Let’s explode the presentation soft skills myth right now.
When higher education folks label something a “soft skill,” students automatically drop that “soft skill” to the bottom of the learning priority list.
It becomes something to “pick up along the way.” And if you don’t actually learn the “soft skill,” well . . . so what?
It is, after all, a “soft skill.”
This is hokum of the worst sort, but it’s the attitude of many young people, including my daughter, who ought to know better. One of those “soft skills” is the set of skills required to deliver an especially powerful business presentation.
Business Presentation Soft Skills Myth
One reason that you see so many bad business presentations is this pervasive presentation soft skills myth.
These skills are apparently so “soft” that one of my former colleagues believes he can inculcate adequate presentation skill in, as he says, “30 minutes.”
Such is the myth of the soft skill.
This suggests that skill at business presenting is somehow “softer” than, say, accounting. It therefore needs less attention or development.
It must be somehow “easier.” It must be simply a matter of opinion.
It’s probably something that can be “picked up along the way.”
Many people believe this. It can needlessly limit the early careers of young people, who form a wrong impression of the craft of speaking publicly.
Public Speaking – excellent public speaking – is tough.
To deliver a superb business presentation is one of the tougher tasks, because it often requires coordination with others in a kind of ballet.
The Reality of Business Presentation Skills
And it requires practice, just like any other discipline.
But invariably, the “soft skill” label moves it down the priority list of faculty and college administrators and, hence, of the students they serve.
I can quickly gauge the attention on business presenting skills at an institution by simply watching a cross-section of presentations.
To be generous, student business presentations are usually poor across a range of dimensions.
They come across most often as pedestrian. Many are quite bad.
But this is not to say that they are worse than what passes for presenting in the corporate world. They’re usually as good – or as bad – as what is dished out in the “real world.”
The Great Embarrassment
The great embarrassment is that the majority of business students have untapped potential for becoming competent and especially powerful business presenters.
And yet they falter.
They never realize that potential, because they never progress out of the swamp of poor business presentation skills.
Some students pass through the business school funnel with only cursory attention to business presentation skills. Perhaps I’m too demanding, and the degree of attention I’d like to see just isn’t possible.
But . . .
But the craft of business presenting needs only the proper focus for it to transform young people into capable and competent presenters.
And some institutions get it right.
I’m blessed to serve an institution that takes business presentation skills seriously.
My school’s winning results in case competitions demonstrates this commitment to preparing business students to excel in the most-demanded skill that corporate recruiters seek.
A coterie of professors, particularly in finance, recognizes the power bestowed by sharp business presentation skills.
And they emphasize these skills far beyond the norm in most schools.
Administrators, too, insist that students pass through rigorous workshops that inculcate in students the presenting skills to last a business lifetime.
Presentation Skills = Powerful Brand
The results can be phenomenal. Merely by exposure to the proper techniques, students gain tremendous personal career advantage.
By elevating business presentation skills to the same level of the sub-disciplines of, say, marketing, operations, or risk management, B-Schools can imbue their students and faculty with the appropriate reverence for the presentation enterprise.
One result of this is the molding of young executives who tower over their peers in terms of presenting skills.
And especially powerful business presentation skills are in high demand by corporate recruiters.
This highly refined skill of delivering stunning business presentations becomes part of a powerful and distinctive personal brand.
A brand that cannot be copied easily and so becomes part of a personal competitive advantage that can last a lifetime.
There is much to be distilled from 2500 years of recorded presentation wisdom, and we can hardly consider this treasure house of knowledge presentation soft skills.
The wisdom and power are there, waiting to be tapped. It remains for us to seize it, explode the presentation soft skills myth, and make it our own for enhanced personal competitive advantage.
For more on especially powerful business presentation skills, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.