Tag Archives: presenting technique

Make the Right Presentation Choices

especially powerful presentation choices
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

To deliver an especially powerful presentation means that you must choose correctly more than 100 times . . . it means that you take the correct presentation choices from start to finish.

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

Regardless, every time you deliver a presentation, you choose repeatedly.

Dozens of times.

Invisible Presentation Choices

And most often, you’re unaware of the silent, invisible choices you make.  Instead, your presentation simply unspools on its own, chaotic, willy-nilly . . . sometimes for the good, more often badly.

Rather than conceive of the presentation as a series of choices, many folks view the presentation as an organic whole.

As something we simply “do.”

It’s presented as something that can be conducted via a series of “tips.”  You’ve seen the articles on presentation tips.

Or business presenting is discussed as a “soft skill,” something you can pick up along the way.  Perhaps in one of the ubiquitous and uninspired “communications classes.”

We receive vague instructions in a communications class, a place where mystification of the presentation is perpetuated, the myth of the “soft skill” is maintained, and presentation folk wisdom reigns . . .

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

Advice that is obscurantist at its best and can be downright wrong at its worst.

Not a “Soft Skill”

The delivery of the Business Presentation is not a “soft skill.”  Approximately 80 percent of the presentation process is definable as a series of choices each of us must make.

And if you choose badly, you deliver a horrendous presentation.

How can you choose wisely if you don’t even know what the choices are?  Much less the wise choice at each step along the way?

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.

especially powerful presentation choicesFailing 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!

Why was it a great presentation?

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 Presentation Choices?”

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, or it could be 150.  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.

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.

Especially Powerful
Scott’s Lessons: An especially powerful source for Abraham Lincoln

Go to Scott’s Lessons, the book that inspired and taught Abraham Lincoln as he grew into one of America’s great orators.

There, you’ll find a wealth of powerful techniques to transform even the most mundane of speakers into a champion.

More than 100 techniques?

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.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’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 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

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

More of the 100 Presentation Choices that constitute especially powerful business presentations here.

Aristotle, King, Jobs and Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long historyAristotle . . .

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

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

The power to deliver the persuasive presentation.

To deliver it with power and passion.

What is Rhetoric?

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

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

Rhetoric is the function of discovering the means of persuasion for every case.

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

The persuasive presentationAnd the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

First, rhetoric can prevent the triumph of fraud and injustice.

Second, it can instruct when scientific argument doesn’t work.

Third, it compels us to act out both sides of a case.  When you can argue the opposite point, you are best armed to defeat it.

Finally, it’s a powerful means of defense when your opponent attacks.

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

Modern Persuasive Presentations

Two men as different as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs understood the power of rhetoric to inspire people to action.

Dr. King for the transformation of society . . . Steve Jobs for the revolutionizing of six different technology industries.

Dr. King used one particular rhetorical technique that has become the touchstone of his legacy – his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” during his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

This technique is called the anaphora.

It involves the repetition for effect of a key phrase during a presentation.  Dr. King ensured that his Dream would be the emotive catalyst for action.

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

Dr. King recognized the emotive power of rhetoric.  It is this power that moves listeners to action when pure logic cannot.  It’s at the heart of the persuasive presentation.

The persuasive presentationA Different Venue

Steve Jobs, too, utilized the technique for a different purpose.

A more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.

For example:

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

The anaphora is just one example of an especially powerful rhetorical technique.  It can imbue your business presenting with persuasiveness.

And there’s more . . . so much more available to you.

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

When we understand the power of rhetoric and how that power is achieved, it transforms us into more capable and competent business presenters.  And it can yield an especially powerful and persuasive presentation as we build our personal competitive advantage.

Perhaps not as transcendent as Dr. Martin Luther King’s, but certainly especially powerful and persuasive presentations in our own bailiwicks.

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

100 Presentation Choices

especially powerful
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

Delivering an especially powerful presentation means choosing . . . it means making 100 presentation choices.

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

Regardless, every time you deliver a presentation, you choose repeatedly.

Dozens of times.

And most often, you are unaware of the silent, invisible choices you make.  Instead, your presentation simply unspools on its own, chaotic, willy-nilly . . . sometimes for the good, more often badly.

Rather than conceive of the presentation as a series of choices, many folks view the presentation as an organic whole.

As something we simply “do.”

It’s presented as something that can be conducted via a series of “tips.”  You’ve seen the articles on presentation tips.

Or business presenting is discussed as a “soft skill,” something you can pick up along the way.  Perhaps in one of the ubiquitous and uninspired “communications classes.”

We receive vague instructions in a communications class, a place where mystification of the presentation is perpetuated, the myth of the “soft skill” is maintained, and presentation folk wisdom reigns . . .

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

Advice that is obscurantist at its best and can be downright wrong at its worst.

Not a “Soft Skill”

The delivery of the Business Presentation is not a “soft skill.”  Approximately 80 percent of the presentation process is definable as a series of choices each of us must make.

And if you choose badly, you deliver a horrendous presentation.

How can you choose wisely if you don’t even know what the choices are?  Much less the wise choice at each step along the way?

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.

especially powerful presentationsFailing 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!

Why was it a great presentation?

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 Presentation Choices?”

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, or it could be 150.  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.

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.

Especially Powerful
Scott’s Lessons: An especially powerful source for Abraham Lincoln

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.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’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 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

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

More of the 100 Presentation Choices that constitute especially powerful business presentations here.

Zombies of Bad Presentation Advice

Business School Presenting, the source of personal competitive advantage
Zombies of Bad Advice Never Die

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

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

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

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

Zombies of Bad Presentation Advice

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

This is much tougher than you might expect.

