Tag Archives: presenting

Presentation Preparation – The Second P

Presentation Preparation - the Right Way
The Right Kind of Presentation Preparation is Key

The right kind of presentation preparation lays the groundwork for spectacular performance.

Squeeze the most from your prep time, and try doing it this way . . .

Let’s say you are assigned the ToughBolt business case to analyze and to provide your recommendations in a business presentation.

Your first task is to prepare the business presentation . . .  the right way.

After all, you’re performing before the directors of the Toughbolt Corporation . . . and you get one shot to get it right.  Shouldn’t it be your best shot?

Presentation Preparation for your Best Shot

Your group has produced a written analysis.  It’s finished.

What now?

How do you “prepare?”

“Prepare” has such a sterile sound.  Almost vacuous.

And yet too many students stumble over this most mundane of activities.  They rush.

They fumble.  They grope blindly.  Perhaps you grope blindly . . . and decide at the end to “wing it.”

But here is where you tuck away one of the most important gems of wisdom necessary to giving a first-rate show.  Here you apply the sound method of correct Preparation – the second of the Three Ps.

Presentation Preparation
Presentation Preparation invests you with confidence

Your task is clear.  It’s time to present your conclusions to an audience in the most direct and cogent manner possible.

And in this task is embodied a verity for you to internalize.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

Let me repeat that, because it is so misunderstood and ignored.

Your business presentation is a completely different product than your written report.

It’s a different mode of communication.

Do you wonder how this is possible, since you prepare the business presentation from a written report?  How can the products differ significantly simply because one product is written and the other visual and vocal?

They are different in the same way that a film is a completely different product than a novel, even if the story is supposedly the same.

How Different?

It’s different in the way that a play read silently from the page differs from a play acted out on stage.

You operate in a different medium.

You have time constraints.

A group is receiving your message.

A group is delivering the message.

You have almost no opportunity for repeat.

You have multiple opportunities to miscommunicate.

In short, you are in a high-risk environment and you are vulnerable.  You’re far more vulnerable than you might be in a written report, where the risk is controlled.

Look at the chart below.

Prepare the Business Presentation aside from your written report

These differences between the written report and the business presentation are, to many people, insignificant.

Many folks believe that there is no difference.

And this is why those same folks believe that delivering a presentation is “easy.”  It consists of little more than cutting and pasting a written report’s points onto a half-dozen cramped slides, and then reading them in public.

As absurd as this might appear in print, it actually has currency.  People believe this, because they’ve not been told otherwise.

Numbers Trump All?

Finance people are especially prone to this habit, believing that the “numbers tell the story.”  As they prepare the business presentation, one thought trumps all . . .

The more numbers, the better.

The more obtuse the spreadsheet, the tinier the font, the more complex the chart, the more stuff packed on each slide . . . the better.

Such a vague, incomprehensible, numbers-heavy mess seems to be the currency of many business presentations.

It’s wrong, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Part of your preparation is the crafting of clear, compelling, and on-point graphics that support your message . . . not obscure it. Rid your presentation of chart junk. Zero-in to achieve what I call über focus.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Perhaps you’ve said that?  I’ve certainly heard it.

“How come I never get assigned an interesting topic?”

Think Hard before your Prepare the Business Presentation
Presentation Preparation?

Now, whether any topic is inherently interesting is irrelevant to your task.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience.

Business cases are not assigned to you so that they will interest you.

Your tasks as a project manager or consultant don’t come to you on the basis of whether they interest you.

No one cares if they “interest” you.

That’s not the point.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting” topics.  But what’s an “interesting” topic?

I have found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned inherently interesting topics.  They don’t recognize them as interesting.

And they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic as they prepare the business presentation.

And they miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great show.

Moreover, it is your job to presenting an especially powerful and scintillating presentation, regardless of the topic.

Face it.  If you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t prepare any differently for an “interesting” topic than you would for a “boring” topic.  You simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience or client.

Let’s shed that attitude.

Great presenters recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They invariably craft an interesting presentation whether the topic concerns tenpenny nails or derivatives or soap.

Crank up Interest

How do you generate interest?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions:

[I]nterest is, generally speaking, strongest in old things in new settings, looked at from new angles, given new forms and developed with new facts and ideas, with new light on familiar characters, new explanations of familiar phenomena, or new applications of old truths.

The typical start to a presentation project is . . .

. . . procrastination.

You put it off as a daunting task.  Or you put it off because you believe you can “wing it.”  Or you lament that you don’t have an “interesting topic.”

Let’s say that your task is to provide a SWOT within the body of a group presentation, and your time is 4-5 minutes.  What is your actual task here as you prepare the business presentation?

Think about it.

How do you usually approach the task?  How do you characterize it?

Here is my guess at how you approach it.

You define your task as:

“How can I fit X amount of information into this limited time?”

