Tag Archives: passion

Secret #7 – Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion
Presentation Passion?

Do you have presentation passion?

Do you invest your topic with energy and elan, regardless of whether it’s shampoo or sugar or ship-building?

What is it that fills you with the thrill of discovery, the adrenaline of newness?

What can compare with the natural high of applying yourself to a task that excites you?

What generates those endorphins?  What brings a smile to your face involuntarily?  What furrows your brow?

Is it “world hunger?”  Or European soccer?

Is it social injustice?  Is it political theory?  Is it comic book collecting? Chess?  Numismatics?  Tennis?  Travel to exotic locations?  Helping others solve problems?

Writing essays?  Fashion design?  Financial manipulations?  Reading  and then reflecting on a good book?

What’s your passion?  Do you even have one?

Is your Presentation Passion buried?

Likely as not, your passion has been buried under a ton of necessity, the debris we call the business of life.

f you find that your passion is buried, then this is the time to rescue it as one of the most potent factors in delivering your most powerful presentations.

Once you explore your own visceral feelings, your passion, it becomes that much easier to invoke presentation passion in your show.

To exhibit genuine enthusiasm for the subjects of your shows.

Can you generate presentation passion?  Of course you can.  Will it be “artificial” passion?  Of course not.  Passion is passion is passion.

presentation passion for power and impact
Especially Powerful Presentations all exhibit Presentation Passion

Unless you have passion for a subject and demonstrate that passion, you will always be at a disadvantage with respect to those who do.

If you are in competition with several other teams pitching a product or service to a company for millions of dollars – and there is no noteworthy difference in the quality or price of the service – then how does the potential customer decide?

On passion.

If he sees a real passion for the work in one team, if he feels the energy of a team driven to success and truly excited about the offering, don’t you think he’ll be inclined to the team that stirs his emotions?  The team that makes him see possibilities?

The team that helps him visualize a glorious future?

The team that shares his love and passion for his product or service and sees in you a shared passion for achieving something special in partnership?

Reread the previous paragraph, because it encapsulates so much of the presentation passion that is absent in presentations today, and so much of what is needed.

Centuries of Presentation Passion

Passion has served as a crucial element in verbal communication for centuries.  Here are two of my favorite quotations on its power:

“True emotional freedom is the only door by which you may enter the hearts of your hearers.”

            Brees and Kelley, 1931 

 “Earnestness is the secret of success in any department of life. It is only the earnest man who wins his cause.”

           S.S. Curry, 1895

Recognize in yourself the capacity for passion.  Recognize that you have the wherewithal to embrace even the most staid material, the “dullest” project.

Remember always that it is you who make it better.  You who invest it with excitement.

You are the alchemist.

Many times you hear an “interesting” presentation about an “interesting” topic.  It’s well-done, and it engaged you.

And you wonder why you never seem to get the “interesting” projects.

It’s your job to make it interesting

Have you ever admitted to yourself that you might be the missing ingredient?  That perhaps it is your task to invest a project with interest and zest?

That what makes a project “interesting” is not the topic . . . but rather the interaction between material and presenter.

Ultimately, it is your task to transform a “case” or business situation into an interesting and cogent presentation.  It’s your task to find the key elements of strategic significance and then to dramatize those elements in such a way that the audience is moved in powerful and significant ways.

And you don’t need an “interesting” case to do it.

You just need presentation passion.  More on how to develop especially powerful presentation passion here.

Business Presentation Passion

Business Presentation Passion means powerIn our battle to fight through the white noise of life to communicate with others, we often ignore the most powerful of weapons at our disposal – Business Presentation Passion.

Passion, Emotion, Brio, Energy

Sure, we pay occasional homage to emotion and to “passion.”

But more often than not, it’s only lip service.

You don’t really believe this stuff, do you?  Or maybe your fear of others’ judgments pushes out thoughts of investing your talks with something interesting.

We save our presentation passion for other activities.  For our sports teams and our politics and, perhaps, religion.  We separate our “real” selves from our work and from our “formal” exposition in front of an audience.

Business Presentation Passion for PowerMaybe we construct a barrier for the audience, to prevent an audience from seeing our vulnerabilities.  Perhaps we affect an air of nonchalance as a defensive mechanism.

Regardless of the reason, by not investing ourselves in our presentation and in our narrative, we render ourselves less persuasive.

If we purge our Business presentation passion, we are less effective, perhaps even ineffective.

Nonchalance is the Enemy

Emotion is a source of speaker power.  You can seize it.  You can use it to great effect.

And you can learn to do this more easily than you imagine.

James Albert Winans was a Presenting Master early in the 20th century, and he offered this beautifully crafted description of passion’s power.  Brilliant discovered words from 1915:

A speaker should feel what he says, not only to be sincere, but also to be effective.  It is one of the oldest of truisms that if we wish to make others feel, we ourselves must feel.  . . .   We know we do not respond with enthusiasm to an advocate who lacks enthusiasm.  And quite apart from response, we do not like speakers who do not seem to care.  We like the man who means what he says.

Do you mean what you say?  Do you even care?  Or do you sleepwalk through your assignments?  Reading from a note card, reading from the slides behind you, oblivious to why you are up there?

Now, one purpose of this counsel is not simply for you to display powerful emotions in service to a cause.  You are not simply “being emotional” for its own sake when you incorporate business presentation passion into your show.

You want to evoke emotions in your audience.  You want them to think, yes, but you also want them feel.

You want to establish a visceral connection with your audience.

Don’t Purge Business Presentation Passion

Sometimes it may seem as if you must purge all emotion from your presentations, especially your business presentations.

It’s as if you are instructed to behave like a robot under the guise of looking “professional” or “business-like.”

We can find that we respond too readily to these negative cues.  We think that if A is “good,” then twice as much of A is twice as good.  And three times as much of A is even better.

And without presentation passion, our business presentations suffer.

So, let’s accept right now that emotion and professionalism are not exclusive of each other.  Conversely, shun indifference.

The opposite of earnestness is indifference. An indifferent man cares no more for one thing than for another. All things to him are the same; he does not care whether men around him are better or worse. . . .  There are other opposites to earnestness besides indifference. Doubt of any kind, uncertainty as to the thought or to the truth, a lack of conviction, all these tend to destroy earnestness.

You know the indifferent man or woman, delivering a presentation that obviously means nothing to him or her.  Perhaps you’ve done this.

Haven’t we all at one time or another?

Unknowing of emotion, believing that we cannot show we care?

Business Presentation PassionDo you just go through the motions?  I understand why you might cop this attitude.  Layer upon layer of negative incentives weigh down the college student.

Adding to your burden is the peer pressure of blasé.

It’s perceived as “uncool” to appear to care about anything, to actually do your best.  Certainly to do your best on schoolwork of any kind.

Understand from this moment that this is wrong.  No, it is not a matter of opinion . . . it is not a “gray area.”  It is incontrovertibly wrong.

If you don’t care, no one else will.  And if you don’t care, you will lose to the presenter who does care.

Lose the job you want to someone else.

Lose the contract you want to someone else.

Lose the promotion you want to someone else.

Lose the influence you want to someone else.

Win with Business Presentation Passion

Does this seem too “over the top” for you?  Of course it does!

That’s because you’ve likely been conditioned to look askance at the kinds of rich, lusty pronouncements that embrace emotion rather than scorn it.

And that is a major part of the B-School Presentation Problem.

When was the last time a business professor criticized you for showing too much emotion in your presentation?

Have you ever heard anyone criticized for it?  For giving a presentation with too much feeling?  Or for being too interesting?

For actually making you care?  For actually being memorable for more than a few moments?

Now, think for a moment of the incredible power that might be yours if you embrace emotion and Business presentation passion when no one else does.

