Tag Archives: Presentation

Especially Powerful Practice

Presentation Practice
The Right Business Presentation Practice can Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

Business presentation practice is one of the keys to an especially powerful performance.

The right kind of practice for your business presentation.

This is even more the case with a team presentation with more moving parts and variables in the mix.

But you know how to practice your presentation already, right?

Practice is easy.

You just . . .

. . . do it.

Right?

Especially Powerful Practice Yields . . .

First, not everyone practices.

Some practice not at all.

Those who do practice, usually don’t practice nearly enough.

Given how important the business presentation is to your corporate success, this creates an incredible career opportunity for you.  If you take the presentation enterprise seriously . . . an engage in the right kind of business presentation practice.

Here’s why . . .

The good effects of the right kind of diligent rehearsal is twofold: 1) your material is delivered in a logical, coherent fashion without stumble, and 2) the practice imbues you and your team with confidence so that stage fright is reduced to a minimum and your team’s credibility is enhanced.

Practice strips away the symptoms of stage fright as you concentrate on your message and its delivery rather than extraneous audience reaction to your appearance.

But you only reap the benefits of practice if your practice makes sense.

And if you develop keen-minded presentation practice habits, then likewise you’re on your way to developing a powerful personal competitive advantage.

This means that you practice the way you perform and avoid the two biggest rehearsal mistakes.

Mistake #1

First, do not start your presentation repeatedly, as almost all of us have done at points in our presentation careers.

Something in our psyche seems to urge us to “start over” when we make a mistake.

When we stumble, we want a “do-over.”

So that we can assemble a perfect rehearsal from start to finish.

But when we do this, what we actually practice is the “starting over.”  We become experts at “starting over” when we make a mistake.

Business Presentation Practice
Especially Powerful Practice for Personal Competitive Advantage

But is that what we plan to do when we err in our actual presentation?

Start over?

No, of course not.

But if we have practiced that way, what will we do when we do stumble during our performance?  We won’t know what to do or how to handle the situation, since we have never practiced fighting through an error and continuing on.

We have practiced only one thing – starting over.

Instead of starting over when you err, practice the gliding over of “errors,” never calling attention to them.  Practice recovering from your error and minimizing it.

Perform according to the principle that regardless of what happens, you planned it.

Mistake #2

The second big mistake is practicing in front of a mirror.

Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you plan to deliver your talk to a mirror.  It’s plain creepy to watch yourself in the mirror while talking for an extended period of time.

There is nothing to be gained by rehearsing one way . . . only to do something entirely different for the actual event.

Of course, you will observe yourself in the mirror as you adjust your stance and appearance to ensure that what you feel is what people see while you present on all occasions.

But you do not practice your finished talk in front of a mirror.

Why would you want to grow accustomed to looking at yourself present, only to be faced with an entirely different situation for the actual presentation?  That’s just bizarre.

Instead, conduct your presentation practice in front of your roommate . . . or go to the classroom where you’re scheduled to present . . . in short, create as much of the real situation as possible.

To ensure an especially powerful presentation every time, practice hard and repeatedly.  But practice the right way.

For more on especially powerful business presentation practice and the development of personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

I Recommend this Presentations Book

A bit of prelude . . .

Presentations Book
The Best Advanced Presentations Book in the World

I teach at a university business school in Philadelphia and have been coaching student presentations for years.

My own book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting addresses the needs of this particular niche audience.

I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 2,000 volumes, going back to 1762.  I buy presentation books even now, to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

Again, I say all of this by way of prelude, because I am not given to exaggeration at all.

Presentation Skills 201

What I say next, I utter with the sincerity born of many years laboring in the vineyards of bad presentations – Mr. Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is, page for page, the finest book on advanced presenting I have ever read.

Surely the most succinct.

It froths with superb and utterly essential advice on every . . . single . . . page.

Distilled into powerful instructional nodes, Mr. Steele’s book is spot-on again and again.  I thought that I had seen and heard it all, given that I view and judge 300 individual and 75 group presentations each year – but not so.

Mr. Steele’s work is a reminder that there is always “one more thing” that each of us can learn to hone and improve our own presentation skills.

Examples?

On rushing through your presentation:

One of the keys to sounding confident as a presenter is acting like you own the time.  If you were told you have 15 minutes to speak, you want to act like you own those 15 minutes.  Rushing makes you sound anxious to the audience.  It undermines the confident image you want to project.  You risk coming across like a nervous stage performer who expects the hook at any moment.  Limiting your content takes the pressure off.

On making slides:

Presenters routinely assign the lowest priority to their live audience when preparing slides.  They create slides to be their notes.  Slides that are speaker notes can be anemic or crammed with too much content.  Some presenters just need reminder notes, so they create slides with cryptic phrases that mean nothing to the audience.  Others need the slide show equivalent of a script, so their bullet points are complete paragraphs in 10-point type.  Either way, the slides are frustrating to an audience.

On handouts:

If you need a handout, realize that a good slide show is not a good handout – and a good handout is not a good slide show.

Money is Precious

I rarely recommend books in the presentation genre.  This is one of those rare times.

I have found wisdom on every page of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand.  I plan to reference it often as well as consult Mr. Steele’s website.

I recommend this presentations book to anyone who fancies himself or herself an outstanding presenter.  You can do better, and Presentation Skills 201 is the perfect tonic to take anyone to a higher level of performance.