This is because 1) people generally dislike the idea of change, and 2) many folks tend to think that the presentation is something that exists outside of themselves . . . in a PowerPoint software package, or in notecards, or in a book.

The notion that the presenter actually has to change is not welcome news.

Not at all.

Bad Presentation Advice
Flee the Bad Presentation Advice Zombies

Accordingly, I instruct students to just stop what they do now as a result of bad habits and bad advice.  Just stop.

That’s much more difficult than it sounds.

And we don’t engage in lengthy discussions of various opinions of what constitutes good presenting or how people want leeway granted for their own tics or habits.  This is not a time for a “conversation on presenting.”

All it takes is one film session to disabuse people of the notion that a bad habit is somehow acceptable.

Once they stop engaging in bad habits and misconceptions about presenting, they become de facto reasonably competent presenters.

That’s right.

Just stop the bad habits, and what remains can be reasonably good.

But Bad Habits Die Hard

Bad habits can be perpetuated by exuberantly following bad advice.  The problem is recognizing what constitutes bad advice.

This isn’t easy, because much bad advice paradoxically masquerades as good advice, and lots of these bad advice zombies stalk the land.

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

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

This is absurd and carries the stink of oral tradition about it.

From presidents to preachers, the hand in the pocket – if done properly – conveys assurance and confidence.

Presentation Advice
Powerful, Authoritative

For many speakers, it also removes one hand from the equation as an unnecessary distractor.

Put that left hand in the pocket and you keep it out of trouble.

No more strange finger-play.

No more tugging at your fingers.

No more twisting and hand-wringing.  It leaves your right hand free to gesture, and those gestures themselves appear more decisive.

ZOMBIE #2     “Make eye contact.”

This advice is insidious in that it actually carries a large kernel of truth.

It sounds reasonable.

But it doesn’t tell you how to do it.  And, yes, there is such a thing as bad eye contact.

Too long, and you come across as creepy.  Too short, and you come across as untrustworthy.

Make eye contact with people in your audience long enough to ascertain eye color, then move on.

ZOMBIE #3     “Move around when you talk”

This gem was given to me by a student, passed on from one of his other professors.

This advice suggests that you wander aimlessly about the stage in hopes that it will improve your presentation in some unspecified way.  Or it might mean to roll your shoulders as you step side-to-side.

It actually can mean most anything, and as such, it’s terrible advice.

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

ZOMBIE #4     “Just the facts.”

Really?  Which facts are those?

What does it mean, “Just the facts?”

Folks believe that this phrase makes them appear no-nonsense and hard-core.  But a more pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase has yet to be devised.

Again, it means nothing and is arrogance masquerading as directness.

“Facts” must be selected in some way, and context must be provided to give them meaning.  “Facts” must be analyzed to produce alternatives and to render a conclusion.

This is a euphemism for “I don’t like what you’re saying . . . tell me what I want to hear.”

ZOMBIE #5     “The numbers tell the story.”

This is a favorite of finance folks, who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them.

“We’re special,” finance majors like to say.  “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling; we deal in hard numbers.”

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

Not only do numbers, alone, tell no story at all . . . if the numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a woefully incomplete story, a distortion of reality.

Numbers provide just one piece of the analytical puzzle, important to be sure, but not sufficient by themselves.

Moreover, the business presenter who elects to serve the god of numbers sacrifices the power and persuasiveness that go with a host of other presenting techniques.  Underlying this myth is the notion that you “can’t argue with numbers.”

You certainly can argue with numbers, and you can bring in a wealth of analysis that changes completely what those numbers actually mean.

ZOMBIE #6    “You have too many slides.”

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

Say what?  You counted them?

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

You will hear this chestnut from folks who believe that the length of a presentation dictates the number of slides you use.

Bad Presentation Advice Zombies!
You can defeat the bad presentation advice zombies by incorporating especially powerful presentation techniques into your show

Absurd on its face, people who use this believe that every slide will be shown a fixed amount of time.

They likely do some sort of calculation in their heads, dividing the time available by the number of slides to yield a number they believe indicates there are “too many” slides.

This is because they usually deal with folks unschooled in Business School Presentations methods.

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

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

Bad Advice Zombies – these are just some that will come after you.

It’s probably not a good idea to argue with folks who give this sort of presentation advice.  What’s the use?  Just ignore it and replace it in your own work with enduring and especially powerful presenting principles – especially powerful presentation advice.

You can’t eliminate the zombies, but you can outrun them and outfox them.

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

If you’re interested in acquiring powerful presentation skills, consult The 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.

Give an Interesting Business Presentation

Give an interesting business presentation every time
Give an interesting business presentation by broadening your context to generate a 3D effect of richer texture and deeper meaning

Our goal:  give an interesting business presentation.

That seems easy enough, but too often we simply assume that this somehow “just happens.”

And I wager that not many folks spend lots of time on the task.

Let’s look at how you can enrich your presenting in unexpected ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience.

Let’s discuss how to deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture.”

Let’s start with how to become a 3-D presenter.

3D Presentations

Now, this means several things.  It includes how you utilize the stage to your utmost advantage, of course, but a major component is the exercising of your mind.

It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.

It’s a process of becoming learned in new and wondrous ways. Think of it as enlarging your world.

You increase your reservoir of usable material.

As a result, you can connect more readily with varied audiences.

You accomplish this in an ongoing process – by forever keeping your mind open to possibilities outside your functional area.  By taking your education far beyond undergraduate or graduate school.

The Interesting Business Presentation

That process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.

By doing something daily, however brief.  Something to stretch your mind to establish connections that otherwise might have escaped you.

By reading broadly in areas outside your specialty.  By rekindling those interests that excited and animated you early in life.