The wonder and delight of this is that it is entirely within your grasp to do so.

More on presentation passion and personal competitive advantage here . . .

Public Speaking Passion for Power and Impact

If you don’t enjoy what you do every day, you’re doing the wrong thing . . . and if you don’t have public speaking passion, you probably ought to reconsider.Public Speaking passion for power and impact

You’re in the wrong line of work.

Likewise, if you can’t get excited about your presentation topic, showing public speaking passion, it’s likely that you shouldn’t be presenting at all.

Remember, there’s no such thing as an inherently “interesting topic.”

As an especially powerful business presenter, it’s your job to invest your topic with a distinctiveness and verve that captures your audience.

You Provide the Public Speaking Passion

Interest is something that you do.  You invest your presentation, regardless of the topic, with power, zest, verve, bravura, and excitement.

One powerful technique at your disposal is “passion.”

This means to embrace your topic.  Regardless of whether you personally believe it to be interesting.  Your task is to take a topic – any topic – and turn it into a masterpiece of public speaking passion.

Whether your subject is floor polish, chocolate milk, or bed linen, you create a presentation that holds your audience rapt.

You seize your audience by the metaphorical lapels, and you don’t let go.

Tough?  Yes.

Because Presenting Isn’t Easy

Which is why business presenting is not the cakewalk that many people try to portray it.

Passion is your solution.  Public Speaking Passion is a powerful tool to create masterful presentations that sway your audience.  To make your listeners feel.

To compel your listeners to act.

Passion and enthusiasm, energy and brio can overcome so much that is otherwise wrong with today’s business presenting.  In fact, there is so little of this done today, that demonstrating presentation passion can become an important component of your personal brand and the source of personal competitive advantage.

Have a look at my short video on passion . . .

For more on public speaking passion and professional presence consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Become a Powerful Business Presenter . . . No Excuses

Powerful business presenter
You can become an especially powerful business presenter

With regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people, and none of these people seems truly to want to become an especially powerful business presenter.

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

“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become a powerful business presenter.

Neither is remotely accurate.

And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters.  Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways.

Here’s why . . .

We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do.  If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.

Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful business presenters.

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.  That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.  That Malcolm X was simply blessed with eloquence and power.  That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.

That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills.  The plateau of presentation excellence is forever denied us.

Thus, it becomes an excuse for us not to persevere.

Why bother to try?

Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types to do the heavy presentation lifting?  The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . .

. . . or unambitious.

The Second View

The second view is the opposite of the first.

This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap.  So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”

Become an especially powerful business presenterHas the presentation landscape eroded so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?

I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!

Have the expectations of the presentation become so unexceptional?

Have our senses become so numb that we must accept the lowest common denominator of presenting, the notion that adequate presentation skills can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Perhaps they have, today, but in an earlier time, respect for the powerful business presenter was near-universal.

In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.

In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.

On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.

The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”

You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?

The Third View – The Power Zone

There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.

This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way.  Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.

In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence. Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance.

The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.

The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!”  Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.

An excuse not to become an especially powerful business presenter.

One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task.  So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way.  Bon  voyage!  I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.

But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . .  “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”

Become a Powerful Business Presenter
Powerful Business Presenter . . . your choice
You choose to become a powerful business presenter . . . or not

Then you can read on to the next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity.  For the truth is in the Power Zone.

Once there, you’ll never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom.  It is completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting.  It’s your choice.

You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute.  Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . .  only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.

A method that transforms you.

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

The Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.

If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough to become a powerful business presenter, or believing you already are a powerful business presenter . . . when you’re actually not.

Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique.  A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking.  This history informs the very best presenters and their work.

You dismiss it only to your great loss.

No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking.  In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.

But what you can and should do is this:  Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter, who delivers especially powerful business presentations.

When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you.  You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.

An especially powerful presenter.

Now, you have no other real excuse.  It’s totally up to you.

For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.

Business Passion to Fuel your Presentation

Business Passion in your Presentations
Put Business Passion in your Presentation for Power and Impact

Business Passion occupies the core of any great business presentation.

Business Passion is like fuel for your car.  Not just any fuel.

High Octane fuel.

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

Business is Passionate, so Capture it

In earlier times, they used the word “Earnestness” to capture the same powerful concept as passion.

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

What was true then is surely true today.  Michelle Bowden is a presentation guru who embraces presentation earnestness.

And yet, “earnestness” – or business passion – is frowned upon, perhaps, as somehow “uncool.”

If you appear too interested in your business presentation, that puts you at risk . . . you think.  If you “fail” then you face utter humiliation.  Or so you believe.

Better to pretend you don’t care, eh?

Showing Too Much Interest?

So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool, so that no defeat is too damaging.  Sleepwalk your way through your presentation.

No business passion for you!

And you save your best – your earnestness – for something else.

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

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

Is mediocrity acceptable to you?  Do you settle?  Do you want to simply muddle through your presentations, part of an ocean of undistinguished colleagues who also seem not to care?

Leave Mediocrity to Others and Embrace Business Passion

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

Wrap your material in you.  And recognize that we in business are blessed with the stuff of great stories, epic stories of conflict.  Of victory and defeat.  Of triumph and tragedy.  Of power and business passion.

Seize that power to influence.

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

It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject.  It means recognizing that the subject of your presentation could be the love of someone else’s life.  It could be their business or their product.  Or their service.  You should make it yours and put business passion into your presentation.

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

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

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

Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations
Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations

What is presentation gesture, and why worry about it at all?

It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something nice to have, but unessential to the point of our business presentation.

The fact is that you can’t separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume.  From your nuance.

And you can’t separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.  And, if we’re good, improve our personal competitive advantage by way of especially powerful presentations.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”

Let’s understand what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:

“Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

A wave of the hand.  A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.  A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.  An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These presentation gestures can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Yes, destroy.  Herky-jerky moves, odd nervous dancing, strange finger-tugging, aimless pacing, injudiciously timed gesticulations – all of these can undermine an otherwise outstanding verbal performance.

Especially Powerful Gesture

Professional presentation coaches understand that much of the information transmitted in a show is visual.

This results from the presence of the speaker.  Because of this, an audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

Presentation Gesture
Presentation Gesture can be subtle . . . or expansive.

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience.  She contends that “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

We can quibble over the exact parsing of how much communication is verbal and how much nonverbal.  But there’s no doubt that gestures inject energy and accent to our business presentations.They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Presentation Gesture in History

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.  Entire books, in fact, have been penned about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.

See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Ott contends that gesture in your presentation should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

And we never gesture idly, without a point to make.

Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It is false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture for Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

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

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

In short, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

For more on presentation gesture, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

 

 

 

Business Presentation Skills for a Strong Personal Brand

Business Presentation Skills for Personal Competitive Advantage
Business Presentation Skills for Personal Competitive Advantage

What is left about business presentation skills that anyone would want to read in a blog?

What is there left to say?  After two or three posts?

Doesn’t that cover it?

That’s the attitude of many young people, including my daughter, who ought to know better.

One of my former colleagues even believes he can inculcate adequate presentation skill in, as he says, “30 minutes.”

Such is the myth of the soft skill.

Adolescent Attitude Toward Business Presentations Skills

One of the conundrums of business presenting is that it’s what is known in the parlance as a “soft skill.”

This suggests that skill at business presenting is somehow “softer” than, say, accounting.  It therefore needs less attention or development.

It must be somehow “easier.”

That it’s something that can be “picked up along the way.”

Many people believe this.  It can damage the early careers of young people, who form a wrong impression of the craft of speaking publicly.

Public Speaking – excellent public speaking – is tough.  Delivering a superb business presentation is one of the tougher tasks, because it often requires coordination with others in a kind of ballet.