In your own mind, the objective is not to communicate clearly to your audience. Your only objective is to “fit it all in.”  And if you “achieve” this dubious objective, then in your mind you will have succeeded.

Unfortunately, your professor might agree with you, since many b-school professors look only for “content.”  They do not evaluate whether the content has been communicated clearly and effectively.

And this is what is missing – you don’t analyze how or why or in what way you can present the information in a public forum.

If a written paper has already been produced, this complicates your task.

You feel the irresistible allure of cut ’n’ paste.

The result is less than stellar, and you end up trying to shovel 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound pail.  And this result is predictable.

Your slides are crammed with information.

You talk fast to force all the points in.  You run over-time.

You fail.

You fail to deliver a star-spangled presentation for lack of proper preparation.

This Time, Procrustes has it Right

Take the Procrustean approach when you prepare the business presentation.  This approach is named after Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology.  The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the myth this way:

He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it.  If they were too tall to fit his bed, he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes’ own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.

Surely Procrustes was a villain, what with sawing off people’s legs or stretching them to fit an arbitrary standard.  In modern-day parlance, it has retained its negative connotation with the term “Procrustean solution.”

“Procrustean solution” is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived stricture.

A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.

But in this case, let’s give Procrustes a break.

Your Procrustean Solution

Take a Procrustean approach and forge an especially powerful presentation.  Consider this:

We have no choice in the length of our presentation.  It’s four minutes.  Or five minutes.

That’s our Procrustean Bed.  So let’s manipulate the situation to our benefit and to the benefit of our audience in our presentation preparation.

We’re not stretching someone or something.  And we’re not hacking off legs.

We are using our minds and judgment to select what should be in our show and what should not be in our show.

And if you find the decision of what to include too difficult, then let’s do even more Procrustean manipulation.  Pick only three major points that you want to make.

Procrustes Would Prepare the Business Presentation the Right Way

Here is your task now:

Pick three points to deliver in 4-5 minutes.  If you must deliver an entire SWOT, then select one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat.

Why do we do this?  Here’s why:

If you try to crowbar an entire SWOT analysis into a four-minute presentation, with multiple points for each category, you overwhelm your audience.

They turn off and tune you out.  You will lose them, and you will fail.

Presenting too many points is worse than delivering only one point.

Especially Powerful Paucity

If you present, say, a total of 5 strengths, 3 weaknesses, 4 opportunities, and 3 threats, no one remembers it.  None of it.  And you irritate your audience mercilessly.

Your presentation should present the results of analysis, not a laundry list of facts on which you base your analysis.

The SWOT is, in fact, almost raw data.

You want the audience to remember how you massage the data, analyze it, and arrange it.  You want the audience to remember your conclusions.

You take information and transforming it into intelligence.  You winnow out the chaff and leave only the wheat.

You reduce the static and white noise so that the communicative signal can be heard.

You are panning for gold, washing away the detritus to find the nuggets.  When you buy gold, you don’t buy the waste product from which it was drawn, do you?

Do you buy a gold ring set in a box of sand?

Of course not, and neither should you offer up bucketfuls of presentation sand when you present your analytic gold to your client.

As you prepare the business presentation, you sift through mountains of information, synthesize it, compress it, make it intelligible, then present it in a way that is understandable and, if possible, entertaining.

Digest this Preparation guidance, try it out in your next presentation, and watch yourself produce and deliver the most powerful presentation of your young career.

Discover more on Especially Powerful Presentation Preparation in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Case Competitions Worldwide!

The Business Case Competition builds skills and tests your mettleI often judge presentations in business case competitions, and I never fail to be impressed at the high caliber of students competing.

Versed in the intricacies of wealth-building and savvy in the ways of Wall Street, the next generation of business leaders is well-armed for the competitive battles of tomorrow.

And case competitions are the way to display those skills.

Case Competitions Worldwide

In my last post, I described the crucible of case competitions and how they can lead to increased opportunities in the business world.

If it interests you (and it always interests the best), then review this site that was recently passed to me.  Appropriately enough, it’s called www.studentcompetitions.com, and its motto says:  Compete. Show Your Skills. Get Awarded.

The site features a constantly updated database of student  competitions worldwide.  As of this writing, 334 contests and competitions are listed.

So if you are serious about bringing to bear all of your business acumen in a public demonstration of your abilities to collaborate across a range of sub-disciplines in business, then go now to http://studentcompetitions.com and see what awaits you.

No Time for Modesty or Mediocrity

The Case Competition is your chance to demonstrate a wide range of corporate business skills in a collaborative effort.  You receive recognition, valuable experience, sometimes monetary reward, and perhaps an open door to corporate employment.  The competition is a showcase for your skills.

You can also win anywhere from $1,000 to $75,000 in a single business case competition.

Click for more information on how to deliver Especially Powerful Business School Presentations and learn the key secret techniques of how to win the business case competition.

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.