Read a book outside your specialty.  Have lunch with a colleague from a different discipline.

give an interesting business presentation
How to give an interesting business presentation? Expand your Context.

Dabble a bit in architecture, engineering, art, poetry, history, science.

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world, forgetting that other fields can offer especially powerful insights.

For me, it means sitting in on classes taught by my colleagues.  It means reading outside my specialty area.  It means exposure to doctrines I don’t rightly believe, but probably ought to understand.

How will this help in preparing my own classes?  At this point, I can’t be certain.  But I know it will.  At some point.

Without fail.

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

I do know that it will enrich my store of knowledge so that my own presentations continue  in 3-dimensional fashion.  They’ll be connected to the “real world” – textured, deep, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

It will do the same for yours.  And it will likely aid in your development into an especially powerful presenter, imbued with professional presence.

For more on how to give interesting, and especially powerful, business presentations, click HERE.

Three Ps for Especially Powerful Presentations

Especially Powerful Presentations
The Three Ps of Business Presentations can greatly enhance your presentation delivery for an especially powerful presentation every time

It’s always helpful when the key words that describe your especially powerful presentation all start with the same letter.

In this case we speak of the Three Ps of Business Presentations.

The “Three Ps of Business Presenting” encompass everything you must do to deliver especially powerful presentations every time.

They are, in order . . .

Principles

          Preparation

                     Practice

If you have spent any time at all in this space, you already know about the “Seven Secrets of Power Presenting.”

Now, you might head-scratch and wonder how the “Seven Secrets” mesh with the “Three Ps of Business Presenting.”

A fair question.

For Especially Powerful Presentations

The “Principles” referred to are the Seven Secrets, the pillars of your transformation into an especially powerful presenter.

Learning and improving on the Seven dimensions of power presenting is essential to your presentation quest in a broadest sense.

You don’t improve on the seven dimensions of presenting overnight . . . it requires application and adoption of the proper habits of behavior.

This may appear intuitive, but too often I see students who appear to understand the seven secrets but do not apply them for a host of reasons.  Perhaps good reasons, in their own minds.

3 Ps of Business
You always have a choice. Choose to implement the Three Ps of Business Presenting, and you’ll find that your delivery improves immensely

And yet, the choice cripples them in their presentations.

When it comes to individual presentations, you must apply your principles.  And this means preparation.

It means practice.

Don’t assume that you know what I mean by preparation and practice, because we likely have different conceptions of both, and I’m betting you’ll like the results you get from the approach presented here.

So, settle in . . . and for the next couple of days, we will explore the Three Ps of Business Presenting and how their assiduous application can transform you into the Especially Powerful Presenter that you always knew you could be.

Stick Puppet Presenting? Upgrade to 3D!

Stick Puppet presenting
Eliminate Stick Puppet Presenting and you’re on your way to achieving personal competitive advantage

If experience is any guide for us, we can say that approximately 90 percent of our business presentations are delivered in 2-D fashion . . . stick-puppet presenting.

No, I don’t mean this literally in the sense that people become stick figures.

I mean that the typical business presentation is stripped of depth and breadth.

Stripped of humanity.  Stripped of the qualities that make it interesting, stimulating, and persuasive.

The potential richness, energy, vigor, and power that is provided by purposive movement is absent.

Crude Stick-Puppet Presenting

We are left with cutout figures, like stick puppets.  You’ve seen stick puppets.  They’re crude, flat little figures pasted onto sticks and then used in a child’s display to convey a story.

Rudimentary as it gets, the puppets shake and move up and down as someone voices dialogue from somewhere offstage.

Today’s business presentations are sometimes no better than stick-puppet presenting.  Call this the 2-D presentation.

Stick-Puppet Presenting is characterized by a zombie-like figure crouched behind a lectern, gripping its sides.

Or a speaker who reads from a laptop computer and alternately looks at a projection screen behind him, citing it verbatim.  If any movement occurs, it is unconscious swaying.  Or rocking, or nervous happy-feet dancing.

Stop stick puppet presenting for power and impact
Eliminate Stick Puppet Presentations

Perhaps there is a bit of pacing back-and-forth to fulfill some ancient advice mumbled to the speaker years earlier:  “Move around when you talk!”  And so the stick-puppet presenter wanders about the stage.

This is worse than no movement at all.  It adds one more irrelevant distractor to an already deteriorating situation.

But we want movement . . . the right kind of movement.  We want to accelerate from 2-D to 3-D presenting.  One powerful step in that direction is the addition of proper movement.

The addition of proper movement to your presentation can imbue it with energy, depth, richness, and enhanced meaning.

So in the next series of posts, we’ll analyze this component – “movement” on the stage in support of your presentation.

If you want to eliminate stick puppet presenting and receive a full-bodied explication of the transition from 2D to 3D presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret #4 – Presentation Drama

Especially Powerful Presentation Drama
Presentation Drama

Class had ended, and I was giving final feedback for a group that had just presented their business case and did so without presentation drama.

Not a bad group presentation by any means, but individual students needed work, and I like to give advice that young folks can carry with them beyond the classroom and on into the workaday world.

Not just advice, mind you, but nuggets that can confer personal competitive advantage for a lifetime.

As I briefed the presenters, a colleague entered the classroom and stood by, listening in.  He’s a smart man.  I respect him for his knowledge of finance.

A curious fellow, too.

Presentation Drama?

He took in my feedback as I advised students to eliminate a verbal gaffe called the “rising line” or the “verbal up-tic,” as I call it.  I was demonstrating this awful turn of voice.

The Verbal Up-tic or “uptalk” as it is sometimes called, is a verbal pathology that afflicts at least 50 percent of young presenters and is manifested by transforming simple statements of fact into questions.  The Brits call this the “Moronic Interrogative,” and you can probably guess that it is not a compliment.