The Reality of Business Presentation Skills
Especially Powerful Business Presentation Skills
Powerful Business Presentation Skills can confer personal competitive advantage

And it requires practice, just like any other discipline.

But invariably, the “soft skill” label moves it down the priority list of faculty and college administrators and, hence, of the students they serve.

I can quickly gauge the attention on business presenting skills at an institution by simply watching a cross-section of presentations.  To be generous, student business presentations are usually poor across a range of dimensions.

They come across most often as pedestrian.  Many are quite bad.

But this is not to say that they are worse than what passes for presenting in the corporate world.  They’re usually as good – or as bad – as what is dished out in the “real world.”

The Great Embarrassment

The great embarrassment is that the majority of business students have untapped potential for becoming competent and especially powerful business presenters.  But they never realize that potential because they never progress out of the swamp of poor business presentation skills.

Some students pass through the business school funnel with only cursory attention to business presentation skills.  Perhaps I’m too demanding, and the degree of attention I’d like to see just isn’t possible.  But . . .

But the craft of business presenting needs only the proper focus and priority to transform young people into quite capable and competent presenters.

And some institutions get it right.

I’m blessed to serve an institution that takes business presentation skills seriously.  My school’s winning results in case competitions demonstrates this commitment to preparing business students to excel in the most-demanded skill that corporate recruiters seek.  A coterie of professors, particularly in finance, have recognized the power bestowed by sharp business presentation skills.

And they emphasize these skills far beyond the norm in most schools.

Business Presentation Skills for an Especially Powerful Personal Brand
Business Presentation Skills for a Powerful Personal Brand

Administrators, too, insist that students pass through rigorous workshops that inculcate in students the presenting skills to last a business lifetime.

Business Presentation Skills Build a Powerful Personal Brand

The results can be phenomenal.

Merely by exposure to the proper techniques, students gain tremendous personal career advantage.

By elevating business presentation skills to the same level of the sub-disciplines of, say, marketing, operations, or risk management, B-Schools can imbue their students and faculty with the appropriate reverence for the presentation enterprise.

One result of this is the creation of young executives who tower over their peers in terms of presenting skills.  And especially powerful business presentation skills are in high demand by corporate recruiters.

This highly refined skill of delivering stunning business presentations becomes part of a powerful and distinctive personal brand.  A brand that cannot be copied easily and so becomes part of a personal competitive advantage that can last a lifetime.

So, back to the original contention of folks who wonder what could one possibly write about in a “business presenting blog” . . . just as there is much to be learned, it means there is much to write about.

There is much to be distilled from 2500 years of recorded presentation wisdom.

The wisdom is there.  It remains for us to seize it and make it our own for enhanced personal competitive advantage.

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

 

King, Jobs, Aristotle and the Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long history

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

Aristotle . . .

These three quite different men shared a respect for the power of the spoken word.

The power to persuade.

What is Rhetoric?  Do We Care?

Twenty-three centuries ago, Aristotle gave us the means to deliver powerful business presentations.  The best speakers know this, either explicitly or instinctively.

We all owe a debt to Aristotle for his powerful treatise on persuasive public speaking Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the function of discovering the means of persuasion for every case.  These means of persuasion are delivered as a form of art.  Aristotle identified the three necessary elements for powerful and persuasive presentations – the ethos or character of the speaker, the attitude of the audience, and the argument itself.

The persuasive presentation

And the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

First, rhetoric can prevent the triumph of fraud and injustice.  Second, it can instruct when scientific argument doesn’t work.  Third, it compels us to act out both sides of a case.  When you can argue the opposite point, you are best armed to defeat it.  Finally, it is a powerful means of defense when your opponent attacks.

As modern college texts wallow in the fever swamp of “communication theory,” Aristotle’s Rhetoric offers us a crystalline tool of power and efficacy – a sure guide to the proper techniques in business presenting.

Modern Persuasive Presentations

Two men as different as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs understood the power of rhetoric to inspire people to action.  Dr. King for the transformation of society . . . Steve Jobs for the revolutionizing of six different technology industries.

Dr. King used one particular rhetorical technique that has become the touchstone of his legacy – his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” during his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  This technique is called the anaphora.  It involves the repetition for effect of a key phrase during a presentation.  Dr. King ensured that the Dream of which he spoke would be the emotive catalyst for action.

The anaphora is part of what Aristotle recognized as art in rhetoric and is an advantage that rhetoric has over straight “scientific” expository speech in calling people to action.

Dr. King recognized the emotive power of rhetoric, and it is this power that can move listeners to action when pure logic cannot.

The persuasive presentation

A Different Venue

Steve Jobs, too, utilized the technique for a different purpose, a much more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.  For example:

“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle.”

The anaphora is just one example of an especially powerful rhetorical technique.  It can imbue your business presenting with persuasiveness.  And there’s more . . . so much more available to you.

Business Presentation expert Nancy Duarte provides a comprehensive list of 16 rhetorical devices that Jobs used for his business presentations.  Devices that you can use as well.

When we understand the power of rhetoric and how that power is achieved, it transforms us into more capable and competent business presenters.

Perhaps not as transcendent as Dr. Martin Luther King, but certainly especially powerful presenters in our own bailiwicks.

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

Gangnam Style Presentation

Gangnam style Presentation Can elevate your own show
Gangnam Style Presentation is extreme, but instructive

Here’s a presenter who carefully follows the Three Ps of business presenting and quite obviously succeeds at his performance in a Gangnam Style Presentation.

The Three Ps, of course, are:  Principles . . . Preparation . . . and Practice.

The presenter calls himself Psy.

In this Gangnam Style presentation, Psy engages the Seven Secrets of presenting – the principles of Voice, Expression, Gesture, Appearance, Stance, Passion, and Movement – for a stunning performance.  Note that the acronym formed by those seven words is appropriate to this particular presentation:

VEGAS PM.

Applying the Three Ps

Moreover, while Psy exhibits incredible professional presence, he doesn’t rely solely on his charisma to carry his presentation.  He and his support team prepared meticulously for this performance, and they’ve obviously practiced much.

The presenter engages his audience, gives them exactly what they expected to receive, and encourages audience participation.

He exhibits tremendous focus on his main point, repeating his main point several times so that it isn’t lost – otherwise known as his song’s chorus – and he uses the same repeated choral movement to emphasize visually his song’s chorus.

View this Gangnam Style Presentation with these precepts in mind.

 

The comparison to superb business presenting is by no means a reach.

When you present, you give your audience a show.  Accordingly, you should prepare your show according to principles almost identical to those used by any stage performer.

You might not expect the kind of crazed enjoyment of your business presentation exhibited by the audience in the video (and I congratulate you if you achieve it).  But you can apply the precepts of presenting to meet your audience expectations, engage your listeners, and drive home your main point with repetition and focus.

Deliver a Gangnam Style Presentation

You can thoroughly prepare and practice your presentation, just as any worthy stage performer does.  Respect for your audience and your message demands no less than that you employ the Three Ps of business presenting.

Do this consistently, and you increase your personal competitive advantage tremendously as someone known for capable and competent business presenting.

For more on Gangnam Style business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Not so Humbug . . . a Christmas Classic!


When asked if the university stifles writers, Flannery O’Conner quipped that the university unfortunately doesn’t stifle enough of them.

Indeed.

My naturally autocratic tendencies, which have held me back in the literary world for years, compel me constantly to cast a pall on the enthusiasms of my young charges.

At this time of year, such endeavor might be considered . . . Scrooge-like.

But it’s Time for some Mind-Clearing

This is about shaking off the bad habits learned over in the liberal arts college . . . about clearing the mind . . . scattering gnat-like notions to the winds . . .

