophical and psychological box around the case.  You encompass its main elements.

You make it manageable.

Business Case Competition Preparation is your Edge
Business Case Competition Preparation Readies you for any Challenge

You avoid time-burn in discussions of unnecessarily open-ended questions.  Your discussion proceeds on defining the problem statement.

At this point, your expertise and skills gained in years of business schooling should guide you to develop your analysis and recommendations.

The difference in acumen and skill sets among teams in a competition is usually small, so I assume that every business team will produce analytical results and recommendations that are capable of winning the competition.  This includes your team, of course.

Victory or Defeat?

The quality of teams is high, and the output of analysis similar.  This means that victory is rarely determined by the quality of the material itself.

Instead, victory and defeat ride on the clarity, logic, power, and persuasiveness of the public presentation of that material.  I have seen great analyses destroyed or masked by bad presentations.

The Presentation is the final battlefield where the competition is won or lost.

And so we devote minimum time here on the preparation of your arguments.  Many fine books can help you sharpen analysis.  This post concerns how you translate your written results into a powerful presentation that is verbally and visually compelling.

We are concerned here with the key to your competition victory.

Here is your competitive edge:  While 95 percent of teams will view their presentations as a simple modified version of the written paper that they submit, your team attacks the competition armed with the tools and techniques of Power Presenting.

You understand that the presentation is a distinct and different communication tool than the written analysis.

Your own business case competition preparation distinguishes you in dramatic and substantive ways.  This translates into a nuanced, direct, and richly textured presentation.

One that captivates as well as persuades.

Cut ’n’ Paste Combatants

Many teams cut-and-paste their written paper/summary into the presentation, unchanged.  This usually makes for a heinous presentation that projects spreadsheets and bullet points and blocks of text on a screen.

These monstrosities obscure more than they communicate.  It is a self-handicap and a horrendous mistake.

Sure, at times you will see winning presentations that do this – I see them myself on occasion.  This usually happens for one of several reasons, none of them having to do with the quality of the visual presentation . . .

1) Substance trumps:  The business analysis and recommendation is substantially better than all other entries and overcomes deficiencies in presentation.

2) Mimicry:  All entries utilize Business Case Competition Preparation front-loads your competitive edgethe same defective method of cutting-and-pasting the final report onto PowerPoint slides.  This levels the playing field to a lowest common denominator of visual and verbal poverty.

Don’t present all the fruits of your analysis.

Too much information and too many details can cripple your initial presentation.  Remember – hold back details for use and explication during the Q&A period.

A parsimonious presentation should deliver your main points.

Deciding what to leave out of your initial presentation can be as important as deciding what to include and emphasize.

For in-depth training on the Case Competition, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Next . . . Phase 3

What We Don’t Know about Business Presentations

“What we don't know”

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

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

Just as we have much to learn about business presentations.

What We Don’t Know . . .

Rumsfeld said this:

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

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

Broken down, it can be stated this way:

There are things we know.

There are things we do not know.

There are things we know we do not know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“These Pictures Just Didn’t Come Out”

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

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

She told how he repeatedly engaged in a fantasy.

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

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

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

Or hazy weather.

Or bad karma.

Anything but his own lack of skill.

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

He did not know how to take photographs.

In fact, he was terrible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honest ignorance in this case.

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

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

“These pictures just didn’t come out.”

This is the way I hit the ball.”

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

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

Especially Powerful Presenting – What we don’t know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Presentation Words to Cast Your Spell

Magic_Presentation Words for Power and Impact
Magic Presentation Words can Cast a Spell

I know some magic words.  Magic presentation words.

Words to help you deliver a magic presentation that rivets the audience’s attention and guides them along a path that you’ve chosen.  Magic presentation words that bring your audience to a conclusion that your listeners, themselves, believe they arrived at on their own.

In fact, I know a series of magic spells to use during business presentations, spells that can get you out of trouble, spells to dazzle the audience and lead them where you want to go.

But you won’t believe it’s magic.