How to Transition Between Speakers

Transition smoothly in your PresentationOne of the least-practiced aspects of the group presentation is how you pass the baton – the transition between speakers.

Yet these baton-passing linkages within your presentation are incredibly important.

They connect the conclusion of one segment and the introduction of the next.

Shouldn’t this connecting link be as strong as possible, so that your audience receives the intended message?  So the message isn’t lost in a flurry of scurrying presenters moving about the stage in unpracticed, chaotic fashion?

You forfeit tremendous personal competitive advantage if you ignore this seemingly small aspect of your presentation.

Don’t Lose Your Message!

It sounds absurd, but group members often develop their individual presentation segments on their own.  Then, the group tries to knit them together on the day of the group show.  A formula for disaster.

The result is a bumbling game of musical chairs and hot-baton-passing.

Imagine a sports team that prepared for its games this way, with each player practicing his role individually and the players coming together as a team only on the day of the game and expecting the team to work together seamlessly.

Sports teams don’t practice this way.  Serious people don’t practice this way.

Don’t you practice this way.

Don’t yield to the tendency on the part of a team of three or four people to treat the presentation as a game of musical chairs.

Transition Between Speakers

This happens when each member presents a small chunk of material, and the presenters take turns presenting.  Lots of turns.

This ungainly dance disconcerts your audience and can upend your show.

Minimize the passing of the baton and transitions, particularly when each person has only three or four minutes to present.

Transition between Speakers!

I have also noticed a tendency to rush the transition between speakers.

Often, a presenter will do fine until the transition to the next topic.  At that point, before finishing, the speaker turns while continuing to talk, and the last sentence or two of the presentation segment is lost.

The speaker walks away while still citing a point.  Perhaps an incredibly important point.

Don’t rush from the stage.

Stay planted in one spot until you finish.

Savor your conclusion, the last sentence of your portion.  It should reiterate your Most Important Point.

Introduce your next segment.  Then transition.  Then pass the baton with authority.

Harmonize your Messages

Your message itself must mesh well with the other segments of your show.  Each presenter must harmonize  the message with the others of a business presentation.  These individual parts should make sense as a whole, just as parts of a story all contribute to the overall message.

“On the same page” . . .  “Speaking with one voice” . . .    These are the metaphors that urge us to message harmony.  This means that one member does not contradict the other when answering questions.

It means telling the same story and contributing crucial parts of that story so that it makes sense.

This is not the forum to demonstrate that team members are independent thinkers or that diversity of opinion is a good thing.

Moreover, everyone should be prepared to deliver a serviceable version of the entire presentation, not just their own part.  This is against the chance that one or more of the team can’t present at the appointed time.

Cross-train in at least one other portion of the presentation.

Remember:  Harmonize your messages . . . Speak with one voice . . . Pass the baton smoothly.  Transition between speakers with authority and confidence.

You can find more discussion on how to transition between speakers in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your key to personal competitive advantage in business school and beyond.

Bad Business Presentation?

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

. . . or in the business school classroom?

Is there a Law of Bad?

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

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

But of course, no one tells you this.

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

And yet, these monstrosities sprout everywhere.

Ubiquitous Bad Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He rarely looks at you.

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

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

It’s boring.

It’s unintelligible.

The slides are unreadable or irrelevant.

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

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

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Feel Your Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Malaise in Corporate America

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

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

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

No preparation and no practice attended these presentations.

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

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

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

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

No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.

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

And this presents you with magnificent opportunity.

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

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

Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time for your debut.

Time to break the Law of Bad Business Presentations.

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

Business Presentation Principles . . . The First P

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

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

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

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

These principles, in short, are you.

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

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

Business Presentation Principles are Secret?

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

But they are difficult secrets.

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

But that’s just not so.

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

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

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

Break-Down of Business Presentation Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It’s mastery of the Three Ps.

Next . . . Preparation.

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

Presentation Magic . . . YOU Provide it

presentation magic in pills?
There are no presentation magic pills to rescue a lame effort

For your presentation, do you ever throw together a half-dozen makeshift slides cut-and-pasted from a written report, larded with bullet points, and then rely on some sort of last-minute presentation magic to save your butt?

Wishful thinking that maybe PowerPoint pyrotechnics can save the day?

Perhaps the bravado of phony self-confidence to get you through a painful experience?

Guilty as charged?

Most of us are at one point or another.

And the results can be heinous.

Software “Presentation Magic” Cannot Save You

The results are slides that confuse the audience rather than reinforce your major points delivered in awful, mind-numbing presentations.

There is a cost for serving up what designer Nancy Duarte calls “bad slides.”  Nancy says in her book Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations:

“Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career.  Invest in your slides, but invest in your own visual skills as well.  The alternative is to inadvertently commit career suicide.”

Absent specific instruction, you might believe that it’s acceptable to simply cut and paste graphics from a written report directly onto a slide.

Why not?