For specific guidance at the Business School level, consult my own Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

100 Things – Business Presentation Alchemy

Perhaps it’s human nature that leads us to search for singlephilos answers.

The search for the Global Solution has gone on as long as men have searched for the Philosopher’s Stone (and perhaps even longer, but not jotted down).

Likewise, this is the case for business presentations.

No Easy Way Out

We seek easy solutions, the quick fix, the “secret” to turn a drab, staid, listless presentation into one that brims with vigor, zest, and elan.

An especially powerful presentation.

Failing that, perhaps just something that can flog a bit of life into our tired efforts.

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.  It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

What made it a great presentation?

Business Presentation Alchemy
No Global Solution Exists to Create Presentation Gold

Many folks answer with one – maybe two reasons.  This is akin to medieval alchemists searching for a method to transform lead into gold.

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

The speaker was interesting.

The topic was relevant and au courant.  Torn from today’s headlines!

It was the audience . . . he had a good audience!

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.

This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.  No single technique.

There is no business presentation alchemy.  Except in the notion that we must get lots of things right.

The superb business presenter does 100 things right, while the bad business presenter does 100 things wrong.

What are the “100 Things?”

Is it exactly 100?

Of course not, no more than great writing consists in getting exactly 100 things right, instead of getting them wrong.

For any talk, it could be 90 things, or it could be 150 things.  Or something else.

The “100 things” trope suffices to convey that great presentations are planned and orchestrated according to set principles that can be learned, and those principles consist in proven practices.

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

Especially Powerful
100 Things to Transform your Presentation

Techniques of posture, voice, syntax, gestures, topic, presentation structure, your expression, confidence, your movement . . . all of these done well or done poorly combine to yield either an especially powerful presentation . . . or a dud.

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators, and you will find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 things?  Surely.

The important lesson is that great presenting is assembled from the verbal and non-verbal construction materials we select.

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  Getting those 100 things right yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.  It’s the power of synergy.

Take just one aspect of your show – the way you stand.  Have you ever thought about it?  Where you stand?  How you stand?

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.  To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 things to launch you on your way to presentation power.

The next step, of course, is to actually do it.  In your next presentation.

More of the 100 Things that constitute Business Presentation Alchemy here.

Business Scrooge? Not a Chance!

No such thing as business scroogeWhen 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.

To stifle the urge to ponderous first-person narratives sourced from an uncomfortable chair at an outdoor bistro on the Champs-Élysées.

To replace such pedestrian visions from well-worn paths with clarity and precision and vision of things and places never once visited.

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

But no.  You won’t find Scrooge in the Business School.  There is no such thing as a Business Scrooge.

Scrooge is commonplace, but not here.

It’s Time for 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 here – 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 here in university?  When college had its sheen?”

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

“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 Camus. Or verse from an angry beat poet?  The occasional angry finger-point at the business school with all its philistinism?  The house of Business Scrooge?”

One student speaks up.

“I saw a group out theThere's no Business Scrooge . . . but plenty of pinched brows in liberal artsre last spring!  Why can’t we do that?”

“Because it’s winter now, of course.  But 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?  See Youtube.”

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 the rural experience.  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.The business scrooge myth

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 nettled 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 that inevitably collapse under the weight of real challenges, real work . . . and in the process of genuine labor, a true generosity of spirit takes root.

“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 it isBusiness Scrooge?,” not unmindful of the evasiveness.  “And it is not about outdoor-on-the-grass-communing-with-nature instruction.  It’s about  . . authentic.”

I snap my fingers.

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

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 no one publishes her bad novels and 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, harvest corn, make tires, 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.

The myth of business scrooge

“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 “There is No Business Scrooge”

“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 analytic 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 only enthusiasm.

“Which part of the value chain do you feel most strongly about?”

“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, MBusiness Scrooges. 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 competitive 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!  For this is the key to wealth creation and the bettering of people’s lives in a thousand different ways.

It’s our cornucopia, the secret that has propelled civilization from the Renaissance to the Age of Google.

But then . . .

But then, one of the most staid literary conventions of all time reared its ugly head.  Yes, one of the worst literary devices known to fictioneers.

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 sleepwalk and irresponsible students still party and wiseacre students still wisecrack with a tiresome world-weariness and faux freshness.  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.”

There is no such thing as the Business Scrooge“Thank you.”

“Won’t you open it now?”

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 an eyebrow, as I am wont to do.

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

No business scrooge here.  I’m such an idealist.

 

Dilbert on Business Presentations

Dilbert

For more of Dilbert on Business Presentations, see Scott Adams’s especially powerful site here!

Business Presentation Principles . . . The First P

Business Presentation Principles
Business Presentation Principles . . . the First Step to Superior Business Presentations

Overarching the craft of developing an especially powerful presentation is the guidance provided by the “Three Ps,” and the first of these Ps provides a solid foundation of powerful business presentation principles.

The first P is Principles, and there are seven of them.

These Seven Principles of Especially Powerful Presenting constitute the building blocks of your presentation persona.  And you’ll not find a PowerPoint slide in sight.

These principles, in short, are you.

Stance . . . Voice . . . Movement . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Appearance . . . Passion

Elsewhere, I have characterized these principles as “secrets.”

