Tag Archives: professional presence

Presentation Passion – Your Secret Weapon

Presentation Passion means power
Presentation Passion means developing a professional and charismatic presence in delivering your business presentations

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

Passion, emotion, earnestness, brio, energy.

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

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

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

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

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

Nonchalance is the Enemy

Regardless of the reason, by not investing ourselves in our presentation and in our narrative, we render ourselves less persuasive.  If we purge our presentation passion, we are less effective, perhaps even ineffective.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, one purpose of this counsel is not simply for you to display powerful emotions in service to a cause.  You are not simply “being emotional” for its own sake.  You want to evoke emotions in your audience.  You want them to think, yes, but you also want them feel.

You want to establish a visceral connection with your audience.

Dont Purge Presentation Passion

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

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

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

And without presentation passion, our business presentations suffer.

The Indifferent Presenter?

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

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

You know the indifferent man or woman, delivering a presentation that obviously means nothing to him or her.  Perhaps you’ve done this.  Haven’t we all at one time or another?

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

Do you just go through the motions?  I understand why you might cop this attitude.  Layer upon layer of negative incentives weigh down the college student.  Adding to your burden is the peer pressure of blasé.  It’s perceived as “uncool” to appear to care about anything, to actually do your best.  Certainly to do your best on schoolwork of any kind.

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

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

Lose the job you want to someone else.

Lose the contract you want to someone else.

Lose the promotion you want to someone else.

Lose the influence you want to someone else.

It’s Time to Win with Presentation Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret # 6 – “Slob Cool” . . . isn’t

Let’s move from the realm of what you do and say in front of your business presentation audience to the realm of how you appear to your audience.

Likewise, let’s immediately dismiss the notion that “it doesn’t matter what I look like – it’s the message that counts.” In a word . . . no.

This is so wrong-headed and juvenile that you can turn this to immediate advantage by adopting the exact opposite perspective right now. I’d wager that most folks your age won’t, particularly those stuck in liberal arts, for better or worse. Much more dramatic to strike a pose and deliver a mythic blow for “individuality” than to conform to society’s diktats, eh?

Well, let those folks strike their blows while you spiff yourself up for your presentations, both in public and in private job interviews, and gain a superior competitive advantage.

Here is the bottom line. Your appearance matters a great deal, like it or not, and it is up to us to dress and groom appropriate to the occasion and appropriate to our personal brand and the message we want to send. “Slob cool” may fly in college – and I stress may – but it garners only contempt outside the friendly confines of the local student activities center and fraternity house.

Is that “fair?”

Sure, it’s fair.

It certainly is fair! You may simply not like it. It may clang upon your youthful sensibilities.

You’re on display in front of a group of buyers. They want to know if your message is credible. Your appearance conveys important cues to your audience. It conveys one of two chief messages, with very little room to maneuver between them.

First, your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are:  Sharp, focused, detailed, careful, bold, competent, prudent, innovative, loyal, energetic . . .

or . . .

Your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are:  Slow, sloppy, careless, inefficient, incompetent, weak, mercenary, stupid.

Moreover, you may never know when you are actually auditioning for your next job. That presentation you decided to “wing” with half-baked preparation and delivered in a wrinkled suit might have held in the audience a human resource professional recommended to you by a friend. But you blew the deal. Without even knowing it.

Think. How many powerful people mentally cross you off their list because of your haphazard, careless appearance? How many opportunities pass you by? How many great connections do you forfeit?

Granted, it’s up to your discretion to dress in the first wrinkled shirt you pull from the laundry basket, but recognize that you may be paying a price without even knowing it.

Your appearance on the stage contributes or detracts from your message. So, as a general rule, you should dress one half-step above the audience to convey a seriousness of purpose. For instance, if the audience is dressed in business casual (sports coat and tie), you dress in a suit. Simple.

Personal appearance overlaps into the area of personal branding, which is beyond the scope of this space, but two books I recommend to aid you in your quest for appearance enhancement are You, Inc. and The Brand Called You. Both of these books are worth the purchase price and are filled with the right kind of advice to propel you into delivering Powerful Presentations enhanced by a superb professional appearance.

For more on developing especially powerful personal competitive advantage, consult my own book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bad Presentation Technique Destroys Your Idea

Bad Presentation Technique Can Destroy a Presentation
Banish Bad Presentation Techniques Once and For All

A debilitating pathology of bad presentation technique afflicts many presenters.

It starts innocently enough . . .

You click the remote and a new slide appears.

You cast a wistful look back at the screen.  You pause.

And then you reach for the easy phrase.