Who says this is a bad idea?

After all, the professor wants to see certain material on the screen, doesn’t he?  Well, I’m giving it to him.  ’nuff said.

This is awful for the reason that the slide presentation sometimes doubles for a written document.  This is an incredibly stupid mistake.

One . . . or the Other

Your PowerPoint can serve admirably one or the other purpose . . . but not both.

Presentation Magic does not exist
You Create the Presentation Magic . . . not the Software

The presentation – or show – is an entirely different form of communication than the written document that is meant to be reviewed later.

Never let one serve in place of the other.

Prepare two separate documents if necessary, one to serve as your detailed written document, the other to serve as the basis for your show.

When you commit the error of letting a written document serve as your public presentation, here’s what usually happens: You project a parade of abominably cluttered slides onto the screen while you talk about them.  Usually prefacing what you say with the words “As you can see . . . .”  [this is called As You Can See Syndrome, or AYCSS]

The results are quite often poor, if not downright ugly and embarassing for all concerned.

It’s a roadmap to disaster.

But the insidious part is that no one tells you the results are disastrous.

And they do not tell you what makes your creation an abomination.

So let’s discuss the types of issues you face in assembling your show.

No Presentation Magic in Your Slide Deck

Start by recognizing that no slide show can substitute for a lack of ideas, a lack of preparation, and lack of a story to tell.

Nifty slides cannot save you.

PowerPoint cannot rescue you with its colors, sound, and animation.  This is akin to Hollywood filmmakers who spend millions of dollars on dazzling special effects and neglect the story.  They bomb miserably.

On the other hand, you can craft a winning film with a superb story and drama, but with minimal special effects: See the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men.  You cannot craft a winning film with no story.

Or a bad story populated with people you don’t care about.

Forget the notion that slides are somehow the backbone of your show.  They have no special properties.  They can merely enhance your show . . . and they can most assuredly help destroy it.

Presenting coach Aileen Pincus makes this point in her 2008 book Presenting:

“Slides are not a magic pill; they won’t organize a disorganized presentation; they won’t give a point to a presentation that doesn’t really have one; and they never make a convincing presentation on their own.”

So is there a reasonably easy way to get around this busy-slide pathology?

Of course, and this leads us to one solution to the problem of overburdened slides.  Remember three words when you prepare your slides, and you can eliminate 90 percent of your PowerPoint pathologies.

Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize

First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.

If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.  Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.

Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

You provide the Presentation Magic
Great Speakers like Malcolm X bring their own Presentation Magic to performance . . . and so should you

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.  If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.  Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.

When you orient, eliminate, and emphasize, you polish your meaning to a high sheen, and you are on your way to an especially powerful presentation.  You dump distractors that leech the strength and from your presentation.

And, consequently, by substraction you infuse your presentation with power.  You provide your own presentation magic that arises from your skill as an especially powerful presenter.

Want more on providing your own presentation magic?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Improve Your Presentation Voice

You can improve your presentation voice
You can work to improve your presentation voice

Do you bristle when folks suggest that you might improve yourself in some way . . . such as how you might improve your presentation voice?

This is a natural reaction when it comes to highly personal aspects of our personality and behavior.

We bristle.

We reject coaching in certain areas.

Perhaps you kneejerk that “There’s nothing wrong with my ——–!”

Of course, it’s much easier to accept a substandard status quo than it is to opt for improvement.

One example of such an area of improvement is your business presentation voice.

Choose!

To get to the point where we can improve the speaking voice, we first must accept that there’s nothing sacred, sacrosanct, or “natural” about your speaking voice.

Your voice is the product of many years of development from numerous influences.  Many of these influences might well have been unconscious acquisitions.  Perhaps adaptations of which you may be unaware.

Why not evaluate your voice today?

Film your presentation, then watch with critical eye and listen with critical ear.  Listen with an ear to how to improve your presentation voice.

See if it gets the presentation job done for you.  Does it?

Does your voice crack?  Does it whine?

Do you perform a Kim Kardashian vocal fry at the end of every sentence?  Does it tic up at the end of every sentence with a bad case of uptalk, turning your sentences all into questions?

Do you lard your conversation with nonsensical filler such as “whatever,” “umm,” “totally,” and “like” hundreds of times per day?

If you are then pleased with all of this, then carry on.  Or choose to improve the communicative power of your voice.

Why not change for the better?

Improve 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 improving your voice.

Simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality. Working to improve it will improve its quality dramatically and build your voice into an especially powerful skill for personal competitive advantage.

Let’s consider here several things you can do to improve your voice.

Nothing extreme at all.  Have a look . . .

For more on how to improve your presentation voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not.

2,500 Years of How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

You find those verities here.

Do you know How to Give a Business Presentation

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

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

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

Right?  Right?

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

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

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

The answer’s here, and on this site.

Why Bother with How to Give a Business Presentation?

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

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

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

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

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

A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.