Accordingly, as a business school professor, I urge my students to dispense with their fanciful flights picked up in undisciplined liberal arts courses.  To dispense with the bad and the ugly . . . and to embrace the good.

In class, my students look at me, expectantly.  Yes, we’re there – in class – now:

“You remember those idyllic scenes conjured by your imagination, back when you were young and unjaded?  High school seniors . . . or even freshmen?  When college still had its sheen?”

I roam the floor, the space in front of the rows of desks with their internet connections.  It is my stage.

“Remember those scenes of professors and students out on the lawn under a late summer sun, students sitting cross-legged, perhaps chewing on blades of grass?  Your kindly bearded professor, a tam resting upon his head, gesturing grandly while reciting something beautiful?  Perhaps a passage from Faulkner?  Perhaps a trope from Aristotelian philosophy or verse from an angry beat poet?”

One student speaks up.

“I saw a group out there today!  Why can’t we do that?”

“Wouldn’t that be nice,” I respond.

Nods around the room.  Broad smiles.

“No, it would not be nice,” I say.  “That’s not genuine.  It’s not authentic.  Just actors performing for touring visitors and posing for publicity shots.  College isn’t like that.  There is no authentic college of your dreams waiting for you to discover.  Remember the lesson of Oliver Wendell Douglas.”

“Who?”

“Oliver . . . Wendell . . . Douglas.”

I’m concerned at this lack of essential preparatory knowledge of the modern college student at a major university.

Search for the Authentic

“The star of Green Acres, the greatest television show of all time.  Don’t you watch Nickelodeon or TV Land?”

Green Acres.  I explain.

It was really an allegory, a metaphor for our time.  Mr. Douglas was forever in search of the authentic.  He had an idyllic conception of rural life.  He abandoned his big city lawyer’s life in a quest for authentic Americana.

Instead, Mr. Douglas found a bizarre world populated by characters that could have been confected by Stephen King.

Hank Kimball.

Mr. Haney.

Sam Drucker.

Eb.

Frank Ziffle.

Everyone was an actor in a surreal drama staged for the benefit of Mr. Douglas’s dreams of the authentic rural life.

The unifying theme of the show was Sam Drucker’s general store, where many of the crucial insights were revealed.  Rural folk did not use oil lamps, “’cause we all got ’lectricity.”  The barrel in Sam Drucker’s general store was filled with plastic pickles.

The store was a magical place for Mr. Douglas, a crossroads for many of the strange characters who annoyed him so naughtily.  For the most part, they gave Mr. Douglas exactly what he wanted to see, because in the immortal words of Sam Drucker:  “City folks seem to expect it.”

The idyllic outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature-scene.

Students seem to expect it.

High Expectations

Expectations I sadly must deflate.

“I suppose that no one in this classroom has seen Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan?  And if you have, I’m betting you completely missed the theme of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of Utilitarianism expressed by Spock throughout the film.  Never mind the obvious references to Melville’s Moby Dick?”

“Is this class Global Strategic Management, Professor?”

Again, those naturally autocratic tendencies assert themselves.

“This class is what I want it to be.  And it is not going to be about outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature instruction.  It’s going to be . . . authentic.”

I snap my fingers.

“How many people here believe in this . . . this muse?”

There is silence.  No movement.

“You know.  This writing trope.  This muse.  Anyone ever heard of this muse?  Don’t hide from me.  I know you were exposed to this . . . this muse over in that heinous liberal arts college.”

Hands begin to go up.  Cautious hands.  More hands than I expect.  More hands than are comfortable.

Time to disabuse them, time to explode their fantasies.

“There is no muse.”

A simple declarative sentence, but with the unsentimental power and imperious grandeur of a Thomas Carlyle proclamation.

Puzzled looks.  A few of them distraught.  Then, anger.

“But there is.  There’s a muse . . . there is!”

“Humbug!  There is no muse!  Get that Birkenstock notion out of your callow head.”

“But my English prof said—”

“Your English prof is teaching because she cannot earn a living foisting this muse-myth on folks who live and breathe and work and play in the real world.  People who build bridges, crop tobacco, feed hormones to beef, fly you home over holiday break, and who serve you every day at the 7-ll.  People who pay taxes and die.”

Gasp.

“You must know only one thing.”

My voice drops low, just above a whisper, and I lean forward.  Pause.

“You must know only one thing.”

The students sense something profound coming.  They won’t be disappointed.

“Yes, there is a muse . . . I am your muse.”

I smile a benevolent smile.  I see several people actually taking notes, writing this down.

The Muse Whispers . . .

“I am on your shoulder whispering to you in those moments when you lack inspiration.  I am your solution to the blank computer screen.”

My voice rises, I lean back and spread my hands wide, just as I have seen evangelicals do when working a crowd.

“I am the muse, the answer to your writer’s block and the source of your inspiration.”

Titters of laughter ripple through the room, and I scowl.

“You think I’m joking . . . that this is a joke?”

I pace like a panther, my hands clasped behind my back.  I stalk the room, the entire space in front of the classroom and right in front of the giant PowerPoint projection screen.

I stop and face them, squaring my shoulders and flexing my jaw.

“I want you to remember that one thing when you’re up at night and time is trickling by, and you have an assignment but no ideas and no hope . . . .”

They are silent, and they watch me.

The Incantation . . .

“I will perch on your shoulder, and I will whisper to you just four words.  I want you to remember those four words.  Just four little words – just five little syllables.  They are magic words!  An incantation!  A mantra to warm you on those cold nights bereft of imagination, as you trek that barren wasteland of words without order, without discipline, without a point.”

I have their attention now.  They are rapt.

Will I win them over this time?  Can I break through?  Can I help them make the leap from soaring idealism to mundane responsibility?

“Remember these words:  Love … the … Value … Chain!”

Groans.

They’ve heard this before.  They sound disappointed.  Cheated.

So many fail to see the beauty of disaggregating the firm into its functional components.  The analytical precision it provides, the world of discovery that it opens up!  So many stop short of making that final connection . . . except this time . . .

“I love the value chain, Professor!”

“Really?”

I’m skeptical, jaded.  I search for signs of duplicity.  But detect nothing but enthusiasm.

“Which part of the value chain do you feel the most affinity for?”

“Since I’m chronologically oriented, Professor, I’m partial to Inbound Logistics!”

There is a general murmuring and uneasiness in the class.  Inbound logistics?

I nod sagely.  “That’s fine, Ms. Zapata.  It’s okay to privilege one segment of the value chain over another, if it gives you the key to identifying competitive advantage!”

A hand shoots up and a voice cries out before I can acknowledge it.

Operations!  That’s the ticket for me.”

And yet another!

After sale Service!” a voice in the back calls out.  “Professor, Customer Relationship Management has a symmetry and logic about it that outstrips anything we touched on in my basic philosophy courses!”

The dam had finally burst, and the classroom buzzed with talk of core competencies, competitive analysis, environmental scans, core products, strategy formulation processes, Five Forces analysis, and comparative advantage!

They are convinced – finally – that strategy and value chain analysis can be an art.  I even say positive things about accounting and accountants, observing that there is a bit of art and flair and imagination necessary to produce a product desired by the employer . . . or patron.  Think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel for his patron.

The Value Chain!  Inbound logistics, Operations, Outbound logistics, Sales and Marketing, and Service.

If ever there were a time for sentimentality and outright weeping, this was it!

But then . . .

But then, one of the most staid literary conventions of all time reared its ugly head.

I woke up.

I awoke from a dream.

A Sweet, Impossible Dream

It was nothing but a sweet dream.  Students excited at the prospect of writing a paper on value chain analysis . . . on identifying a company’s core competency and developing a strategic plan to gain sustained competitive advantage based on that competency . . . students who loved the value chain . . . who could see the art and creativity demanded of the accountant and financial manager.