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

They are secrets.  In fact, they could be the most open secrets that mankind has ever known.

But they are difficult secrets.

They are difficult, because they require you to actually do something.  I think that perhaps when we think of a secret, we tend to equate it with magic.  We automatically believe that there is some magic involved that will help us circumvent hard work.

But that’s just not so.

The good news is that these secrets actually are secrets that truly work.  They also constitute the dimensions along which we can gauge our speaking ability and judge how much we improve.

This is the most important aspect of these business presentation principles – they allow us to tear away the veil from those who pose as merely talented and to understand this beast called The Presentation.

Now, let’s plot our dimensions on a 7×7 Chart.

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

Take, as an example, the chart below, which is labeled across the top with our seven dimensions and along the vertical axis with a seven-point scale of value:

Unacceptable, Below Average, Average, Good, Very Good, Superior, Professional.

The chart plots the seven dimensions against a seven-point scale and provides a thorough evaluation of the presenter’s level of skill.  From the chart, we see that this speaker carries a professional-grade stance and is superior with his gestures.

All other dimensions indicate work is needed.  The advantage of this chart, is that it disaggregates your various speaking tasks so that you can manage them.

It separates them out, so that you can identify your weaknesses in a logical and comprehensive way.  It also informs you of your strengths, so that you may build upon them.

Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact
Business Presentation Principles for Power and Impact

 

The upshot is that this First P of Especially Powerful Presenting – Business Presentation Principles – guides us to master the Seven Secrets, to transform ourselves into truly adept presenting instruments.  To put us at home in front of any audience and able to connect across a range of subjects and and in a multitude of venues.

Elsewhere, I have addressed the Seven Secrets in detail, and I’ll revisit them again soon.

For now, let’s remember that the especially powerful presenters of the past 50 years have used these Secrets – Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King.  They don’t announce that they’re using secret techniques and tricks of the trade, of course.

They simply let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.  Not a chance.

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

Next . . . Preparation.

For all three Ps and a complete distillation of Business Presentation Principles, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Give a Business Presentation

How to Give a Business Presentation
Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation?

Business students need credible, brief, and direct resources on how to give a business presentation.

You want solid information and best practices, not generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”

You want to know what works and why.  You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.

You want to know what is just opinion and what, if anything, is carved in stone.

Think of this place as your Official College Guide to Business School Presentations, because here you’ll find answers here to the most basic questions.

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

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

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

Fair enough.  Let a thousand presentation flowers bloom across the land.  Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.

Or not.

2,500 Years of How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

They all have drawn upon the eternal verities of presenting.  In turn, they have each contributed their own techniques to the body of wisdom.

You find those verities here.

Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation

In our modern-day world of multimedia extravaganzas, who needs business presentations?  It’s all done for us now, right?

The presentation is contained in the software, and all you need do is plug in the specifics.  Right?

With all of these high-tech prosthetic presentation devices, anyone can be a presentation hero!

Right?  Right?

You may wish it were true, but of course you know that this is wrong.  Horribly wrong.

You’ve seen enough endless, boring, unintelligible slide-a-thons to know that something is amiss here.

Why are 99 percent of business presentations so boring?  Why is it that only 1 percent of corporate America seems to know how to give a business presentation in a coherent, interesting manner?

The answer’s here, and on this site.

Why Bother with How to Give a Business Presentation?

If you discovered that there was one thing – business presentation skill – you could learn that would immeasurably increase your chances of getting a great job after graduation, wouldn’t that be great?

What would you think of that?  Too good to be true?

And what if you discovered that this skill is something that you can develop to an especially powerful level in just a handful of weeks?

What would that be worth to you?  Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?

Think of it – business presentation skills you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life.  A skill that few people take seriously.

A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.

Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively.  Nor logically.  Comfortably.  Clearly.  Cogently.  This is why corporate recruiters rate business presentation skills more important in candidates than any other trait or skill.

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Secret Skill You Knew They Kept from You

The Secret Skill – the edge – you’ve always sought.

You, as a business student or young executive, gain personal competitive advantage vis-à-vis your peers, just by taking presenting seriously.  You gain advantage by embracing the notion that you should and can become an effective and capable business presenter.

In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker and learn how to give a business presentation with competence and confidence, you lift yourself into that rarefied 1 percent of business students and executives.

And the task is not as difficult as you imagine.  But it isn’t easy, either.

You actually have to change the way you do things.  This can be tough.

Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves.  The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves.  Off the shelf.  In a box.

This doesn’t work.  Not at all.  You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.

You already carry it with you.

But you will have to change.

But Great Business Presentation Skills Mean Change . . .

This is about transformation.

Transforming the way we think, the way we view the world.  Transforming the lens through which we peer at others, the lens through which we see ourselves.  Transforming you so that you know how to give a business presentation and deliver power and impact every time.

And it begins with your uniqueness.  Each of us applies our own uniqueness to the tools and verities that make for great business presentations.  We mark our presentations with our own personal brand.

Your realization of uniqueness and belief in it is essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.

Yes, you are unique, and in the quest for business presentation excellence, you discover the power of your uniqueness.  You strip away the layers of modern mummification. You chip away at those crusty barnacles that have formed over the years without your even realizing it.

It’s time to express that unique power in ways that support you in whatever you want to do.