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

Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.

This is the Secret Skill You Knew They Kept from You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You already carry it with you.

But you will have to change.

But Great Business Presentation Skills Mean Change . . .

This is about transformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Develop Professional Presence

professional presence for competitive advantageProfessional presence in the business presentation is the source of its power.

I should say potential power.  For much of the potential power of presentations has been forfeited.

That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.

Forfeiture of Power

Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.

What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.  It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice.  It’s what they sense on a subliminal level.  That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.

Here, Paulson describes the impact of professional presence.  Entire books have been written on how to develop professional presence, and I reference one here by Peggy Noe Stevens.

Professional presence is the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message.  A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.

You become part of the message.  You exert your unique talents and strengths to create a powerful professional presence.

You become charismatic.

Naked Information Overflow

But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background.  Now we have naked information overflow.  We see pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, persuading an audience.

Lots of people are fine with this.  They don’t mind becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background.  And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.

Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.  They don’t want to be compared to you and your extraordinary presentation skills.  They would rather compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.  Terms other than professional presence.

Become an automaton, and you cede important personal competitive advantage.

You become like everyone else.

The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker.  That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.  Without that champion – without that powerful professional presence – a presentation is an empty shell.

It becomes an incredibly bad communication exercise and an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.

The Secret of Professional Presence

Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.  Gone is the skilled public speaker, an especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, and convincing.

Gone is Quintilian’s ideal orator:  “The good man, well-spoken.”

We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.

This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter.  A presenter commanding the facts and delivering compelling arguments.  A presenter using all the tools at his or her disposal.

This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.

You can fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd.  Or you can seize the moment.  You can develop your presentation skills to contribute to a charismatic professional presence.

Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter with a premium personal brand?  Why not seize the incredible personal competitive advantage of professional presence?

To develop professional presence through business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop the Bad Presentation Habit of Finger-play

Bad Presentation Habit
Stop the Bad Presentation Habit!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit.

Or two . . . or three.

Take gesture.

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

Accordingly, here are a few 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 nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of  mediocrity.

This bad presentation 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 bad presentation habits.

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.

Stop Bad Presentation Habits!

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

We gesture to add force to our 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 can carry 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 combine and 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.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Scourge of Cartoon Speaking Voice!

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

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

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

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

Raspy.

A voice from reality television.

A cartoon voice.

Cartoon Speaking Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reality TV Infests Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every sentence spoken as a question.

Dum-Dums . . .

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

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

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

Dum-dums right off the Disney Channel.

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

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

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

Listen for it.  Maybe it’s your voice.

Your Ticket to Failure or a Chance for Redemption

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

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

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

Badly burned toast.

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

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

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

Sure, You Can Hang on to that Bad Voice!

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

Nope, don’t change a thing!

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

Let 1,000 dum-dums flourish!

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

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

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

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

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

Put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations

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

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

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

Which would you choose?

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

But many people don’t.

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

The Reason Why Many Business Presentations Sputter

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

Do you?

What?

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

But do you?  Really?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you shift and dance?

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

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

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

 powerful business presentations
Personal Competitive Advantage through Powerful Business Presentations

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

What do I mean by this?

You Need Pow!

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

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

No . . . no . . . and no.

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

Try starting this way:

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

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

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

You have set the stage for a powerful business presentation.

Put the Pow into Your Powerful Business Presentation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Those Pesky Slides . . . CLASSIC Video!

PowerPoint is a great tool for our business presentations . . . when we use it correctly

Microsoft’s PowerPoint multimedia software has gotten a bum rap, and this unfair reputation springs from the thousands of ugly presentations given every day from folks who don’t know how to use it.

And yet, PowerPoint is a brilliant tool.

But just as any tool – say, a hammer or saw – can contribute to the construction of a masterpiece . . . or a monstrosity, PowerPoint either contributes to the creation of an especially powerful presentation, or it becomes the weapon of choice to inflict yet another heinous public-speaking crime on a numbed audience.

PowerPoint isn’t the problem.  Clueless presenters are the problem.

So just how do you use PowerPoint?

This short video reviews several of my own techniques that provide basic guidance on sound PowerPoint use.

Have a look-see . . .

You STILL can’t have my slides

No hard-copy PowerPoint slides for you . . .

In what has to be the biggest surprise for me on this blog in the year-and-a-half I’ve been writing it is that the most popular post I’ve ever done, by far, is this one.

Nope, you can’t have my slides attracted an incredible amount of views and sustained discussion on LinkedIn.

For some reason, slide posts get people worked up.

People apparently have strong opinions on the PowerPoint slides they prepare for their presentations and, then, what they choose to do with them.  Hand them out in hard-copy . . . or not.  Hand them out before a presentation  . . . or not.  These choices elicit strong feelings.

My own position is the clear and simple point that I don’t give away my slides.

Period.

Other Viewpoints?