Who could see the beauty in efficient operations management.

Who would strive for efficiency because it was the right thing to do!

It was all a sweet dream.

cruel dream.

I awoke to a cold, winter world where idealistic students still dream and irresponsible students still party and wiseacre students still wisecrack with a tiresome world-weariness.  Who write with an undisciplined lackadaisical casualness that drives me to distraction.

It is the little things that do this.

I close my eyes and maybe . . . perhaps I can recapture a bit of the magic.  Recapture the dream.

I look up, startled to find a group of students gathered round my desk after I have dismissed class.  They are heading home in the cold for their winter break.

“What’s this?”

“A gift, Professor.”

“Thank you.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

I peel the wrap away in a crinkle of coated Christmas paper.  It’s a book.  A copy of Peter Drucker’s Management.

It’s a first edition, and I feel my eyes tearing up.

“We know how much you like Green Acres.  And Drucker’s general store.”

Smiles abound.  I cock one eyebrow, as I am wont to do.

“You do know that it wasn’t Peter Drucker’s store?  It was Sam Drucker’s general store.”

“Does it really matter, Professor?”

“In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that it does not.  Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Why do I offer a hearty Merry Christmas instead of something ecumenically blasé?

Well, because I can.  Because I’m authentic.  Because I have authoritarian tendencies.

Because I offer others a piece of my world.

And I heartily accept Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Season’s Greetings from anyone and everyone else who cares to send ’em my way.

Now, let me go read Sam Drucker’s book on managing a general store in Hooterville.

I’m such an idealist.


Earnestness, for an Especially Powerful Business Presentation

 Earnestness, for a Powerful Business Presentation
Be earnest . . . for a Powerful Business Presentation

“Earnestness” is a word that we neither hear much nor use much these days.

That’s a shame.

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

Edwin Dubois Shurter was a presenting master in the early 20th Century, and he said way back in 1903 that:

“Earnestness is the soul of oratory.  It manifests itself in speech by animation, wide-awakeness, strength, force, power, as opposed to listlessness, timidity, half-heartedness, uncertainty, feebleness.”

What was true then is surely true today.

And yet, “earnestness” is frowned upon.  Perhaps some think it somehow “uncool.”

Showing Too Much Interest?

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

Better to pretend you don’t care.

So the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance.  So that no defeat is too damaging.  And you can save your cool.  You save your best – your earnestness – for something else.

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

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

Strive for the Powerful Business Presentation

Mediocrity is the province of the lazy and nonchalant.  The sin of the insouciant.

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

Earnestness means wrapping your material in you.

Embracing your topic.

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

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

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

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

For more on the power of earnestness and the key to delivering a powerful business presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Engaging Your Audience . . . Video Classic!

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

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

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

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

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

How DO you Engage Your Audience?

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

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

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

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

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

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

Where’s Your Presentation Passion?

Presentation Passion is an especially powerful source of personal competitive advantage
Imbue your business presentations with passion for especially powerful impact

If you don’t enjoy what you do every day, you’re doing the wrong thing.

You’re in the wrong line of work.

Likewise, if you can’t get excited about your presentation topic, showing presentation passion, you shouldn’t be presenting at all.

Remember, there is no such thing as an inherently “interesting topic.”  As an especially powerful business presenter, it’s your job to invest your topic with a distinctiveness and verve that captures your audience.

You Provide the Presentation Passion

Interest is something that you do.  You invest your presentation, regardless of the topic, with power, zest, verve, bravura, and excitement.

One powerful technique at your disposal is “passion.”

Inject Presentation Passion

This means to embrace your topic.  Regardless of whether you personally believe it to be interesting.  Your task is to take a topic – any topic – and turn it into a masterpiece of presentation passion.

Whether your subject is floor polish, chocolate milk, or bed linen, you create a presentation that holds your audience rapt.

You seize your audience by the metaphorical lapels, and you don’t let go.

Tough?  Yes.

Which is why business presenting is not the cakewalk that many people try to portray it.

Passion is your solution, a powerful tool to create masterful presentations that sway your audience.

Passion and enthusiasm, energy and brio can overcome so much that is otherwise wrong with today’s business presenting.  In fact, there is so little of this done today, that demonstrating presentation passion can become an important component of your personal brand and the source of personal competitive advantage.

Have a look at my short video on passion . . .

For more on presentation passion and professional presence consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Encore! Your Especially Powerful Expression

Expression is an especially powerful technique that can imbue your presentation with gravitas and deeper meaning

Do you ever consider how you actually appear to people with regard to your facial expressions?

Many folks are seemingly oblivious to their own expressions or to a lack of expressiveness.  Their faces appear dull and lifeless.

Nondescript.

In your business presentation, you communicate far more with your face than you probably realize.  This can be an especially powerful source of  personal competitive advantage.

Your facial expressions can reinforce your message, confuse your audience, or detract from your message.  Yes, there exists something called bad expression, and at its worst, it can generate hostility in your audience.

Your Especially Powerful Communication Tool

Expression is sometimes discussed in conjunction with gesture, and indeed there is a connection.  The power of expression has always been recognized as a vital communication tool, reinforcing words and even, at times, standing on their own.

Joseph Mosher was one of the giants of the early 20th Century public speech instruction, and he dares venture into territory rarely visited by today’s sterile purveyors of “business communication.”

Mosher actually addressed the personality of the speaker.  These are the qualities that bring success.

[T]here is no one element of gesture which furnishes as unmistakable  and effective an indication of the speaker’s thought and feeling as does the expression of the mouth and eyes.  The firm-set mouth and flashing eye speak more clearly than a torrent of words; the smile is as good as, or better than, a sentence in indicating good humor; the sneering lip, the upraised brow, or the scowl need no verbal commentary.

Consider these expressions:  A curl of the lip to indicate disapproval . . . or even contempt.  The raising of one eyebrow to indicate doubt . . . or skepticism.  Sincere furrows in the brow to indicate sincerity . . . or great concern.

Expressions Increase Power . . . or Weaken Your Message

These expressions, coupled with the appropriate words, have a tremendous impact on your audience.  They increase the power of your message.  They ensure that your message is clear.

Facial expressions can erase ambiguity and leave no doubt in the minds of your listeners what you are communicating.  The appropriate facial expression can arouse emotion and elicit sympathy for your point of view.  It’s an important component of charisma.

Our expressions can enhance our presentation . . . or cripple it, and thorough knowledge of how our expressions can lift our talk or derail it is essential to becoming a powerful business communicator.  Let’s watch how . . .

For more choice nuggets on expression, reference The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your source for enduring Personal Competitive Advantage.

Time for a Public Speaking Pause

Public Speaking Pause Delivers Impact
The well-timed and well-placed pause can make your business presentation corruscate

Coca-Cola’s 1929 slogan was “The Pause that Refreshes.”

Pauses can, indeed, be refreshing, and a judicious pause can refresh your business presentation.

I’m taking a cue from Coke.  I’m pausing here in this space, right now.

It should last for a few days.  Not to refresh, but to move my abode within the confines of the great city of Philadelphia.

Moves are great.  They offer a time for purging the unwanted from one’s life, discarding what we thought was essential so long ago, only to realize now that . . . we can let it go.

Public Speaking Pause Power

In fact, the prudent pause for reflection, for the audience to digest your message, for dramatic effect to emphasize what comes next . . . all add depth and richness to your show and communicate to audience members that they have gathered to hear something special.

So, make friends with silence so that you feel comfortable in its presence.

The correct pauses imbue your talk with incredible power.  With proper timing and coupled with other techniques, the pause can evoke strong emotions in your audience.