Disbelief in Magic Presentation Words

You see, we may not know what magic is, but we do think we know what magic is not . . . and it’s surely not the seemingly mundane advice given in a blogpost about business presenting.

The trouble with offering folks a formula to help them deliver a magic presentation is that they don’t recognize that the magic isn’t for them.  Not at all.

Magic Presentation Words like an IncantationThe magic is for the audience and the effect it has on the audience.  And the effects are mostly subtle.

So, when I reveal the magic words, the subtle and especial incantations that move the audience en masse, it is invariably the case that the people who hear them are not happy.

They feel cheated somehow.

They just know that whatever else these words are, they surely are not “magic.”  And they ignore the power of magic in their presentations, the subtle and powerful effects achieved by words so unobtrusive that the audience doesn’t even consciously register them when they’re spoken.  The audience simply reacts in ways you want it to.

Here’s an example.

At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble toward the end of a presentation.  Having these magic words near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course.  A speech flirting with disaster.

Your Magic Presentation Words

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.

Your Magic 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 to what a logical, reasonable person would believe.  As soon as you speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.  And your audience responds with keen attention, summoned to a state of alertness by this simple yet powerful formulation.

Speak them, and suddenly you know what to say and do.  And your audience is with you in spirit.

Here is what you do.  Confidently add another phrase to your magic words, this way . . .

“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 . . .

. . . stop!

You’re done.

But you’re not done building your Personal Competitive Advantage by improving your business presentation skills . . . consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on magic presentation words that spellbind your audience.

The Proper Role of Business – a Powerful Presentation Topic

Powerful Presentation Topics
Especially Powerful Presentation Topics are All Around Us

Especially powerful presentation topics often go against the grain of today’s headlines and truisms.

They make us think, make us uncomfortable, and they challenge conventional wisdom.

Often they remind us that arguments have two sides . . . and the other side, while sometimes uncongenial to us, can be logical, cogent, and powerful.

How do we handle such topics when we present them?

With relish and gusto . . . with élan and brio.

What follows is a powerful rallying cry to business, penned by marketing legend Theodore Leavitt.

An especially powerful presentation topic it is.

The Proper Role of Business – Powerful Presentation Topic

Business will have a much better chance of surviving if there is no nonsense about its goals – that is, if long-run profit maximization is the one dominant objective in practice as well as in theory.

Business should recognize what government’s functions are and let it go at that, stopping only to fight government where government directly intrudes itself into business.  It should let government take care of the general welfare so that business can take care of the more material aspects of welfare.

The results of any such single-minded devotion to profit should be invigorating.  With none of the corrosive distractions and costly bureaucracies that now serve the pious cause of welfare, politics, society, and putting up a pleasant front, with none of these draining its vitality, management can shoot for the economic moon.

Refreshingly Aggressive

It can thrust ahead in whatever way seems consistent with its money-making goals.

If laws and threats stand in its way, it should test and fight them, relenting only if the courts have ruled against it, and then probing again to test the limits of the rules.

Powerful Presentation TopicAnd when business fights, it should fight with uncompromising relish and self-assertiveness, instead of using all the rhetorical dodges and pious embellishments that are now so often its stock in trade.

Practicing self-restraint behind the cloak of the insipid dictum that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has only limited justification.  Certainly it often pays not to squeeze the last dollar out of a market especially when good will is a factor in the long-term outlook.

But too often self-restraint masquerades for capitulation.

Businessmen complain about legislative and other attacks on aggressive profit seeking but then lamely go forth to slay the dragon with speeches that simply concede business’s function to be service.  The critic quickly pounces on this admission with unconcealed relish – “Then why don’t you serve?”

But the fact is, no matter how much business “serves,” it will never be enough for its critics.

Boldness is Needed

If the all-out competitive prescription sounds austere or harsh, that is only because we persist in judging things in terms of Utopian standards.  Altruism, self-denial, charity, and similar values are vital in certain walks of our life – areas which, because of that fact, are more important to the long-run future than business.