Many folks have offered opinions counter to that . . . for what I consider spurious reasons, or reasons that may have merit on the periphery, but which interfere with the centrally important function of the presentation.

To recap . . .  My slides are not meant to be “reviewed” or read at leisure after a presentation.  I usually prepare a short compendium of main points of my talk and pass that out . . . after the presentation.

The notion that paper copies of an upcoming presentation should be passed out in advance is absurd.  Yes, absurd.

It destroys both power and purpose of the presentation . . . if your presentation is worthy of the name.

Unless the presentation is to an audience whose second language is English, there is no reasonable reason to erode your presentation’s message and power by distributing a distraction.  There is enough competition for audience attention without adding to it.

If people want to take notes, they can use a notebook.

If people want to split their attention and “follow along” on some printout, rustling and shuffling papers throughout your talk, they are destined to be disappointed . . . and may actually enjoy the pleasure of not constantly shifting back and forth from handouts to unreadable screen while listening to someone read slides verbatim.

“Following along” is not part of a good presentation.  If you do your job right, and you have prepared proper visual aids, the audience won’t need a cheat sheet to interpret what you’re saying and doing.

Would you hand out the script of a hit movie beforehand, so folks can “follow along,” or would you rely upon the strength of your visuals, the power of your delivery, and the concision of your script to convey your meaning in a memorable way?

More Generally . . .

While we’re on the issue of slides more generally (and there is much that could be said), there’s this:

If you’re addicted to delivering presentations with quickly produced “bullet point” slides, then you are mired in a highly ineffective – even failed – presentation model.  A look at a couple of superb sources is in order.

Beyond Bullet Points, by Cliff Atkinson and Slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte are fabulous resources to transform the most mundane presentations into memorable moments for any audience (at least from the perspective of your visual aids, if properly utilized).

Granted, most of us believe that vast swaths of the presentation activity are open to opinion on this or that technique.  My position on the matter is that far less is open to disagreement than we like to pretend.  I watch and evaluate a minimum of 75 group business presentations and 300 individual presentations each year.

If the point is to communicate in an especially powerful manner the major points of a business presentation, there is a right way to do most of what many still believe is open to debate.

If the object of a presentation is to mimic the boss, to show one’s mastery of arcana, to anesthetize the audience, to conduct a group slide reading . . . then sure, let a thousand “techniques” blossom, and Good Luck and Godspeed!

But if the point is to focus laser-like on a major topic or broad theme and the desire is to communicate this in the most powerful and persuasive manner available, then ironclad principles – call them immutable laws – are available to guide us.

And the First Law is “Nope, you can’t have my slides.”

PowerPoint Slides? . . . No, you can’t have them

Powerpoint slides
Presentation PowerPoint slides are meant for viewing, not distribution.

My PowerPoint slides are proprietary.

I spend lots of time on them.  They have a latticework of subtle animations and overtones that bulk out the size of the file, and I practice with them a great deal to make their presence an organic part of what the audience experiences.

It takes a long time to make slides unobtrusive, you know that, right?

You should.

All of which is why my own presentations may seem to carry a bit more heft than the norm.  And so should yours.

PowerPoint slides constitute my intellectual property.  Not the specific information contained on them, although some of the unorthodox ways I present it could be considered original.

No PowerPoint Slides for You!

The slides themselves are my IP, and often I must refuse well-meaning requests for a “copy of your slide deck” as if it is just something I hand out to passersby, a sort of shareware.

In fact, some folks actually expect to get a copy of my presentation’s slides, which indicates to me how far down that sorry road we have come . . . the presentation is just a formality, really just a formal group slide reading.

Why pay attention if you’ll get a copy anyway?

Uh . . . no.

I believe that this strange tradition of passing out copies of presentation slides just prior to a talk was launched because most presentations feature slides that are virtually unreadable on the screen.  They feature dense blocks of text that assault audience sensibilities.  Hence, the tail began wagging the dog, as unreadable slides required that hand-outs be supplied so that something could be intelligible.

This, of course, has led to mind-numbing presentations, where folks in the audience shuffle and rattle paper constantly as they “follow along.”

If your audience cannot “follow along” with your presentation, the solution is not slide hand-outs.  You have a big problem presenting, and the solution is presentation training.

Stop the Paper-Shuffle!

The slide presentation, ideally, should not be a review source for an audience.  Another document should be prepared for audience review and for take-home, touching on the major points of the presentation and prepared in suitable format.

So when I receive requests for my slides from my shows on presentations, I point people in this direction.

This source has everything I talk about in my seminars . . . and more.  Much more.

More detail, more gravitas, more examples.

And it’s designed to be read at home to help you develop an especially powerful presentation.

No, you can’t have my PowerPoint slides . . . but you can have this.