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

“As you can see.”

AYCS Syndrome

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

Is there an AYCSS Academy?  Probably!

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

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

And that’s why we reach for the phrase.

Because we can’t “see,” either.

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

Numb and Dumb Your Audience with AYCSS

Finance students seem particularly enamored of AYCSS.

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

Financial analysis of the firm is essential, of course.  There are only few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation.

Financial data are where you discover the firm’s profitability, stability, health, and potential.

But the results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.

Something about a spreadsheet mesmerizes students and faculty alike.  A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas.  It seems important, substantial.

Everyone nods.

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

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

Satanic Spreadsheets

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

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

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

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

Your professor sits sphinx-like.

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, Secret # 5 to Power Presenting

Secret # 1 — Stance

You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation.

You achieve this goal with a number of techniques, all working simultaneously and in harmony.

Those techniques comprise our backpack full of Seven Secrets.

Your first technique – or secret – is fundamental to projecting the image of strength, competence, and confidence. This first technique is assumption of the proper stance.

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

Your Foundation – Power Posing

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

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception? What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?  Have you ever consciously thought about it?

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

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others nonverbally.

A message is being sent – you are sending a message to those around you, and those around us will take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.  Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just what is the message you unconsciously send people?

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

Seize control of your communication this instant.  There is no reason not to.  And there are many quite good reasons why you should.

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  They form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.  They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

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

Defeat? Ennui?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?  Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

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

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

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.  There is another effect, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.  It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.  We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

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

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

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

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic.  Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.  Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders. Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

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

So what is a confident posture?  Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

For any structure to endure, we must build on strength.  And I mean this both in the metaphorical and in the literal sense with regard to business presentations. You must not only project strength and stability, you must feel strength and stability.  The two are inseparable, and a moment’s thought reveals to you why.

Think first of the confident man.

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

That is, if he affected the confident pose and maintained it relentlessly against all of the body’s involuntary urges to crumple and shift, to equivocate and sway.

Think as well of the confident woman.

How does the confident woman’s demeanor different from that of the confident man?  Virtually not at all.  The point and the goal is to establish a foundation that exudes strength, competence, and confidence.

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

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

For elaboration on Stance and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

How to Give an Interesting Presentation . . . Put it in Context!

Give an interesting presentation every time
Give an interesting presentation by broadening your context

How can you enrich your presenting in unexpected and wonderful ways so to give an interesting presentation regardless of your audience?

To deepen and broaden your perspective so that it encompasses that proverbial “big picture” we forever hear about?

You must become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Three D Presentations

It’s the process of enriching your personal context so that you become aware of new and varied sources of information, ideas, concepts, theories.  Yes, it’s a process of becoming learned in new and wondrous ways.

Think of it as enlarging your world.  You increase your reservoir of usable material.

And you’re able to connect more readily with varied audiences.

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

Expand Your World

And that process increases your personal competitive advantage steadily and incrementally.

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or allows you to make a connection that otherwise might have escaped you.

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

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

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

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

We sometimes cloister ourselves in our discipline, our job, our tight little world, forgetting that other fields can offer insights.  For myself, while teaching in the Fox School’s strategic management department this semester, I am also sitting in on a course sponsored by the History Department’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy – “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience this promises to be: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

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

And that’s the beauty and potential of it.

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

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

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

The Business Presenter

Business Presenters are powerfulBefore computers.

Before television and radio.

Before loudspeakers.

Before all of our artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, there was the public speaker – the earliest “business presenter.”

The Business Presenter

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

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

Other professions utilized the proven skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.

These were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters, but they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.  To suck the life from “business presenting.”

Skills of the Masters

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

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

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

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have supplanted them.  Each advance in technology creates another barrier between the business presenter and the audience.

PowerPoint Can Cripple the Business Presenter
Business Presenter
Become a Powerful Business Presenter

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

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

And in many cases, this is exactly what happens.  Almost as if the business presenter becomes a member of the audience.

PowerPoint and props are just tools.  That’s all.  You should be able to present without them.

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

In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university.  Some of them give fabulous presentations.  Most give adequate presentations.

They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.

On the Job Presentation Training – and Increased Income

Waiters and waitresses are business presenters.

For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.  The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.

Most students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress.  They view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.

Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.  Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.

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

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

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

The Hero Had Better be in Your Audience

Yes, heroic.  Every business presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Great business presenters evoke a sense of heroism in customers.  Do this, and you win every time.

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

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

But the principles that inform the great business presenter are the same.

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

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

Their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful business presentations.

For more on becoming a great business presenter, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.