By eliminating this awful verbal tic, you take a giant step toward presenting excellence.

My students packed up and left, and my colleague stepped up beside me.

Presentation Drama
Add Presentation Drama for More Power

“Well!  All this drama!  It looks and sounds like drama class.”

By now, I’m accustomed to the raised eyebrow of colleagues who look askance at some of the techniques I advocate.  It goes with the territory.  There is, after all, a kind of lock-step sameness in the faculty view of business presentations.

Deviations from the barebones structure are not appreciated nor are they recognized for the value they can add.

“You could well say that, Roger . . . there’s a big helping of drama here.  It’s much like putting on a show.  It’s why I call my presentations ‘shows’ and my students my ‘show-people.’”

Because this, in essence, is what visual and verbal communication is all about and how it differs drastically from written work.

“Showing”

It’s no accident that I use the word “show.”  This is what we do when we give a presentation . . . when we present.  We don’t deliver a presentation; we present.

The presentation is not something behind you on a screen.  The presentation is not on a whiteboard or butcher paper.  It’s not on a flip chart.

The presentation is you.

A large part of you is how you express yourself – your presence, your expression.  We are at our best when we incorporate presentation drama into our projects, and this is the catalyst that provides the grist for our expression and enthusiasm.

By drama, I do not mean the phony excitement and angst of “relationships” gone wrong, the depression of being brought low by a downer “text,” the anxiety of the “drama queen” or the pomposity of “King Drama.”

I mean the “dramatic situation.”

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.

You have drama inherent in any situation where there is conflict or the potential for conflict.

We in business, engaged as we are in competing to provide goods and services to our customers, are blessed with dramatic situations.

Business cases are chock full of drama – conflict, suspense, turning points, great decisions.  You simply must learn to recognize them and to bring them out.  It does not mean exaggerated behavior during your presentation, as noted by one of my favorite Speaking Masters of all time, Grenville Kleiser:

This is not a recommendation of paroxysms of feeling, wild gesticulation, tearing and combing of the hair with the fingers, violent pacing up and down the platform, and other manifestations of old-style oratory, happily now obsolete, but rather to suggest a power which, when properly used, will give life, variety, intensity, and color to the spoken message.

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.  These are what you strive for.

This theatrical aspect of presenting can, in theory, surely be overdone.  But given the staid status of business presenting, the danger of this in business presentations is nil.

I never see overdone business presentations, but I’d surely welcome one.

You can harness dramatic techniques to your business presenting style, and a number of books delve into this.  One of the finest books available on the subject is Ken Howard’s Act Natural, and I strongly urge its purchase if you are serious about taking your presenting power to a whole new level by incorporating presentation drama.

The speaking secret of expression is an advantage that should be yours and not just restricted as a privilege for those toiling in the theater or in film.

Remember that you have incredible power at your disposal in the form of expression that makes use of drama.

A curl of the lip.

A raise of one eyebrow.

Sincere furrows in the forehead.

A smile.

Speaking Master Joseph Mosher gave us one key secret to expression in 1928, and we would be wise to recognize his observation of the importance of the mouth and eyes.

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

The secret power of presentation drama is yours for the taking.  You need only seize it to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Secret #3 – Powerful Presentation Gesture

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

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

Presentation Gesture
Incorporate Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture for Competitive Advantage

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

From your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.

A scratch of the chin.

Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These are all gestures that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Destroy your presentation.

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This is a result of the presence of the speaker.

Presentation Gesture
What Kind of Presentation Gesture?

An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.  Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Whether the percentage is accurate or not, undoubtedly, gestures provide energy, and accent.

They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.

Especially Powerful Presentation Mastery

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:  “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

Gesture in your presentation should be natural. It flows from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.

Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.  You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose.  They can imbue your presentation with power.

On rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, “majesty of epic proportions.”

Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture
The Power of Presentation Gesture is always underestimated

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

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.

In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.  Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our presentations, we are left with aimless ejaculations that can distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are several of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.  These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

This is a habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.  You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what.  So you develop these unconscious motions.

Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”

Tugging at your fingers. I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.

Bending your fingers back in odd manner. This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced. It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell. It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.

Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement. This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.

Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.

The Power of Presentation Gesture

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

To add force to your points. To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?

While its range is limited, gesture carries powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.  Said James Winans in 1915:

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues. Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine.

You attain a powerful communication moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy.  Be spare with your gestures and be direct.  Make them count.

Look for more detailed analysis on the gestures available to you in this space in coming days.

Next up . . . Secret #4

Secret #2 – Your Presentation Voice

Your Presentation Voice
An Especially Powerful Presentation Voice

Your presentation voice is one key to an especially powerful business presentation . . . or a disastrous one.

Your voice and your appearance are the constants that pervade your presentation from start to finish.

Voice is one of the seven dimensions along which we measure the Power Presenter, and a strong, clear, confident voice is one of the seven secrets of powerful presenting.

Paradoxically, we take our voices for granted.

Because we do, this nonchalant attitude can undermine us and destroy all of our hard work.

But you can become quite a good speaker, a presenter whose voice exudes confidence and is welcomed by the ear.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser tells us that:

“If nature has not endowed you with a good speaking voice, you can do much toward acquiring one. The organs of speech can be trained, like any other part of the body, by assiduous attention and practice.”[1]

You can do many things to improve your presentation voice – your articulation, your power and range, your force and tone.

If you decide that you want to move to an advanced level of presentations and are drawn to improve your voice’s quality through study and practice, many books and videos and recordings are published each year to help you along.

Much of the best writing on voice improvement was produced in the years when public speaking was considered an art – between 1840 and 1940 – and the advice contained therein are about as universal and timeless as it gets.