CLASSIC COKE . . . Bad Presenting

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

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

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

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

Grafted to the Lectern

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

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

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

I have relayed this video of Mr. Kent before, but it bears repeating since it embodies so much of what is wrong with corporate presenting, both explicitly and implicitly.  And why so little improvement is possible if we attempt to mimic corporate drones.

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

He leans on the lectern.  He hunches uncomfortably.  He squints and reads his speech from a text in front of him and, when he does diverge from his speech, he rambles aimlessly.

He wears glasses with little chains hanging from either side of the frame, and these dangle and sway and distract us, drawing our gaze in hypnotic fashion.

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

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

Have a look . . .

 

 

Successful C-Suite businessmen and businesswomen, such as Mr. Kent, are caught in a dilemma – many of them are terrible presenters, but no one tells them so.  No one will tell them so, because there’s no upside in doing it.  Why would you tell your boss, let-alone the CEO, that he needs improvement in presenting?  Such criticism cuts perilously close to the ego.

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

Such as business presenting.

Mr. Kent is by all accounts a shrewd corporate leader and for his expertise received in 2010 almost $25 million in total compensation as Coca-Cola CEO and Board Chairman.  But he is a poor speaker.  He is a poor speaker with great potential.  And this is tragic, because many business leaders like Mr. Kent could become outstanding speakers and even especially powerful advocates for their businesses.

Spreading Mediocrity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Develop a Powerful Presentation Voice

An especially powerful presentation voice
You can enhance your Business Presentations by developing your voice into an especially powerful instrument, the source of personal competitive advantage

A powerful presentation voice that is resonant, clear, and captivating can lift your business presentation into the province of “professional.”

That voice is yours for the asking and development.

So what constitutes a great speaking voice, a voice ready for prime-time presenting?  Just this . . .

A voice that is stable, sourced from the chest and not the voice box alone.

A voice that carries sentences to their conclusion and doesn’t grind and whine at the end of sentences as is the bad habit of today.

A voice that concludes each sentence decisively and doesn’t transform every declarative sentence into a question.  A voice deeper than yours is right now.  A depth that you can acquire with a bit of work.

A presentation voice that that achieves personal competitive advantage through its resonance and distinctiveness.

Acquire a Powerful Presentation Voice

You can do many things to improve your 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, 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.  The advice contained therein is 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.  It responds to the proven techniques developed over centuries to develop your voice into an especially powerful tool for business presentation advantage.

Below, I suggest several sources for further improvement.  And, of course, you can always click here for the whole self-training package.

• Renee Grant-Williams, Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention (2002)

• Jeffrey Jacobi, How to Say it with Your Voice (1996)

• Patsy Rodenburg, Power Presentation: Formal Speech in an Informal World (2009)

• Clare Tree Major, Your Personality and Your Speaking Voice (1920)

“You don’t catch hell because . . .”

Earlier, I related how Malcolm X did not do much throat-clearing at the beginning of his talks.

Instead, he thrust a metaphorical sword into his audience.

He drove deeply to the heart of the issue in just a few short sentences, tapping into listener sensitivities.

His initial “grabber” was not meant simply for shock or surprise like a cheap circus feat.  It was shock and surprise linked to the needs of his audience, directly relevant and intertwined closely – even spiritually – with his listeners.

Malcolm did not engage in academic circumlocutions, oblique arguments, or vague generalizations. He said things directly, with punch and verve, with color and power.

He shunned latinate words and phraseology and drove home his point with Anglo-Saxon directness – short, powerful, repetitive sentences, constructed of the sturdiest syllables.

And once he had audience attention, he kept it.

Holding the Audience in your Grasp

One technique he used to hold his audiences rapt was the offering a single point and then colorfully making that point by means of a repetitive technique called the anaphora. It’s a technique that you can use as well.  Here’s how it works.

A powerful and carefully selected phrase is utilized at the beginning of a succession of sentences.  With each repetition, the presentation builds to a climax to produce a powerful emotional effect.  In Malcolm’s example we’re about to see, he uses the anaphora skillfully to identify a point of commonality among those in his audience that he holds with them.

I previously offered an example of one of Malcolm’s speeches delivered in 1963.  Let’s revisit that talk, review the first couple of sentences, and then see how Malcolm uses the anaphora to powerful emotional effect.  The speech was called  Message to the Grass Roots, and he delivered it in Detroit.  Note how 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.

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.

What comes next?

Now that Malcolm X has the full attention of his listeners, it’s time to make point # 1 – unity and commonality of purpose. He chooses the anaphora as his technique, and he does so masterfully. His phrase of choice is “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences.  When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist.  You don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist or Baptist, you don’t catch hell becasue you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk, and you sure don’t catch hell because you’re an American; because if you were an American, you wouldn’t catch hell.  You catch hell because you’re a black man.  You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.