But for the most part those virtues are alien to competitive economics.

financial times provides powerful presentation topicsIf it sounds callous to hold such a view, and suicidal to publicize it, that is only because business has done nothing to prepare the community to agree with it.  There is only one way to do that: to perform at top ability and to speak vigorously for (not in defense of) what business does . . . .

No Knuckling Under to Criticism

In the end business has only two responsibilities – to obey the elementary canons of every­day face-to-face civility (honesty, good faith, and so on) and to seek material gain.  The fact that it is the butt of demagogical critics is no reason for management to lose its nerve – to buckle under to reformers – lest more severe restrictions emerge to throttle business completely.

Few people will man the barricades against capitalism if it is a good provider, minds its own business, and supports government in the things which are properly government’s.  Even today, most American critics want only to curb capitalism, not to destroy it.  And curbing efforts will not destroy it if there is free and open discussion about its singular function.

To the extent that there is conflict, can it not be a good thing?  Every book, every piece of history, even every religion testifies to the fact that conflict is and always has been the subject, origin, and life-blood of society.  Struggle helps to keep us alive, to give élan to life.

We should try to make the most of it, not avoid it.

Lord Acton has said of the past that people sacrificed freedom by grasping at impossible justice.  The contemporary school of business morality seems intent on adding its own caveat to that unhappy consequence.  The gospel of tranquility is a soporific.

Instead of fighting for its survival by means of a series of strategic retreats masquerading as industrial statesmanship, business must fight as if it were at war.

And, like a good war, it should be fought gallantly, daringly, and, above all, not morally.

Harvard Business Review, 1959

For more on developing especially powerful presentation topics, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Banish Presentation Stage Fright!

stage fright
Banish Stage Fright Forever!

After reading about the symptoms and hearing so much about hand-wringing over presentation stage fright, well . . .

. . . if you weren’t fearful of business speaking before, you certainly are now.

When we speak of presentation stage fright, we confront the battle within ourselves as we face the challenge of our presentation.

It’s self-confidence versus self-doubt.  And we want self-confidence to win.

But confidence is one of those elusive qualities.

It’s almost paradoxical.  When we have confidence, it’s invisible.  And 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.

Confidence Conquers Presentation Stage Fright

Think for a moment of what I call 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.  Consciously purge yourself of the debilitating need for approval.

The fear of judgment.

Presentation Stage Fright Begone!

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.

For some reason you fear your audience.  The audience is your bogeyman.

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.

Confidence pushes out presentation stage frightThey want you to succeed, so that they can benefit in some way.  They are pulling for you.

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.

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?

Seize Confidence for Yourself!

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 any familiar activity.

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.

Many people do fear speaking before an audience, rational or no.

And it’s been that way since public speaking gained enough stature to warrant the first school of public speaking in 450 BC under the Greek scholar Corax of Syracuse.

Centuries of Presentation Stage Fright

This presentation stage fright has made its way down through the ages.  It’s 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:  PrinciplesPreparationPractice.  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 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.  Uncertainty grips you, 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 presentation stage fright forever.

Interested in more on how to eliminate presentation stage fright?  Consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presenting here.

Bad Business Presentation?

Bad Business PresentationIs there some law, somewhere, that dictates that the bad business presentation must reign in corporate America?

. . . or in the business school classroom?

Is there a Law of Bad?

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

This dullness seeps into the consciousness.  It numbs us, and begins to legitimize itself.  Bad business presentations can be a career-killer.

But of course, no one tells you this.

A conspiracy of silence surrounds bad business presentations and the people who give them.

And yet, these monstrosities sprout everywhere.

Ubiquitous Bad Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

Some Vice President from a visiting company stands in front of you hiding behind a lectern.  He reads from slides with  dozens of bullet points taken from a written paper and pasted onto PowerPoint slides.

Bad Business Presentations are ubiquitous
Bad Business Presentations offer the Kiss of Sleep

The VP alternates looking at a computer screen and turning to look at a projection screen behind him.

He rarely looks at you.