The reality is that the human voice is the same now as it was 100 years ago (2,000 years ago) and responds to the proven techniques developed over centuries.

Ready to Change your Presentation Voice

It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being.

It’s an instrument with which you communicate.  You can sharpen your communication skills by developing a powerful presentation voice.  And because most people are oblivious of their own voices, simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality.

Working to improve it with the exercise will improve its quality dramatically.

Let’s consider here just two things you can do to improve your voice.  Nothing extreme at all.  And actually quite fun, if you approach it the right way.

Presentation voice
But . . . I love my presentation voice

We have two goals.

First, we want to rid your voice of the chronic crack and rasp.  It’s called vocal fry when it’s done intentionally to imitate reality TV personalities.  That crack and rasp is a symptom of meekness – no confidence.  Do you have this crack and rasp?  If not, congratulations and let’s move along.  But if you do . . .

“In addition to relaxing the throat muscles, the speaker should make a special effort to vocalize every particle of breath passing over the vocal cords.  There should be no wheezy leakage of air.”[2]

Push air across your vocal chords and complete your sentences.  Don’t trail off at the end of every sentence with a croaking sound like folks on Disney Channel.

Second, we want to deepen your voice.  Why?  Like it or not, deeper voices are perceived as more credible.[3]  A Stanford University study, one among many, gives the nod to deeper voices:

Our studies show that directions from a female voice are perceived as less accurate than those from a male voice, even when the voices are reading the exact same directions.  Deepness helps, too.  It implies size, height and authority.  Deeper voices are more credible.[4]

Now, should things be this way?  Is it “fair” that deeper voices have some kind of advantage?

Deeper Presentation Voice?  That’s not fair!

It’s no less fair than that some people are taller than others or larger or faster or rate perfect scores on the SAT.  It’s neither fair, nor unfair.  It’s simply the reality we’re dealt.  If you want to devote your life to fighting for “voice equality,” you have my support.  Have at it, and Godspeed.

If, on the other hand, you want to deepen your voice a bit so that you gain personal competitive advantage, then let us analyze what the deep-voice reality means to us.

It means that a deeper presentation voice is more desirable for presenting, regardless of who presents, male or female.  Now, the very fact that you are armed with that information empowers you.

When you decide to act on it, it adds to your personal competitive advantage.

Many simple and effective exercises exist to deepen and enrich your voice.

A simple awareness of your own voice-cracking should be enough to remedy that issue.  Record your voice, and listen critically.  A personal coach can help, or even a trusted confidante as concerned with voice as much as you.  Listen to each other, coach each other, and work together to achieve an improved voice.

No, your voice is not a sacrosanct.  Voice is the second secret – the second dimension along which speakers are assessed.

Work to improve your presentation voice and you’re on your way to an especially powerful presentation style.


[1] Grenville Kleiser, “How to Speak Well,” in Radio Broadcasting (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935) , 42-43.

[2] George Rowland Collins, Platform Speaking (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1923), 33.

[3] Suter, J. K. (2003). Der Eindruck vom Ausdruck–Einfluss paraverbaler Kommunikation auf die Wahrnehmung von Nachrichtensprechenden [The impression of expression – the influence of paraverbal communication on the perception of newsreaders]. Unpublished master’s thesis. University of Bern, Switzerland.

[4] Anne Eisenberg, “Mars and Venus, On the Net : Gender Stereotypes Prevail,” (The New York Times, 2000), http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rfrost/courses/SI110/readings/Cyberculture/Eisenberg.pdf

Secret #1 (Part 2) – Your Ready Position

An especially powerful ready position
Your Ready Position

Your Ready Position.

Your ready position is the default stance you assume when giving your talk, when not emphasizing a point with movement and gesture.

Think a moment about how you stand while you give your talk.

I refer to the time when you’re not moving about the stage to emphasize this or that point.

This especially powerful ready position is your anchor, your life preserver in a storm. Your safe harbor.

Powerful . . . Confident . . . In command

When you stride to the stage, move to the command position in front of the lectern and facing the crowd.

Now, plant yourself as you would a paving stone in a garden.  Plant yourself firmly, as a stone, with feet shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed, shoulders squared.  Plant yourself as a deeply rooted Redwood.

Do not slouch or put more weight on one foot than on the other.  Point your toes slightly outward.  Neither slump, nor stiffen. Shoulders back, head up, expectant.

Do not allow your head to settle down betwixt your collar bones. This compresses your neck like a collapsed concertina.   It cramps your voice box and cuts the flow of air that you need to speak.

At this point, let your hands hang loosely at your sides . . . (in a moment, we’ll give you something to do with your hands).

Walking and pointing and looking and eye-contact?  Forget it for now.

Forget it all for now.

First, you must seize control of yourself and adopt your strong, basic stance and make it your habit.

You must control all of those little tics and habits and nervous gestures that leech the strength from your presentation.  The tics and habits that telegraph your nervousness and lack of confidence.

What tics and habits, you say?  Every young presenter has at least some of them and the ready position can help remedy the following pathologies.

Do Not cross your leg in front of you while you balance on the other.  This “standing cross” is more prevalent, for some reason, among female presenters than among males.  Some males have this habit as well.  This is a particularly debilitating movement from both the standpoint of the audience and for you.  It projects instability.  And it makes you feel unstable.

Do Not cock your hip to one side – this is called a “hip-shot.”  Again, this action undermines your foundation.  This hip-shot posture degrades your presentation in multiple ways.  It shouts nonchalance.  It denotes disinterest and impatience.  It cries out to the audience a breezy bar demeanor that is completely at odds with the spoken message you want to convey.

Do Not engage in little choppy steps.  This side-to-side dance is common.  It telegraphs nervousness.