A pause can project and communicate as much or more than mere words.

The public speaking pause is part of your nonverbal repertoire and a superbly useful tool.

The comfortable pause communicates your competence and confidence.  It telegraphs deep and serious thought. Pause Power is underutilized today, but has served as arrow-in-quiver of the finest presenters over centuries.  Presentation Master Grenville Kleiser put it this way in 1912:  “Paradoxical tho it may seem, there is an eloquence and a power in silence which every speaker should seek to cultivate.”

When you use the pause judiciously, you emphasize the point that comes immediately after the pause.  You give the audience time to digest what you just said.  And you generate anticipation for what you are about to say.

So save the pause for the moments just prior to each of your main points.

How do you pause?  When do you pause?

Silence is Your Friend

A truly effective pause can be coupled with a motionless stance, particularly if you have been pacing or moving about or gesturing vigorously.  Couple the pause with a sudden stop, going motionless.  Look at your audience intently.

Seize their complete attention.

Pause.

You can see that you should not waste your pause on a minor point of your talk.  You should time your pauses to emphasize the single MIP and its handful of supporting points.

Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says:  “A pause is effective and very powerful if it is active and in the moment with your intentions and head and heart. . . . a pause filled with breath and attention to what you are saying to your audience will give you and your audience a bridge of transitional energy from one idea to another.”

Finally, the pause can rescue you when you begin to spiral out of control or lose your train of thought.  Remember that silence is your friend.

Need a life-preserver?  Need time to regain your composure?  Try this . . .

Pause.  Look slightly down.  Scratch your chin thoughtfully.  Furrow your brow.  Take four steps to the right or left, angling a bit toward the audience.

Voila!  You just bought 7-8 precious seconds to collect your thoughts.

Remember the especially powerful effects you can achieve in your business presentation with the public speaking pause.  It’s a sure way to build your professional presence on the podium.

For more on superb business techniques like the public speaking pause, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

“Earnestness” Can be Especially Powerful

The Earnest Presenter is an Especially Powerful Presenter

“Earnestness” is a word that we neither hear much nor use much these days.

That’s a shame, because the word captures much of what makes for an especially powerful presentation.

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

What was true then is surely true today.

Without Earnestness, Only Small Victories

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

If you appear too interested in something, and then you somehow are perceived as having failed, then your presentation “defeat” is doubly ignominious.  Better to pretend you don’t care.

Predictably, the default student attitude is to affect an air of cool nonchalance, so that no defeat is too damaging.  And you save your best – your earnestness – for something else.  For your friends, for your sports contests, for your pizza discussions, for your intramural softball team . . .

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

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

Wrap your material in you.

This means giving a presentation that no one else can give, that no one else can copy . . . because it arises from your essence, your core.  It means demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for your subject.

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

Embrace your topic and you will shine in an especially powerful presentation.  Earnestness becomes second nature.

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

Bad Business Presenting . . . CLASSIC COKE

Coke CEO does not present well
Even the largest and most respected corporations have speaking pathologies running rampant in the senior leadership

A wholly unsatisfactory stance infests the business landscape, and youve seen it dozens of times.

You see it in the average corporate meeting, after-dinner talk, finance brief, or networking breakfast address.

While unrelenting positivity is probably the best approach to presentation improvement, it helps at times to see examples of what not to do, particularly when the examples involve folks of lofty stature who probably ought to know better.

If they dont know better, this is likely a result of the familiar syndrome of those closest to the boss professionally not having the guts to tell the boss he needs improvement.

The speaker stands behind a lectern.  The speaker grips the lectern on either side.  The speaker either reads from notes or reads verbatim from crowded busy slides projected behind him.

The lectern serves as a crutch, and the average speaker, whether student or corporate VP, appears afraid that someone might snatch the lectern away.

This Video rated PG-13 for excessive violence done to good speaking skills

Many business examples illustrate this, and youve probably witnessed lots of them yourself.  Let’s take, for instance, Mr. Muhtar Kent, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca-Cola.

Mr. Kent appears to be a genuinely engaging person on occasions where he is not speaking to a group.  But when he addresses a crowd of any size, something seizes Mr. Kent and he reverts to delivering drone-like talks that commit virtually every public speaking sin.

He leans on the lectern.  He hunches uncomfortably.  He squints and reads his speech from a text in front of him and, when he does diverge from his speech, he rambles aimlessly.  He wears glasses with little chains hanging from either side of the frame, and these dangle and sway and attract our attention in hypnotic fashion.

In the video below, Mr. Kent delivers an October 2010 address at Yale University in which he begins badly with a discursive apology, grips the lectern as if it might run away, does not even mention the topic of his talk until the 4-minute mark, and hunches uncomfortably for the entire 38-minute speech. Have a look . . .

Successful C-Suite businessmen and businesswomen, such as Mr. Kent, are caught in a dilemma – many of them are terrible presenters, but no one tells them so.  No one will tell them so, because there’s no upside in doing it.

Why would you tell your boss, let-alone the CEO, that he needs improvement in presenting?  Such criticism cuts perilously close to the ego.

Many business leaders believe their own press clippings, and they invest their egos into whatever they do so that it becomes impossible for them to see and think clearly about themselves.  They tend to believe that their success in managing a conglomerate, in steering the corporate elephant of multinational business to profitability, means that their skills and judgment are infallible across a range of unrelated issues and tasks.

Such as business presenting.

Mr. Kent is by all accounts a shrewd corporate leader and for his expertise received in 2010 almost $25 million in total compensation as Coca-Cola CEO and Board Chairman.  But he is a poor speaker.  He is a poor speaker with great potential.

And this is tragic, because many business leaders like Mr. Kent could become outstanding speakers and even especially powerful advocates for their businesses.

Spreading Mediocrity

But as it stands now, executives such as Mr. Kent exert an incredibly insidious influence in our schools and in the corporate world generally.  Let’s call it the “hem-of-garment” effect, where those of us who aspire to scale the corporate heights imitate what we believe to be winning behaviors.  We want to touch the hem of the garment, so-to-speak, of those whom we wish to emulate.

Because our heroes are so successful, their “style” of speaking is mimicked by thousands of young people who believe that, well, this must be how it’s done: “He is successful, therefore I should deliver my own presentations this way.”

You see examples of this at your own B-School, as in when a VP from a local insurance company shows up unprepared, reads from barely relevant slides, then takes your questions in chaotic and perhaps haughty form.  Who could blame you if you believe that this is how it should be done?  This is, after all, the unfortunate standard.

But this abysmal level of corporate business presenting offers you an opportunity . . .

You need only become an above-average speaker to be considered an especially powerful presenter.

A presenter far more powerful than Mr. Muhtar Kent or any of 500 other CEOs.

Embrace the notion that you can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . you might find help in this book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to put Passion in Presentations

Passion in Presentations
The passionate presentation can win the day over the staid and uninteresting

Do you put passion in presentations, or do you settle for being an emotionless automaton?

Do you save your passion for other things?  Meaningless things?

Do you even know what infuses you with passion?

Think about it.

What is Your Passion?

What is it you long to do?  What is it that fills you with the thrill of discovery, the adrenaline of newness?  What can compare with the natural high of applying yourself to a task that excites you?

What generates those endorphins?  What brings a smile to your face involuntarily?  What furrows your brow?

Is it “world hunger?”  Or European soccer?  Is it social injustice? Is it political theory?  Is it comic book collecting?

Is it Chess?  Numismatics?  Tennis?  Travel to exotic locations?  Helping others solve problems?  Writing essays?  Fashion design?  Financial manipulations?  Reading a good book?

What’s your passion?  Do you even have one?