Unreadable spreadsheets appear on the screen.  Legions of tiny numbers march in cadence.  The presenter reads slide-after-slide verbatim, his head turned away from you.

You realize, finally, that he is reading the slides together with everyone in the audience.

It’s boring.

It’s unintelligible.

The slides are unreadable or irrelevant.

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

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

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

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

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

Bad Business Presentations are the career kiss of death
Don’t bore your audience with bad business presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Feel Your Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Malaise in Corporate America

I attended a business conference on the west coast not long ago.

I had the occasion to dip my toes into some of the worst speaking I have ever heard coupled with use of incredibly bad visuals.  Primarily PowerPoint visuals.

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

No preparation and no practice attended these presentations.

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

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

The average grade public interest professionals gave to the presentations they attended was C-.  The average grade given to the visuals that respondents observed in presentations they attended was also C-.  When asked to recall presentations they had seen over the last few months, survey respondents said they were more than likely to see a bad business presentation as to see an excellent one.

This is the current state of presentations in corporate America and in business schools.  Is it uniformly bleak?

No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.

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

And this presents you with magnificent opportunity.

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

By investing your presentations with passion, emotion, and enthusiasm, you deliver especially powerful shows with persuasive power.

Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time for your debut.

Time to break the Law of Bad Business Presentations.

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

Positive Presentation Attitude . . . Be Careful with Candor

A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation
A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation

Your positive presentation attitude is one of the most neglected aspects of your business presentation.

For any presentation, really.

Maintain a positive presentation attitude, especially if you offer criticism.

Especially where criticism of current company policy is concerned.

Especially when your team must convey bad news.

For instance, that the current strategy is “bad.”  Or that the current executive team is not strong enough.

In student presentations, I sometimes see that students take an adversarial attitude.  A harsh attitude.  This is the natural way of college students, who believe that this type of blunt honesty is valued.

Honesty is . . . well, it’s refreshing.

Isn’t it?

Positive Presentation Attitude for Personal Preservation

Honesty is important, sure.

But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor.  And we must be clear on the difference between the two.

Honesty means you tell the truth . . . Candor means you spill your guts about everything that’s on your mind in the bluntest way possible.

Big difference.

If you say in your presentation that the current strategic direction of the company is dumb, you tread on thin ice when you convey that information.

In that way.

Remember that you can express honesty in many ways.  Presentation prudence suggests that we learn a few of them.  Use the right words to convey the bad news to the people who are paying you.

These may be the people responsible for the bad situation in the first place.  They could be emotionally invested in a specific strategy.  They could be financially invested in it.

Uh-oh.

Wound Someone’s Ego, You Pay a Price

Anyone can use a sledgehammer.

Anyone.

But if you use one, know that the receiving end of that sledgehammer isn’t pleasant and that you should expect reciprocation somewhere down the line.

And so . . . most times it pays to use a scalpel.

With lots of consideration and skill.

Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude
Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude

Remember that as much as we would like to believe that our superiors and our clients are mature and want to hear the “truth” – warts and all – human nature is contrary.

We’re easily wounded where our own projects and creations are concerned.

So, if you attack the current strategy as unsound, and the person or persons who crafted that strategy sit in the audience, you have most likely and needlessly doomed yourself.

Expect an also-ran finish in the competition for whatever prize is at stake, whether a multi-million dollar deal.  Or simply credibility and good judgment.

It takes skill and finesse to fine-tune your work.

To deliver a fine-tuned presentation.

Learn to deliver a masterpiece of art that conveys the truth, but with a positive presentation attitude that is constructive and persuasive without being abrasive.  When you do, then you will have developed incredible personal competitive advantage through the vehicle of your presentation skills.

That is, after all, why they’re called skills.

Your presentation will effervesce . . . it will join the ranks of the especially powerful.

So remember that tact and a positive presentation attitude is as important to your presentation as accuracy.  Internalize that lesson, and you’re on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations that persuade more than they insult.