Do Not slump your shoulders.  Few things project lack of confidence like rounded shoulders.  Slumping shoulders can be a reflexive response to nervousness that leads to a “closed body position.”

Again.  Stand in one place, your feet comfortably shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward.  Arms at your sides.

Your Foundation – Your Ready Position

Your goal at this point is to maintain a solid physical foundation.  To project an image of confidence to the audience and to imbue yourself with confidence in point of fact.  You begin to do this with your stance – solid and confident.

Now here is the most important guidance for your Foundation “Ready” position.

Stand as described, and place your left hand in your pants pocket, out of the way.  This position should be your default position.  Putting the hand in your pocket gets it out of the way and keeps you out of trouble.  Moreover, it projects confidence.

If you have no pocket, ease your left hand a bit behind you and to the side.  No, not in a military posture, but enough to disengage it.  If you are left-handed, of course disengage your right hand.

And, no, it is not “unprofessional.”  This position carries a multitude of positives and no negatives.  You never go wrong with this position.

It imbues you with confidence and keeps you copacetic.  To your audience, it projects competence, confidence, reassurance, and sobriety:  “Here is someone who knows his/her stuff.”

This is your Ready Position.

Especially Powerful Ready Position
Your Ready Position Communicates Power

Everything else you do flows from this position.  Practice your two-minute talk from this position and do not move.

Stop!

Stop and think.  When you are ready to make a point that is crucial to your thesis . . .  When you are ready to shift subjects or major ideas . . . then

Then, step to the left while addressing the people on the left flank. Talk to them.  Then, step to the right and address those on your right.  Hold open your hands, palms up.  Walk toward your audience a step or two. Look them in the eyes. Speak to individuals.

Then, step back to the center and retake your ready position.

Let your movements emphasize your points. When you gesture to a portion of the audience, step toward them in a kind of supplication.

And always always, always go back to the ready postion.  I have seen dozens of young speakers transformed into capable, confident speakers by virtue of this alone.

How is that possible?  By removing the doubt associated with “How will I stand.”

This powerful and stable ready position imbues you with confidence, your first step toward building positive energy within yourself.

The Ready Position — it’s your safe harbor in a sea of presentation uncertainty.

Secret #1 – Power Posing for a Winning Stance

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

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

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

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

Your Foundation – Power Posing

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

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

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

Have you ever consciously thought about it?

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

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

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

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

Presentation Power
Power Posing at its Finest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defeat?  Ennui?  Melt-down?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

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

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

Call this defeatist behavior non-power posing.

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

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

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

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

Especially Powerful Power Posing
Plant yourself like a paving stone

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

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

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

We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

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

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

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

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

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

Skeptical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is a confident posture?

Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

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

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

For an especially powerful presentation
Power Posing Projects Confidence

Consider the confident speaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations

Especially Powerful Presentations
The Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations are right here

Could there be anything more tantalizing than especially powerful presentation secrets?

Because everyone loves secrets.

Dark secrets.

Sweet secrets.

Secrets to tickle the fancy.  Secrets to gain the upper hand.

And not just one secret . . . but seven of them!

 7 Secrets of Power Presenting

Today we launch the seven secrets of especially powerful presenting.  These 7 Secrets promise to launch you to personal competitive advantage in an ever more challenging job market.

Especially powerful presentation techniques are coming to you over the next two weeks, one every-other-day, right here in your Especially Powerful Presentations Blog.

Have these secrets heretofore been hidden from you?

They certainly don’t appear in your business communication textbooks.  Face it . . . has anything good ever come out of a business communication textbook?

So where do these secrets come from?

They reside in the collective wisdom of more than 2,500 years of history.  This is the link that you share with every great speaker that history has seen fit to remember – you share their humanity.  And this is why their secrets speak to us across the mists of time.

Cicero in 50 BC?

You in 2015 AD?

More than two millennia separate you from the Roman Republic’s greatest orator, so what could you possibly have in common with a man half-a-world away and 2,000 years ago?

Here’s the link

Especially Powerful Presentations
History is Filled with Especially Powerful Presentations

Perhaps Cicero spoke to the Roman Senate during the last days of the Roman Republic, while you now speak to your Business Capstone class with PowerPoint on the screen behind you . . . but you both share a core necessity.

You share the necessity to convince your audience by using a handful of reliable tools that have not changed in two thousand years.

For our purposes, the greatest orators in history are still alive with respect to their techniques, their tools, their words, and their abilities to sway audiences.

Demosthenes

Cicero

Quintilian

Patrick Henry

Frederick Douglass

William Jennings Bryan

Daniel Webster

Abraham Lincoln

What could these long-gone people possibly say to you to help you become a superior presenter here in the 21st Century?

All of these orators and many more utilized the highly refined and powerful secrets of elocution, declamation, debate, and oratory to command the stage and to sway audiences.  They were the superior presenters of their day.

Their techniques and tools comprise the 7 Secrets of Especially Powerful Presentations.

Tools of the Best

The best speakers of the past 50 years use and 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 wouldn’t be secrets any longer.

So they let you believe that they were gifted with special talents.

Not a chance.  Techniques, practice, personal branding . . . and 7 Secrets.

Especially Powerful Presentation Techniques
An Especially Powerful Presentation is not the exclusive province of the famous

You begin to learn these Seven Secrets over the next 14 days.

They are the secrets utilized by every great orator until the age of television, radio, and the computer rendered them lost to the vast majority of us.

They faded from use, supplanted by technology in the mistaken belief that technology had rendered you, the presenter, superfluous.

And so presenting as a skill has withered.  Until now.