Yes, you do have a passion.  But likely as not, it’s been buried under a ton of necessity, the debris we call the business of life.

Is your Passion buried?

If you find that your passion is buried, then this is the time to rescue it as one of the most potent factors in delivering your most powerful presentations.

Once you explore your own visceral feelings, your passion, it becomes that much easier to invoke passion in presentations.  To actually feel passion for the subjects of your shows.  Can you generate passion?  Of course you can.  Will it be “artificial” passion?  Of course not.

With a tip o’ the hat to Gertrude Stein . . . passion is passion is passion.

Passion in presentations
Passion can help you build professional presence as well as convey your presentation message in a powerful way

Unless you have passion for a subject and demonstrate that passion, you will always be at a disadvantage with respect to those who passionately embrace their subject.  If you are in competition with several other teams pitching a product or service to a company for millions of dollars – and there is no noteworthy difference in the quality or price of the service – then how does the potential customer decide?

On passion.

Put Passion in Presentations!

If he sees a real passion for the work in one team, if he feels the energy of a team driven to success and truly excited about the offering, don’t you think he’ll be inclined to the team that stirs his emotions?  The team that makes him see possibilities?  The team that demonstrates passion in presentation?

The team that helps him visualize a glorious future?  The team that shares his own love and passion for his product or service and sees in you a shared passion for achieving something special in partnership?

Reread the previous paragraph, because it encapsulates so much of what is absent in presentations today, and so much of what is needed.

Passion cannot substitute for substance . . . but when it augments substance, it wins every time.

Passion has served as a crucial element in verbal communication for centuries.  Two of my favorite quotations on its power follow:

“True emotional freedom is the only door by which you may enter the hearts of your hearers.”

Brees and Kelley, 1931

 “Earnestness is the secret of success in any department of life.  It is only the earnest man who wins his cause.”

S.S. Curry, 1895

Recognize in yourself the capacity for passion and the necessity of putting passion in presentations for power and impact.  Recognize that you have the wherewithal to embrace even the most staid material, the “dullest” project.  Remember always that it is you who make it better.  You who invest it with excitement.  You are the alchemist.

It’s your job to make it interesting

Many times you hear an “interesting” presentation about an “interesting” topic.  It is well-done, and it engaged you.  And you wonder why you never seem to get the “interesting” projects.

Have you ever admitted to yourself that you might be the missing ingredient?  That perhaps it is your task to invest a project with interest and zest?  That what makes a project “interesting” is not the topic . . . but rather the interaction between material and presenter.

Ultimately, it is your task to transform a “case” or business situation into an interesting and cogent presentation.  It is your task to find the key elements of strategic significance and then to dramatize those elements in such a way that the audience is moved in powerful and significant ways.

Yes, you can do this.  You don’t need an “interesting” case to do it.

You just need passion.

More on passion in presentations in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Power Words for Business Presentations

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

Words are the stuff of power.

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

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

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

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

Power Words for Business

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

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

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

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

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

Cliches heard for the first time are like that.

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

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

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

Power Words Against Business

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

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

Recognize sloganeering in your writing.

Example?

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

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

Power words against business.

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

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

It’s the nature of economic growth.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sweatshops” Anyone?

Single words sometimes embody entire arguments.

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

But in its proper terms and in its proper context.

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

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

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

“Cultural Imperialism” Anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choice is one of those Power Words for Business.

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

A choice to purchase goods and services previously unavailable.

A choice to live better.

Exploitation . . . or Choice?

A choice, that’s all.  An alternative.

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

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

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

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

Power Words for Business – Economic Opportunity Centers

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

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

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

A choice and a chance to move up.

A choice that earlier was not available.

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

Power Words for Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

Words are the stuff of power.

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

Beware the Sneer of the Wise

Thoughtful visionaries must craft compelling business presentations to make their rarefied concepts intelligible

 

George H. W. Bush might have called it “the vision thing.”

He beat me to it by about 20 years, and while it might have been a phrase suitable for ridiculing an uptight politician, I think it does capture its amorphous quality.

It seems that the vision thing is amorphous . . . to everyone but the visionary.  To the visionary, the vision is clear, rational, bright as white phosphorus burning on a moonless night.

And quite as hot.

At best, the visionary is surrounded by lesser minds whose feeble synapses cannot loop themselves about the vision.

At worst, they are idiots and obstructionists.

Our Visions . . .
Professional Presence means passion
Vision, passion, presence . . . your business presentation needs them all

Of course, we all have visions.

To us, our own visions are clear.  They are indeed rational, bright as white phosphorus burning on a moonless night.

And yes . . . quite as hot.

These are exciting visions, and visions that are bound to disappoint us as we make others aware of them.

For no one else understands.  Because . . . communicating that vision may be as difficult as confecting it in the first place.

For every sympathetic ear lent to you by a fellow visionary who has been put through the meatgrinder of negativity, there are 100 naysayers eager to turn the crank on your vision.

No . . . 1000 naysayers.

Not that naysaying is always bad, mind you.  All visions are not created equal, and some can be downright nasty.

The man or woman with a vision could easily be an artist or architect, or could well be a developer scarfing up land to lay down asphalt for a superhighway or to lay foundations for a new Trump Tower.

Or it could be an entrepreneur — wild-eyed, committed, driven by a vision.

Driven to Create

Or a would-be novelist with one good plot in him . . . or her.  Or a dozen plots seething and straining at release from the prison of our poor imagination.  A would-be novelist, driven to write.  Or driven to distraction.

Is there so much difference between an entrepreneur and a writer?  For novelists are entrepreneurs.  Each time the bold writer casts a blank page upon the screen to begin a new tale, it is a fresh project, new to the world and unlike anything that has gone before.  One hopes.

The endeavor requires a particular set of attributes.  Determination, patience, acumen, imagination, education of a sort (not necessarily formal), experience in life, literacy.  The ability to communicate . . .

This last, of course, is the trick.

For words are the medium most of us use to convey our vision, whether a novel or an idea for a product that does not yet exist.  A product that meets a need that we do not yet know we have.  A story that resonates with feelings we have not yet explored.

Even the painter must use words to “explain” his art to those unable to grasp its subtlety or significance — such explanation, by its very nature, is usually a forlorn exercise.

The vision thing.  Our visions can be great or small, creative or mundane.

In my classes on business strategy, I talk about the vision thing in oblique terms.  I actually broach the concept of businessperson as artist.  The artistically inclined in my courses (and some liberal arts folks do slip in) look askance at the idea, and most of the fact-motivated business-inclined in my courses don’t seem to care.

Or, even if they were to care, simply do not understand the point.

The notion is not warmly received.  Perhaps the point is nonexistent.  Or strained.  Or ludicrous.

Perhaps it is a futile exercise.  Maybe it is something that I see that others do not.  Even so, it is possible that this thing that I alone see does not necessarily have value.

No Boundaries to Creativity

But I do believe that there are no disciplinary bounds that contain creativity.  Many of the products of advertising agencies abound with creativity – at least in their initial stages before the corporate leavening process strips away edginess and originality and anything which might prove too startling for public sensibilities.

For corporate leavening is designed to package knowledge in comprehensible, digestible bites.  It is designed to link information seamlessly into the already-known world of popular culture, more to massage viewers with familiar verities and comfortable genuflections than to stimulate thought. It is the proverbial cooks spoiling broth.

Business School Presenting, the source of competitive advantage
Your vision should animate all you do

So it is with business generally.  There is an art to business, but it is never described as such lest such creativity be hooted from the room.This is the realm where ideas are “run up flagpoles” and such like, where outside-the-box thinking receives the obligatory tip o’ the hat, but where genuine “outside the box thinking” is neither expected nor appreciated.