Explore the truths here on how to give a business presentation and begin today to energize your personal brand and gain personal competitive advantage.

For more on how to give a business presentation with power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

Respect Your Audience for Presentation Power

Respect your audience and your earn their respect
Respect your audience and you earn their respect

Always speak to the people in your audience in ways that move them – respect your audience.

Speak to your listeners in their language and to their needs.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

“Respect Your Audience” Seems Easy

That’s the paradox.

We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.

We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear.  We speak in language that gives us comfort.

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

Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why folks have gathered to hear the message.  Often, a business presenter may offer an off-the-shelf message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it.  She ignores the precept respect your audience.

The Curse of Hubris

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

But it doesn’t.

They don’t prepare.  They offer standard tropes.  They rattle off cliches.  They pull out blandishments.  And they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.

What he says and the way he says it, whatever it was, becomes gospel.

But the presentation emperor has no clothes.  He does not follow the precept of respect your audience.

Contempt?  Close to It

What we actually witness from presenters of this type is a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by speakers disregards the audience.  It shows contempt for the time of people gathered to listen.

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

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.

What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

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

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.  Did this fellow follow the respect your audience mantra?  I think not.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.

It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.  And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  Speak to your listeners as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

We gain by following the respect your audience mantra.

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

For more on how to respect your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Presentation Openings

The Presentation Opening
The Presentation Opening sets the tone for your Business Presentation

Of course you know how to begin a business presentation with a powerful presentation opening.

The Presentation Opening is surely easy.

Right?

But do you really know how to launch a powerful presentation?

Consider for a moment . . .

Don’t Tiptoe

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation opening, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge sideways into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing.

Do you back into it?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?

Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices.

A Bad Presentation Opening

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Walmart case.  The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years.

She spoke in monotone.  She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

Craft a superb presentation opening
Grab Your Audience with The Presentation Opening

I waited for her main point.  As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point.  At the end of her segment, I asked a gentle question.

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

The Wrong Presentation Opening

She was reciting “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.

Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously.

She has since progressed to graduate school.  And now she delivers powerful presentation openings.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say for a presentation opening is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?

Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about.  When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

You begin with your presentation opening.  Here, you present the Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.  What do you tell them?

The audience has gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution.  Or to hear of success and how it will continue.  Or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!  It focuses everyone on the topic.

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk.  Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clutter your presentation opening with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign. Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  Again, thank you for your attention and time.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

Craft a powerful presentation opening for energy
Especially Powerful hooks and grabbers for your presentation opening

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2013 and increase our market share by another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.

No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.  Just an especially powerful and direct statement of the reason you are there.

Put the Pow in Power!

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.

“We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.

The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.  We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our intro to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

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

 

The Best Presentation Books for 2013!

One of the Best Presentation books of 2013
Best Presentation Books

It occurred to me to compile a list of the best presentation books to recommend to readers of this blog.

It’s really an obvious exercise, isn’t it?

“Best of” lists are always popular.

To recommend books chock full of presentation wisdom to hone our skill set.  Great advice to lift our presentation to what we all sometimes refer to as “the next level.”

And then the equally obvious thought occurred to me – that list already exists.

The List of Best Presentation Books

In fact, I’m certain that several lists are already out there making the rounds.

And so I do the next best thing in this space . . .

I offer you a list of the 35 best presentation books compiled and judged by giants in the field . . . (and I offer my own view of what I consider to be the top three on the list).  Yes, you can learn something about business presenting from a book.  Quite a bit, actually.

The trick is to find the right book.

My Top Three Best Presentation Books

My personal favorites are Presenting to Win, by Jerry Weissman and Slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, The Story Factor, by Annette Simmons.

These three books, for me, capture the spirit, the art, and the craft of especially powerful business presenting.

They advocate change.  You must change the way your deliver your presentations in ways that, at first, may discomfort you.  But they are changes that you must accept to become an especially powerful business presenter.

Best Presentation Books for 2013
Best Presentations Books . . . this one on PowerPoint Slides

The Story Factor, in particular, is strong in transforming your presentations into sturdy narratives that capture an audience and propel your listeners to action.  Consult Annette Simmons for deep learning about the power of storytelling.

A fourth book does not appear on the list.  Actually, it does, but only in a modified form.  This is Dale Carnegie’s The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking.  This is an “updated” version of his classic from mid-way the last century Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business.  In my view, the update strips much useful material from the book, and so I prefer the original.

You can find dozens of copies of the original classic for sale on ebay.  This, in my opinion, is the most useful public speaking book ever penned.

Best Presentation books
Best Presentation Book on Storytelling

If I were forced to choose one . . . this would be it.  And My Book?

My own just-published book, The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, does not appear on this superb list of 35 books.  And so here I offer the most generous and self-aggrandizing interpretation possible . . . it just hasn’t circulated among the cognoscenti nearly enough to have created a buzz-worthy impact.

I know that you, as do I, eagerly await its appearance on next year’s “Best of” list.

Until then, enjoy the creme-de-la-creme of the best presentation books as exemplified on the 2012 list!

 

Stop the Presentation Warm Up!

Eliminate the presentation warm up Stop all that metaphorical throat-clearing at the start of your business presentation.

The presentation warm up.

You know exactly what I mean.

All that filler you pump into your business presentation at the beginning.

Somewhere, someone came up with the notion that you must “warm up” your audience before you launch into the meat of your talk.