These secrets do not appear in today’s textbooks, and they appear only in partial form in many trade books.  Many students don’t even know about them.  They believe that great presenting is alchemy, magic, or a product of superior talent.

Many don’t reach the point at which you read these words right now.  Many who read these words this second sneer at them with a world-weary sigh.

But a tiny minority reads on.

A tiny minority will join me tomorrow, and the next two weeks . . .

And that select few will begin to acquire the power, dexterity, energy, and charisma to grow into a bold presenter – at home on the stage, at ease with yourself, and facile with the material.  You will become a fabulous business presenter.

And you will acquire personal competitive advantage to last a lifetime.

With each post, the door opens on a new Secret, and you are presented with a challenge.

Master these Seven Secrets, which form the Seven Pillars of your personal speaking platform, and you will soar higher in the business world than you possibly could have imagined.  And your career will soar farther and faster than you ever thought possible.

I hope that you are in that tiny minority that continues to read.

Let’s meet here in a couple of days for Secret #1.

Build Your Business Presentation

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Exudes Power

Build an especially powerful Business Presentation with this simple structure:  Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every superb story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

You should build a business presentation, whether individual or group, according to this structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.  Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.  The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Convinces

This framework is not the only way you can build your business presentation.

You can be innovative.  You can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Build a Business Presentation to Withstand the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

It’s an especially powerful structure, and I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.  But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

To learn more on how to build an especially powerful business presentation that has power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bad Presenting . . . the Business Ritual of Pain

Are Bad Presentations necessary?
Break the Painful Business Ritual

Is there some law, somewhere, that dictates that business presentations must constitute a painful business ritual?

Boring.

Barren.

Bereft of Excellence.

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

This dullness seeps into the consciousness.  It numbs us, and begins to legitimize itself.  It’s like a business ritual . . . a ritual of pain.

Corporate America seems addicted to this ritual.

And yet a conspiracy of silence surrounds bad business presentations and those who give them.

The Ritual of Pain is Ubiquitous

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

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

And this bad presentation business ritual perpetuates itself, like some kind of awful oral tradition . . . like a ritual.

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

Some Vice President from a visiting company stands in front of you hiding behind a lectern.  He reads from slides with  dozens of bullet points taken from a written paper and pasted onto PowerPoint slides.  He alternates looking at a computer screen and turning to look at a projection screen behind him.  He rarely looks at you.

A Wasteland On the Screen

Unreadable spreadsheets appear.

Legions of tiny numbers march in cadence on the screen.

The presenter reads slide-after-slide verbatim, his head turned away from you.

The slides themselves are unintelligible.

It’s a bad presentation, and you can’t remember a damn thing except the three texts you received during the presentation as you checked your iPhone between yawns.

Given this familiar exercise in bad presenting, you could legitimately ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”

If bad business presentations are the norm – if this is the business ritual – you scratch your chin and perhaps you think “That’s not hard at all.”

I can be as bad as the next person.

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

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

It seems to have all the elements:  A speaker-reader of slides (you), a PowerPoint display on the screen with writing on it, some numbers, and a 10-minute time slot to fill with talk.

Bad Business Presentations are the career kiss of death
Stop giving bad business presentations!

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

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

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

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

The Business Ritual of Pain.

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

This business ritual is painful and awful because of the way it’s been explained to you.

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

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

This can be a problem.

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

I Feel Your Pain

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

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

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

And on occasion, professors in your business can seem indifferent to this business ritual.

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

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

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

The Business Ritual in Corporate America

I attended a business conference on the west coast not long ago to watch the Business Ritual in all its ignominy.

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

It seemed that no preparation and no practice had preceded these presentations.

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

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

He then codified responses to this business ritual.

The average grade public interest professionals gave to the presentations they attended was C-.  The average grade given to the visuals that respondents observed in presentations they attended was also C-.

When asked to recall presentations they had seen over the last few months, survey respondents said they were more than likely to see a bad business presentation as to see an excellent one.

This is the current state of presentations in corporate America and in business schools.  Is it uniformly bleak?  No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.  I have seen a sufficient number of fine presentations to understand that, somewhere, superb instruction holds sway.

Or, at the very least, young people whose early development has trained them for the stage have found their way to the business platform.  Good for them.  But for the most part, it is as I have described here.

And this presents a magnificent opportunity.

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

By investing your presentations with passion, emotion, and enthusiasm, you deliver especially powerful shows with persuasive power.  Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time to revamp your business ritual.

Time to end the business ritual of pain.

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

Malcolm X Presentation Technique

The Malcolm X presentation technique
Malcolm X was a powerful presenter, a passionate man of strong belief and charismatic bearing, and this Malcolm X presentation technique is a textbook on how to sway an audience

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way, and no better way to do it than with a Malcolm X presentation technique.

Make it sit up straight, snap their heads in your direction.

You can do this several ways, and it’s up to you what you choose, but it should fit your audience and the topic of your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line, which was a Malcolm X presentation technique.

This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not Another Canned Talk

One of the greatest public speakers of modern times was the late Malcolm X.

While his oeuvre rarely touched on aspects of business that we deal with in our presentation enterprise, his speeches serve as powerful examples of how to grab an audience and mesmerize it.

His techniques are so powerful that he deserves a category all his own, and you can captivate an audience with Malcolm X presentation techniques.

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a powerful communicator who drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.  His charisma was unquestioned and it grew organically from the wellspring of passion that he invested in his cause and in every speech.

The Malcolm X Presentation
Malcolm X Presentation Technique was a powerful tool for persuasiveness.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.

They are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases, and to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

When you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

You gain a sense of the gathering storm, almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.  With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches today begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

They sputter with routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or giving jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Use Malcolm X Presentation Technique

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.  Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course will leaven our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners and layed out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He establishes a mood of confidentiality and rapport.  He then states boldly – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

No Chit-Chat  in a Malcolm X Presentation

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.  No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases:  “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.