The articulation of true thinking outside the corporate box is risible, if anyone unschooled in the unwritten corporate rules dares to give voice to such heresy.

This is the conundrum.  The paradox.

Now, we all engage in pop-psychology from time-to-time, and this allows us to speak of the “average person’s” attitudes, beliefs, and reactions as if we, ourselves, are free of this “average person’s” afflictions.  But indulge this hubris for a few more moments.

The conundrum is that when the artist, the visionary, thinks outside the box, it leaves others feeling threatened and insulted that they, themselves, are perceived as restricted to thinking inside this box.

Likewise, the average person tends to interpret his own inability to understand a vision as the other person’s quackery . . . whether the artist is a painter, composer, writer . . . or businessman.

There is a balance to be struck here.

Those of us without calluses on our fragile psyches can be wounded by the mass rejection of our vision, such rejection leaving us questioning our sanity and ability.  Conversely, those of us informed by our own arrogance and too callused may be deaf to legitimate criticism or to gentle suggestion.

Thus, the conundrum of the vision.  Visions are difficult.

Conundrum of the Vision

I said that not all visions are created equal.  Not all are salutary or benign.  Some are unsavory, insidious, dangerous, cold.

Others are just boring, derivative, smug, pale.

But I desire not to judge a man’s vision.  Not hereabouts, anyway.

These problems of distinguishing good vision from bad are worth essays and books in their own right, essays and books that are perhaps beyond this scribe’s abilities to pen.

Rather, at this point, I call attention to the angst and anguish of the man who perceives that his vision cannot be grasped by others.  His impatience with naysayers, his irascibility, his inability to compromise, his propensity to scoff rather than to explain.  Ultimately, his resignation that any explanation will not be enough.

For if it were explicable to the average mind, then the average mind would have long ago seized upon the vision and made it corporeal.

That is yet another conundrum for the entrepreneur, the artist, the visionary.  Perhaps it has always been this way, and it is not necessarily restricted to those of genius stature.

If the vision itself, indeed, is true art – an assemblage of something truly unique, then of course it will not be immediately apprehensible to the hoi-polloi.

And so not to sound haughty, perhaps it could be better said: “immediately apprehensible to us of the hoi-polloi,” to those of us not privy to the vision’s intricate fabric, the obscure linkages, the high concept that informs the few.

Beware the Sneer of the Wise

Let me issue a caveat that complicates the issue.

There are those in our lives who exhibit a raft of negative characteristics – irascibility, inability to compromise, the sneer of the wise – without the saving grace of having a vision or anything resembling it.  But shrewd and clever folks are afoot, and they know the trappings of the visionary, the finery of the thinker, the vernacular of the annointed.

But he is hollow.  And how to spot this poseur?

Again, I digress in the interest of clarity and refinement.  Back to the point-of-the-moment, and that point is this:

Communicating the vision is incredibly difficult.  It is difficult because of snags all along the communication chain.  It is difficult because of flaws inherent in the visionary, in the medium, and in the those receiving the message.  Given this, it is a wonder that useful communication occurs at all.

Think of the equation:  An irascible, haughty, driven, and quirky entrepreneur attempts hurried and imperfect communication with an unresponsive, suspicious, and fallow audience.

For inevitably, the recipient of a fresh, new, insightful, electrifying, unique confection of art, vision, or theory will respond in predictable manner.

The recipient of this revolutionary information responds to the truly new by filtering the information through sensors that massage and mold it into images and words and reality that are already known.  For it all has been heard before, seen before, considered before, and catalogued before.

Nothing is truly new . . . especially to the clever man, who for the most part has no personal stake in recognizing and processing novelty.

If perchance, an idea takes root, a theory is accepted, art recognized for its texture, nuance, and universalism . . . well, the problem of communication is instantly forgotten after the fact.

We’re All Geniuses . . . After The Fact

After the fact, of course, it is all different.  We all recognize novelty, genius, the great idea after the fact.  Long after the fact. It becomes “obvious.”

The unserious novels of Charles Dickens.  The absurd notion that people might appreciate a service that provides overnight delivery, a service with the ridiculously stuffy name “Federal Express.”

In each of these dramatically different cases, an entrepreneur recognized something that others, perhaps much like us, could not or would not.

Entrepreneurs and novelists are usually driven people.  I tend to believe that they are one and the same.  Would-be authors are entrepreneurs.  In fact, they are repeat performers, whether crafting fiction or non-fiction . . . every new book is an entrepreneurial effort.

They visualize what is not there, what others cannot see.  Or can see only through a mist of reality that clogs the imagination.  Imaginative and single-minded, they embrace their mission with religious zeal (and I do believe that those two words, religious and zeal, are joined at the hips, much as to “redouble one’s efforts”).

A touch of the maniacal, the obsessive, the glassy-eyed dreamer, the take-no-prisoners, uncompromising drive.  The determination that compels one to rise each day to face the idea that no one understands, to embrace yet another day alone in one’s belief.

An attitude that says “do not tamper with this vision.”

This is, of course, the only way for entrepreneurs to succeed.  If they were any other way, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.

Which brings me to the final point that is not so disentangled from what has gone before to be a standalone.

I have waxed on about communication and its difficulties.  The word has become almost a cliché in that everything these days can be labeled a “communication problem,” even when the problem is not lack of communication, but rather too much accurate communication.

The “communication” conundrum I refer to afflicts anyone who would write to inform others, who would convey thoughts and notions and concepts.

In fiction, and even in non-fiction, I have noted a disinclination on the part of many undergraduates and some graduate students to edit their work.  As if such editing is equivalent to the “corporate leavening process” I mentioned earlier.

They confuse the goal of clarity with senses-dulling censorship.

In their classic Elements of Style, Strunk and White touched upon this, and where Strunk and White are sometimes looked upon as too basic, their insights provide a solid technical foundation that many young writers would do well to absorb.  Strunk and White observed a tendency among young writers to confuse spontaneity with genius, to affect a breezy, careless, even world-weary style.

I believe the modern vernacular for this is the “been there, done that” posture.

But of course, such an attitude leads to ambiguity and sloppiness in writing — whether one is conveying exactly a child’s appropriate emotion in a funereal scene, or whether one is conveying the impact of various liquidity ratios on a novel business model.

Invariably, what is communicated on the page is not what the writer believes he or she is conveying.  First drafts are always afflicted with a primitivity of communication. Yet, ironically, the first draft carries for many writers an aura of spontaneity and genius that resists change.

First Draft for Spontaneity . . . Edit for Power

The solution?  Editing.

If there is a single act that can improve this communication issue, it is careful and ruthless editing.  Only through editing can clarity, focus, and especially powerful meaning be teased from the morass of words.  This is a lesson taught on Storytellers many times, but it demands repeating.

Professional Presence means passion
Chart your course, then stick to it

The daily difficulties of communication abound.  When the subject is new or the product unique, the obstacles increase dramatically, for all the reasons I have listed in such disorganized fashion.  Through the act of editing, perhaps we can at least overcome one obstacle in the difficult task of communicating our vision.

The problems lie all along the communication chain – in the personality of the visionary, in the unique nature of the vision itself, in the inadequacy of the medium with which we communicate, and in the prejudices of the recipient.

Is there a formula to address all of these issues along the communication chain?  Probably not.  I certainly do not have the answer.

But at risk of sounding like the cookie-cutter b-school professor, let me iterate that the good news is that awareness of a problem and its proper identification is a giant step toward its resolution in our personal strategic planning process.

The more rarefied the vision, the more intractable and personal the issues we must deal with.

And as a result, I suspect that each of us must define our own problems and search out our own answers to our communication issues.

For only we can grapple with them and, ultimately, deal with them.

For perspective on communicating your vision, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.