A contrivance

Someone contrived the notion that you must thank everyone from your mother to the wait staff to the United States President.

Someone concocted the notion that you must praise the locale of your talk as if you’ve passed through the gates of paradise.

Forget all of that.

That’s nothing but throat clearing, and it’s done all for you, not your audience.  You’re warming yourself up to get over your nervousness.

You’re uttering meaningless platitudes that no one can call you on.  So you’re “safe.”

You think you’re safe, but you’re losing your audience, numbing them.  In their minds, they’re already folding their arms and yawning.

Stop the Presentation Warm Up!

Get to the point.

How?

Patricia Fripp is one of the nation’s finest executive and presentation coaches.  She offers especially powerful advice on launching your presentation:

Don’t be polite . . . get to the point.  [I told one client] “You’re polite . . . and that’s not a bad habit, but you don’t have much time.  They know who you are because you’ve been entertaining them.  They know where you are.  Make it about them.

“When you begin, why don’t you say:  ‘Welcome and thank you for the opportunity to host you.  In the next seven minutes, you are going to discover why the best decision you can make for your members and your association is to bring your convention to San Francisco and the Fairmont Hotel.’ . . . ”

You may argue that those polite opening comments are necessary because the audience is still settling down and not focused on you.  This may be true, but don’t let it be an excuse.  Go to the front of the room and wait until you have their attention, maintaining a strong, cheerful gaze and willing them to be silent.  If needed, state the opening phrase of your comments and then pause until all eyes are focused on you, awaiting the rest of the sentence.

I suggest you consult Patricia often as a source for no-nonsense presentation wisdom.  She’s in the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for a reason.

And do consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting to resolve more speaking issues like the presentation warm up.

Presentation Power Posing: “I feel especially powerful today!”

Power Posing
Power Posing Yields Presentation Confidence

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

It consists of everyone standing up and then striking a confident stance.  Feet are shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Posing Personified

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

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

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

Which is . . . what?

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

First, I don’t do cute.  Second, the exercise achieves superb physiological goals that improve many characteristics associated with business presenting.

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

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

Body Language
Power Posing
Power Posing Carries Gravitas

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

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.  Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message, and power posing is some of the most effective body language you can use.

But it is essential for another equally important reason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this relate to powerful business presenting?

Every way you can think of.

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

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.  Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

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

Impossible, eh?

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

Turn Negative Energy into Positive with Power Posing

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

Power Posing
Power Posing is a critical component of Confidence and Charisma

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.  Consciously strike a pose that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.  This is power posing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power and yourself with professional presence.  In our 21st Century vernacular, power posing means you should stand the way you want to feel.

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

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

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

Speak loudly and distinctly.

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

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

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

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

The Scourge of Cartoon Speaking Voice!

Cartoon voice is a pathology
Reality TV mimicry is a formula for Business Presentation Failure

No, I’ve never heard you speak or deliver a presentation, but judging from what I hear in the classroom, in the elevator, on the subway, and in the campus coffee shops, the odds are good that your speaking voice is pinched and smaller than it ought to be.

This results from many influences in our popular culture that, within the last decade or so, have urged on us a plaintive, world-weary whine as voice-of-choice.

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

Raspy.

A voice from reality television.

A cartoon voice.

Cartoon Speaking Voice

The cartoon speaking voice is more prevalent than you might imagine.

It is sometimes called the puberphonic voice, and this is not meant as a compliment.

Several reasonably-known celebrities have cartoon speaking voices, and they usually dwell in the wasteland of daytime television.

One cartoon voice belongs to someone called Kelly Ripa, who participates on a show called “Live with Regis and Kelly.”  This ABC Network television program, an abysmal daytime offering, serves up Ms. Ripa not for her voice, but for other attributes.

This show is worth watching, once, if only to hear Ms. Ripa’s slam-on-the-brakes whine.

Two other champions of the squeaky, whiney cartoon voice are people who appear to have achieved a degree of questionable fame for all of the wrong reasons:  Kim Kardashian and Meghan McCain, who appear on television for some reason unknown to all but the producers of the shows they inhabit.  Commonly called “divas,” their voices are barely serviceable for even routine communication.

Granted, these young women are not delivering business presentations, but their negative influence has infected an entire generation of young people who do deliver presentations.  They embody all that is wrong with regard to delivering powerful presentations.  If this sounds harsh, it is meant to be.  They exhibit habitual pathologies of the worst sort.

Where do these people learn to speak this way, in this self-doubting, self-referential, endlessly qualified grinding whine?

One culprit appears to be the Disney Channel, inculcating a new generation of young folks into the practice of moron-speak.  As well, numerous other popular young adult shows occupy the lowest rung of the speech food chain, passing on lessons in weak voice and poor diction.

Reality TV Infests Everything

Most anywhere, you can hear people who talk this way.  They surround us.

Next time you stand in line at the convenience store, listen to the people around you.  Focus on the voices.  Listen for the trapped nasal sound, the whine of precious self-indulgence.  Or the sound of a voice rasping across vocal cords at the end of every sentence.  A voice fry that has no force.  No depth.

A voice you could swat away as you would backhand a fly.