 Malcolm has established beyond all doubt that he shares a commonality with his listeners that is directly tied to the central thesis of his talk. He drives his point home with the anaphora:  “You don’t catch hell because . . . ”

He utilized the same theme, or trope, in the video below in this speech before another audience in 1964.  This time his anaphora was slightly different:  “We’re not brutalized because–”  And it is just as powerful with its mesmerizing effect. The entire video shows a master presenter in tune with his audience and in control of his message.

 

Malcolm’s delivery is masterful . . . his voice, his tone, his inflection, his humor, his posture, and his gestures combine with his rhetorical techniques to establish an incredible bond with his listeners.  You sense his control of the event.

So what does this have to do with you and with business presenting?

Just this.

A powerful and graceful speaker, Malcolm X utilized an entire battery of oratorical weapons.  He intuitively understood the oratorical methods developed over more than 2500 years, and he wielded them with grace and with power.  These techniques can be yours.  You need only understand them, their function, their effects, and practice them.

For instance, the anaphora of repetition.  You can use anaphora as a powerful technique to hammer home your most important points and to hold your audience in the midst of your presentation.

But you may Hesitate

You may protest that Malcolm X lived and struggled in a different place and time over issues far more important that you or I will ever face.  Yes, he did.  The stakes were incredibly high and, for him, became quite literally a matter of his death.  But regardless of the message, the techniques of powerful presenting remain the same.  They are verities handed to us over centuries.

And if you refuse to learn from our great legacy of master speakers, if you do not emulate them, who then will you learn from?  The CEO of Coca-Cola?  Hardly.

A cornucopia of especially powerful techniques is available to you.  You may not struggle for justice on an international platform, but this does not absolve you from crafting the most powerful presentation you possibly can using the techniques of the masters.

Surely while the emphasis and tone of your message changes with circumstance, but not the methods themselves.  The anaphora is one such technique you should incorporate into your repertoire.

Malcolm X used a multiplicity of techniques to engage his friends and to disarm his enemies.  You can use them, too, and we’ll look at them in future posts.

Surviving the Group Presentation

Personal Competitive Advantage in group presentations
Group Presentations can test our collaboration skills

“How come I never get a good group?”

Who hasn’t uttered this pitiful refrain during business school when laboring over a group presentation?

Leaving aside the conceit of faux martyrdom for a moment, let’s recognize that group work is a necessity in the 21st century business world.  Your group has been assembled with a professional purpose in mind, not to make your life miserable.

The Group Presentation Ethos

Hold in your heart, the group presentation ethos, which is to drive forward to your common goal regardless of personal differences.

You will disagree with each other on aspects of the presentation.  How you disagree and how you resolve those disagreements for the good of the team and of your presentation is as important as the presentation itself.

It’s essential that you maintain civil relations, if not cordial relations, with others in the group – don’t burn bridges.

You don’t want to engender dislike for people, perhaps for the rest of your life.  The people in the various group projects will form an important part of your network in years to come.

Remember that the relationship is paramount.  The group presentation itself is secondary.

The Arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”

Your job is to craft a group experience, assign responsibilities, develop a reasonable schedule.  Some group members will make time commitment choices that do not appear aligned with your group objectives.  You hear phrases such as “I can’t make the meeting.”  You may hear the outright arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”

This, of course, is simply a person’s choice to be somewhere else to spend time in other pursuits.  Everyone has the same amount of time, no more and no less.

Different people make different choices about the use of their time.

Recognize that this will happen and that it is neither good nor bad – it is simply the hand that you are dealt.

How you react to it will in large part determine the success of your group.  One part of your job to properly motivate others to contribute to the group goal.

I always communicate to my students what to expect in a 5-person group.  The 2-2-1 rule will usually hold.

Two people work hard, two cooperate and are damned happy to be there, and one rarely shows up, because he or she has a “busy schedule.”  Another popular take on it is to apply the Pareto 80-20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people.

The corollary, of course, is that 80 percent of problems are caused by 20 percent of the people.  A different 20 percent.

Group Presentations Aren’t Fair?

That’s reality.  Is it “fair?”  Maybe or maybe not, but that’s a question for philosophers of distributive justice and irrelevant to the imperatives of group work.

Regardless of how you couch it, do not take your group woes to the professor for solution.  Your professor knows well what you face.  He wants you to sort it out.

You must sort it out, because your professor is not your parent.

Your professor won’t appreciate it any more than your CEO or VP superior at your company appreciates solving your personnel issues . . . repeatedly.  It reflects badly on you and gives an impression of weakness.

Moreover, if you begin to focus heavily on who’s not carrying their “fair share,” then that becomes the dominant theme of your group dynamic rather than that of accomplishing your group goal.

Such misplaced focus and animosity reflects badly in the final product.

Keep these guiding principles in mind as you chart your course through the labyrinth of group work.  Every group is different, temporary, and frustrating in its own way.

Don’t allow the briars of this ephemeral activity catch your clothing and slow you down from your ultimate goal – an especially powerful group presentation.

And consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for more on Group Presentations.