For more on shaping a powerful and positive presentation attitude that stays on point and helps to build your personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Practice . . . the Third P

Engage in Powerful Presentation Practice
Engage in Powerful Presentation Practice

There is good presentation practice and there is bad presentation practice.

Extremely bad practice.

Awful practice.

But how can you say, Professor, that there is such a thing as “bad presentation practice?”

Aren’t you pleased that folks are at least . . . practicing?

Bad practice is pernicious.

It’s insidious, and at times can be worse than no practice at all.  It can create the illusion of improvement and yet be a prelude to disaster.

Check yourself out . . . then shun the Mirror

Practice is one of those words that we never bother to define, because each of us already “knows” what it means.

Certainly your professor thinks you know what it means, since he urges you to “practice” your presentation prior to its delivery.

But what does it mean to “practice?”  Doesn’t everyone know how to practice?

How do you practice?

Have you ever truly thought about it?  Have you ever thought about what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish with your practice?  Do you make the mistake of that old cliché and “practice in the mirror?”

Don’t practice in the mirror.  That’s dumb.

You won’t be looking at yourself as you give your talk, so don’t practice that way.

I say it again – that’s dumb.

The only reason to look in a mirror is to ensure that your gestures and expressions display exactly as you think they do when you employ them.  Other than that, stay away from the mirror.

Practice – the right practice, good practice, proper rehearsal – is the key to so much of your presentation’s success.  And your ultimate triumph.

The Russians have a saying much akin to one of ours.  We say “practice makes perfect.”  The Russians say “Povtoreniye mat’ ucheniya.”

It means “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

And it’s great advice.

Presentation Practice Leads to Victory

The armed forces are experts at practice.  Short of actual war, this is all the military does – practice for its mission in the most realistic conditions that can be devised.

And in doing so, the military arms our warriors with the confidence and skill necessary to accomplish the actual missions assigned to it.

Relentless Presentation Practice
Strive for Perfect Presentation Practice

Likewise, we must practice in the most realistic conditions that we can devise for ourselves, and in doing so we reduce our apprehension and uncertainty.

We gain confidence.

The nerves that go with public speaking are like the nerves a soldier feels as he walks through a minefield – he fears a single misstep will trigger an explosion.

But once the minefield is traversed a single time, the path is clear.  With a clear and predictable path, the fear evaporates.

The danger is avoided.

Confidence replaces fear.

Presentation Practice Eliminates Fear

Likewise, once you have practiced your talk, your fear dissipates.  Once you have practiced it exactly like you will deliver it, straight to completion without pause, then you will have reduced the unknown to manageable proportions.

The gigantic phantasmagoria is shrunk.

Your way through the minefield is clear.  And the fear evaporates.

Does this mean that you won’t have butterflies before a talk?  Or that you won’t be nervous?  Of course not.  We all do.

Before every game, professional football players are keyed up, emotional, nervous.  But once the game begins and they take the first “hit,” they ramp-up confidence.

Likewise, a bit of nervousness is good for you.  It ensures your focus.  But it’s good nervousness, borne of anticipation.

It is not the same as fear.

And so we see that the key to confidence is knowledge and preparation.

We lack confidence when we are unsure. With every practice, we gain confidence. And all the while we rehearse diligently, remember this dictum . . .

Sear This into Your Mind

Practice exactly the way you deliver your presentation.

I mean this literally.

Stage your practices, both individually and as a group, as close to the real thing as you can.  Make it as realistic as you can.  If you can, practice in the room where you will deliver your show.

You want as much pressure as possible.

One of the most prevalent and serious practice mistakes is to restart your presentation again and again when you make a mistake.  Do not start over when you make a mistake . . .

When you stumble, practice recovering from your error.

This should be common sense.  You must practice how you respond to making an error.  How you will fight through and recover from an error.  Then, if you stumble in your presentation, you will have the confidence and prior experience to weather the minor glitch because you will have faced it before.

Think of it this way.  Does a football team practice one way all week, and then employ a completely different game-plan on game-day?

Of course not.

And neither should you.

For more on Business Presentation Practice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.