I often hear this cartoon speaking voice in the elevator as I commute between my office and classrooms.  Elevator conversations are often sourced from lazy, scratchy voices.  These voices are ratcheted tight in the voice box with barely enough air passed across the vocal cords.  What do I mean by this?

Let’s have an example.  Two young ladies entered my elevator the other day (any day, really), and one chattered to the other about her “boyfriend” and his despicable antics on “Facebook.”  It was heinous.

Cartoon Speaking Voice is a professional killer
Cartoon Speaking Voice goes with Uptalk

I shifted eyes to the owner of this raspy voice whose favorite word in the English language was quite evidently “like.”  Everything was “like” something else instead of actually it.  And apparently “totally” so.  Ya know?

“Like.  Like.  Like.  Totally!  Like.  Like.  Like.  Totally!  It was like . . . ummmm. . . okay . . . whatever.  Ya know what I mean?”

She fired them out in machine-gun fashion.  A verbal stutter and punctuation mark, apparently unsure of anything she was saying.  Her voice was a lab experiment of bad timbre.  It cracked and creaked along, word after squeaky word.

A pickup truck with a flat tire flopping along to the service station.

The air barely passed over her vocal cords, just enough to rattle a pile of dry sticks.  Not nearly enough air to vibrate and give pitch and tone.  No resonance came from the chest.  Her cartoon speaking voice rasped on the ears.

Every sentence spoken as a question.

Dum-Dums . . .

Two major problems surface here.  First, the cracking and grinding sound, which is at the very least, irritating.  Second, the primitive infestation of what I call “dum-dums.”

Dum-dums are moronic interjections slipped into  virtually every sentence like an infestation of termites.

“Like.  Totally!  Ya know?  Ummm.  Like.  Totally!  It was like, okay, you know . . . ya know?  Ummm.  Whatever.”

Dum-dums right off the Disney Channel.

Be honest and recognize that adults don’t speak like this.  And if you choose to speak like this, you will never be taken seriously by anyone of import considering whether to give you responsibility.  Cartoon voice peppered with Dum-dums gives the impression that you have nothing worthwhile to say, and so you fill empty air with dum-dums.

Dum-dums result from lazy thought and lazier speech.  It started on the west coast as an affectation called “Valley Speak” and has seeped into the popular culture as relentlessly as nicotine into the bloodstream.

Exaggeration?  No, it’s a voice you hear every day.

Listen for it.  Maybe it’s your voice.

Your Ticket to Failure or a Chance for Redemption

In the abstract, there is probably nothing wrong with any of this if your ambitions are of a lowest common denominator stripe.

If you’re guilty of this sort of thing, in everyday discourse you can probably get by with laziness, imprecision, and endless qualifying.  The problem arises when you move into the boardroom to express yourself in professional fashion to a group of, say, influential skeptics who wait to be impressed by the power of your ideas and how you express them.

Cartoon Speaking Voice infested with Dum-dum words – this debilitating pathological combination destroys all business presentations except one – a pitch for yet another moronic reality TV show.  You cannot deliver a credible business presentation speaking this way.  You are toast before you open your mouth.

Badly burned toast.

But the good news is that all of this is reasonably easy to correct – if you can accept that your voice and diction should be changed.

If you recognize that you have a Cartoon Speaking Voice and that you pepper your speech with dum-dums, ask yourself these questions:  Why do I talk like this?

Why can’t I utter a simple declarative sentence without inserting dum-dums along the way?  Why do all of my sentences sound like questions?  Do I really want and need to sound like this – a ditz – just because the people around me can’t express themselves except in staccato dum-dums with a cracking voice?

Sure, You Can Hang on to that Bad Voice!

Deciding to change one’s voice is a bold move that takes you out of your current cramped comfort zone.  But you don’t have to do it!

Nope, don’t change a thing!

If you recognize that you have a Cartoon Speaking Voice, and you are comfortable slathering your speech with Dum-Dums, and you see no reason to change just because someone recommends it, well then . . . keep on keepin’ on!  Sure, it’s okay for your inner circle of chatterers.  Relish it.  Hang onto it, and don’t even give a backward glance.

Let 1,000 dum-dums flourish!

But do so with the clear-eyed recognition that Dum-Dums make you sound like a moron.

You make a conscious choice.  Dum-Dums make you sound like a reality TV show lightweight unable to utter an original thought or even speak in complete sentences.  You sacrifice personal competitive advantage so that you can continue to . . . do what?

Recognize that if you want to succeed in an intensely competitive business climate, you should consider leaving Disney Channel behind.

When you want to be taken seriously in a business presentation . . . speak like an adult.

For more on improving your professional presence and rid yourself of cartoon speaking voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bad PowerPoint means an awful Business Presentation

AYCS Syndrome + Bad PowerPoint
Bad PowerPoint is a Debilitating Presentation Pathology

It starts innocently enough . . .

You click the remote and a new slide appears.  You cast a wistful look back at the screen.

You pause.

And then you reach for the easy phrase.

That’s when AYCS Syndrome strikes even the best of us, cutting us down in our presentation prime.

AYCS Syndrome + Bad PowerPoint

“As you can see.”

The phrase “As you can see” is so pervasive, so endemic to the modern business presentation that there must be a school somewhere that trains people to utter this reflexive phrase-hiccup.

Is there an AYCSS Academy?  It would seem so.