And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.  With a Malcolm X presentation technique that grips the audience and never lets it go.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them.

He focused on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes.

He framed the issue in colorful language, and created listener expectations that he would offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from the Malcolm X presentation and ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we’ll look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation, building to his call for action at the end.

If you want to learn how to energize a presentation with Malcolm X presentation techniques, as well as the secrets that other powerful speakers use in their presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Stop Your Presentation

Every person needs a life-preserver at some point in his speaking career, and one of the most important is how to stop your presentation.

Here I reveal the best way to . . . stop.

Yes . . . stop your presentation.

Stop Your Presentation Now

I’ve tossed this rescue device out many times to students in trouble during a presentation.

At times, even the finest presenters get themselves in trouble, and having this rescue device near to hand can salvage a speech that is careening off-course, even flirting with disaster.

Occasionally we must be reminded of this simple and yet especially powerful device that can serve us well near the end of our talk.

How to Stop your Presentation
Stop your presentation the right way and leave a lasting impression on the audience

When your talk winds down and you feel yourself suddenly spent . . .

When you begin to spiral out of control and can’t collect your thoughts . . .

When your pulse quickens and your mind goes blank . . .

Grasp for two words.

Your life-preserver.

“In conclusion . . .”

That’s it.  Just two words.

Magic Words . . .

These two words have rescued thousands of presenters before you, and they’ll rescue you as well.

“In conclusion . . .”

These two words work a magic on your psyche that is almost inexplicable in terms that a logical, reasonable person would believe.

As soon as you speak them, the path to the end of your talk becomes clear.  Your presentation opens up.  Speak these magic words, and suddenly you know what to say and do.

You confidently add another crucial phrase . . .

“In conclusion, we can see that . . .”

“In conclusion, our recommendation makes sense for reasons just given . . .”

“In conclusion, this means that . . .”

See how it works?  How incredibly easy it is to get out of the sticky wicket of a talk spiraling out of control!

“In conclusion” leads you out of the wilderness and back onto your prepared path.  It leads you to restate your thesis in concise manner and then . . .

. . . stop!

You’re done.

For more on especially powerful presentations, consult the Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

Bookend your Business Presentation Structure

Presentation Structure
Bookending is a Powerful Presentation Structure Technique

Bookend your presentation structure to give the audience a satisfying experience.

You can bookend your segment of a group presentation, too.

“Bookend?”

What’s this bookending and why is it so important to audience response?

Bookending brings your audience full circle, in a sense.  You first hook your audience with an intense introduction, and at then at the conclusion of your presentation, you recapitulate.

This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.

Presentation Structure Begins with This

The First Bookend.

This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative.  This is your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.

Your grabber must startle and delight your audience.  An interesting fact, a controversial statement, a powerful phrase.

Presentation StructureAnd then you follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.

Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they are about to hear, start to finish.

One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:

“There’s a deal on the table.  Don’t take it.  Here’s why.”

That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well.  It pulses with power.  If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?

In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.

That’s your first bookend.

The Middle of Your Presentation Structure

Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.

Why three?

Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times.  We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.  Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.

Duty.  Honor.  Country.

I came.  I saw.  I conquered.

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.”

“The Three Little Pigs.”

“Goldilocks and the Nine Bears.”

See how the last sentence jars?  Try to craft your presentation to constitute three parts.  For instance:  Product Concept, Marketing Plan, Financial Analysis.  Something like that.

This three-part presentation structure can serve you well as a framework for most any presentation.

As you wind to a conclusion, you then construct your second and final bookend.

Recapitulation of your Presentation Structure

You say these words:  “In conclusion, we can see that—”  Then . . .

Repeat your original situation statement.  Hearken back to the original introductory anecdote, cue, or visual image that launched your presentation.

Finally, say:  “We believe that our presentation substantiates this.”

You come full-circle, so to speak, and the audience gains a sense of completeness.  This recapitulation of your theme knits together your segment into a whole.  Your audience appreciates the closure.

Rather than a linear march, where nothing said in your presentation seems to relate to anything that came before, you offer a satisfying circularity.  You bring your audience home.

You bring you audience back to the familiar starting point, and this drives home the major point of your talk in two especially powerful ways:  1) the outright repetition of your theme, cementing it in the minds of your listeners, and 2) the story convention of providing a satisfying ending, tying up loose ends, and giving psychological closure.

It’s an elegant technique that can pay big dividends in terms of audience response.

Try it.

For more especially powerful presentation structure tips like this, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your essential companion throughout B-School.

McTips, anyone?

Especially Powerful PresentationsWith regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people.  For descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”

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

Neither is remotely accurate.

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

Here is why . . .

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

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

The First View

The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility.

That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain.

That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.  That Oprah Winfrey began her talk show career in kindergarten.

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

It’s an excuse for us not to persevere.  Why bother to try?

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

The Second View . . . Presentation McTips!

The second view is the opposite of the first.

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

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

McTips?Has the presentation landscape changed so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?

I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!  Have the demands of the presentation become so weak that great presenting can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”

Hardly.

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

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

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

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

So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”  You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.

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

The Third View – The Power Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then . . . Take the Red Pill

Then you can read on to the
next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity.  For the truth is in the Power Zone, and once there, you will never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.

You cannot go back.

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

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

McTips?  No way!

A method that transforms you.

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

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

To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.  If you already carry this view, that’s superb.  If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough, or believing you are good enough when you’re actually not.

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

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

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

You actually can become a capable presenter.  You can become a great presenter.  When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge.  This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.

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

An especially powerful presenter.

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

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