The bain of AYCSS is that it is usually accompanied by a vague gesture at a screen upon which is displayed some of the most unreadable nonsense constructed for a slide – usually a financial spreadsheet or array of baffling numbers.  Probably cut-and-pasted from a written report and not adjusted at all for visual presentation.

And the audience most assuredly cannot see. In fact, there might be a law of inverse proportion that governs this syndrome – the less the audience can actually “see,” the more often the audience is told that it can see.

And that’s why we reach for the phrase.

Because we can’t “see,” either.

We look back at an abstruse PowerPoint slide and realize that it 1) makes no sense, 2) never will make any sense, 3) is so complicated that we should have used four slides to make the point or should have deleted it, and 4) has no chance of contributing at all to our show.  At that point, AYCS Syndrome attacks.

Numb and Dumb Your Audience with AYCSS

Finance students seem particularly enamored of AYCSS.

In fact, some rogue finance professors doubtless inculcate this in students.

Financial analysis of the firm is essential, of course.  There are only few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation.  Financial data are where you discover the firm’s profitability, stability, health, and potential.

Bad PowerPoint is a business presentation pathology
Bad Powerpoint Can Sabotage Your Presentation

But the results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.Something about a spreadsheet mesmerizes students and faculty alike.  A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas.  It seems important, substantial.

Everyone nods.

Too often, you display an Excel spreadsheet on the screen that is unedited from your written report.  You cut-and-paste it into your presentation. You splash the spreadsheet onto the screen, then talk from that spreadsheet without orienting your audience to the slide.

This is the incredibly awful technique displayed by finance students, in particular, that is accompanied by the dreaded words:  “As you can see.”

Satanic Spreadsheets

You, the presenter, stare back at the screen, at the phalanx of numbers.

Perhaps you grip the podium with one hand and you airily wave your other hand at the screen with the words . . . “As you can see—”

And then you call out what seem to be random numbers.  Random?  Yes, to your audience, the numbers seem random because you have not oriented the audience to your material.

You have not provided the context needed for understanding.  No one knows what you’re talking about.  Your classmates watch with glazed eyes.  Perhaps one or two people nod.

Your professor sits sphinx-like.

And no one has a clue.  You get through it, finally, and you’re relieved.  And you hope that you were vague enough that no one can even think about asking a question.

AYCS Syndrome is the tacit agreement between audience and presenter that neither of us really knows or cares what’s on the slide.  And we promise each other that there won’t be any further investigation into whatever this abominable slide holds.

It can’t be good.  Not for the audience, not for anyone.

All of this sounds heinous, I know.  And probably too familiar for comfort.  But you can beat AYCCS with a few simple techniques that we’ll be discussing in days to come.

The Remedy for Bad PowerPoint can be found in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presenting (The Secret for Higher Waitstaff Tips)

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

Before computers.  Before television and radio.  Before loudspeakers.

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

The “presenter.”

Public speaking was considered close to an art form.  Some did consider it art.

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

Skills of the Masters

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

To suck the life from “presenting.”

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s presenters have fastened hold of the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.

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

And in many awful cases, this is exactly what happens.  It’s almost as if the presenter becomes a member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.

You should be able to present without them.  And when you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.

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

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

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

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

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

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

But the principles are the same.

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

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

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

The rest of the story is found here.

Put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations

Especially Powerful Business Presentations mean personal competitive advantage
Powerful Business Presentation Skills Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

You can front-load your introduction and put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations to  seize your audience from the first second of your show.

Or you can tiptoe into your business presentation so no one notices you.

Which would you choose?

You’d choose the introduction with Pow, of course!

But many people don’t.

Many folks in business school, in fact, simply don’t launch powerful business presentations for one excellent reason.

The Reason Why Many Business Presentations Sputter

Many folks don’t know how to begin a presentation.

Do you?

What?

“Of course I know how to begin a presentation.  What kind of fool does this guy think I am?”

But do you?  Really?

Does your intro have Pow?  Consider for a moment . . .

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, like so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing?  Do you back into it?

Powerful Business Presentation
Do you poke your head out instead of delivering a powerful business presentation?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?  Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?

One major problem with all of this is that you exhibit horrendous body language that destroys your credibility.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your grabber . . . then follow immediately with your Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.

What will you tell them?  The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!  It focuses everyone on the topic.

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk, thanking the board for the “opportunity,” thanking the conference staff, thanking the bartender for generous pours.

 powerful business presentations
Personal Competitive Advantage through Powerful Business Presentations

Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?

You Need Pow!

Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign.  Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2011 and increase our market share.  By another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next year to result in a much stronger and competitive market position.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.  No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

You have set the stage for a powerful business presentation.

Put the Pow into Your Powerful Business Presentation!

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“As we sit here today — right now —  changes in our industry attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival . . . or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.  We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and our marketing team’s  solution to regain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.  The reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.

We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.

And we must front-load our introduction with Pow! to include our recommendation.

That’s why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To recommend action!

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.  Right at the start.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

For more on putting the Pow! into powerful business presentations, have a look here.

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

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

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

Hundreds of them.

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

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

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

Today’s Tedious Tofu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that one.

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

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

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

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

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

This Business Presentations Guide

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

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

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

The one book I recommend is . . .

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

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

The newest edition is called:  Public Speaking for Success.

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

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

Buy this book . . .

Read this book. . .

Learn from this book . . .

. . . and then enjoy the fruits.

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

Presenting Across Cultures . . . Russia

Business presenting offers challenges across cultures
Despite superficial similarities, great differences can exist across cultures with regard to business presenting

The universalities of presenting to business audiences are actually large in number.

But . . . and it’s a big but . . . differences can be great across cultures, and these differences mainly are manifested in the speaker-audience dynamic.

My last week lecturing in Russia was punctuated with many talks in front of college student and business audiences, both at Udmurt State University and at the Izhevsk Business Incubator.

My prior experience told me to hold a bit of circumspection in the corner of my eye as a kind of third-eye view; to perceive the situation as an observer might, so that I might be aware of disjuncture between my message, delivery, and its receipt by my Russian guests.

Complications Galore

Complicating the affair was the presence of a superb interpreter, with whom I’ve worked many times in past years.  She participated half the time as my talks were mixed Russian and English, which the audience seemed to appreciate for extra clarity.

Moreover, much of my presentation material had been translated into Russian on the screen behind me, with no concurrent English writing to offer me cues.  Consequently, I was compelled to internalize my Russian bullet points and pass them back into English.

This made for, occasionally, a less-fluid talk than what I like.

Different Nonverbal Cues

The biggest difference for me as a speaker to this particular foreign audience was the lack of nonverbal audience cues.  Or, should I say, the presence of perhaps a different set of cues.

The general nonverbal cues that we all search for in an audience seemed largely absent.  The signs that we are connecting with an audience simply are not there.

By this, I don’t mean that my listeners were unreceptive, uninterested, or rude.  I mean that their demeanor was what we might call . . . stolid.  My third-eye view told me to overlook this lack of nonverbal communication and to seek other cues to responsiveness.

I found them in a more aggressive interaction pattern.

I turned up the “cold call” technique and began to call on particular listeners for feedback on certain points.  An exercise in competitive intelligence was helpful in one talk as I turned the tables and asked for generation of hypotheses from what seemed a tough audience at first.

In the end, familiarity with one of my audiences over several days and several hours of presenting eroded the barriers that had inhibited audience feedback.

The lessons for me are plain – cultivation of a keener analysis of expected audience behavior in my preparation and the inclusion of short exercises designed to remove cultural barriers early-on.

As well, a healthy humility and a searching, open mind provide the most useful tools for presenting to a foreign audience.

Many verities of business presenting carry over from culture to culture, so have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting to catalog a few of them.

Don’t Lower the Bar . . . Jump Higher

Practice and Preparation
Training and Preparation make for a much more powerful performance

“I’m just not comfortable doing that.  It’s just not me.”

This is what passes for sage wisdom in some quarters in reaction to new ideas, new methods, different techniques, and sometimes just good advice.

What hokum.

For example, look at the big offensive lineman, who could end up starting for the football team, perhaps even take his performance to the next level of competition.  Coaches schedule his training regimen.  He responds:

“I’m just not comfortable with all these exercises.  It’s just not me.”

Hokum, yes . . .

You won’t hear that comment often in the locker room or on the battlefield, but we hear it all the time in other venues of life.

I think you know that the future isn’t bright for the player or soldier or businessman with this kind of precious attitude.

Of course not.  Developing new skills, new abilities, new strengths is uncomfortable.  It means changing our behavior in sometimes unfamiliar ways.  And instead of meeting the challenge, we can find ourselves taking a short cut.

Personal Competitive Advantage means working hard
Quiet Charisma . . . the Oxymoron

We attempt to redefine our goals to encompass what we already do, so that we no longer have to stretch or strive to meet the original tough goals.  We may find ourselves redefining what it means to excel, we lower the bar so as to meet our lower expectations . . . rather than continue to strive to excel to achieve a lofty and worthy goal.We move the goal posts closer.

Several years ago, I was delivering a lecture on how to develop charisma.  A young woman, who was surely not a charismatic speaker offered this gem  “What about people who have quiet charisma?”

“I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

“I mean people who don’t exhibit these characteristics you’ve been talking about, but show a quiet charisma.”

Those characteristics that I had referred to are personal magnetism, a seeming aura that radiates enthusiastic goodwill, a mesmerizing speaking style, and a kind of restrained hyper-kinetic internal fuel cell that you sense could move mountains if unleashed [here, of course, I exaggerate . . . but the point is made].

This person expressed that she was extremely “uncomfortable” with the techniques that, in fact, would help her become more charismatic in delivering her presentations.  But rather than experience that discomfort, she chose instead to appeal to me to redefine charisma to include her own behavior.

Unambitious Goals . . . a Lower Bar

Behavior that was the exact opposite of charismatic.  She wanted to move the goalposts closer.  She wanted to lower the bar.

Oxymoronic “quiet charisma.”  Charisma on the cheap.  Easy charisma.

There’s no such thing

To reach a worthy goal, we may have to step outside of what is sometimes called our “comfort zone.”  I prefer to think of it as enlarging our comfort zone rather than stepping outside of it.

Any time we begin to rationalize and redefine our goals, it is time to pause and reflect.  Are we selling ourselves short?  Are we fooling ourselves?

Are we telling ourselves that we possess “quiet charisma” instead of doing the hard work and practice necessary to achieve the real thing?

Think about it.

For more on developing an especially powerful professional presence, 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.