Tag Archives: technique

Presidential Presenting?

Given that this election year has seen a raft of awful would-beEspecially Powerful presidential presenting presidential presenting, I devote to this space the second evaluation of the two political parties’ nominees.

In this case, the winner.

President-elect Donald Trump offers one of the strangest speaking styles I’ve ever witnessed on the public stage.

It combines odd gestures, rhetorical discontinuities, and counter-intuitive inflections to flummox even the most partisan viewer.

I said in another space six months ago that Mr. Trump could be our first post-modern candidate.  Nothing has changed that would cause me to modify this observation.

His repetition, flights of fancy, strange interjections at inappropriate moments, and infuriating inability to complete a thought all combine with a menu of off-putting gestures.

Gestures for Presidential Presenting?

Mr. Trump, like all public speakers, has a go-to gesture that sustains him on the stump.  President Obama’s go-to gesture is the “lint-pick.”

He uses with aplomb and quite often.

especially powerful
The Obama Lint-Pick, his signature gesture for especially powerful presidential presenting

The “Lint Pick” is an excellent choice to exhibit precision and attention to detail.  It gives the impression to an audience that you are sharing something minute yet important.

You cull out the telling point that brings everything together, and Mr. Obama has adopted this for his personal brand.

Mr. Trump’s signature gesture is what someone in a national magazine labeled the “Dainty Mobster Thing.”

In an Atlantic article by James Parker, the author observed Mr. Trump’s “dainty mobster thing he does with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.”

Dainty Mobster is simply a version of the Lint-Pick that we’ve seen the President and many others use for years.

Especially Powerful Dainty Mobster
Signature Gesture . . . the Dainty Mobster, which is similar to the lint-pick

This version, however, is certainly something I’ve never seen anyone else use except occasionally and to a specific purpose.

Mr. Trump uses Dainty Mobster repeatedly.

When we talk about public speaking, particularly that with a high stakes element, it’s always useful to go to the film to evaluate the product.

So, let’s have a look at a speech that I annotate to call attention to speaking tics that detract from the public presentation message.

Aspiring speakers should not imitate this particular style, although unique it may be and with seemingly grandiose results.  Nor should one imitate the opposing candidate, Mrs. Clinton, as we saw in our previous post.

In fact, few political figures in our time offer styles that can teach us much of anything.  One of the few articulate speakers of a new political generation is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, but his is an occasional case.

For especially powerful speakers worthy of emulation, the finest Hollywood actors offer us a strong example of how to combine emotion with substance in a powerful persuasive performance.

But then, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do.

For more on powerful presentations, consult the book The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

The Power Pause . . . for Effect

PauseCoca-Cola’s 1929 slogan was “The Pause that Refreshes.”

Pauses can, indeed, be refreshing, and a judicious pause can refresh your business presentation.

Here’s how pausing can ignite, can inspire, can rivet an audience’s attention on the salient points that you want them to remember.

The prudent pause for reflection, for the audience to digest your message, for dramatic effect to emphasize what comes next . . . all add depth and richness to communicate to your audience gathered to hear something special.

Make friends with silence so that you feel comfortable in its presence.

Public Speaking Pause Power

The correct pauses imbue your talk with incredible power.  With proper timing and coupled with other techniques, the pause evokes strong emotions in your audience.

A pause can project and communicate as much or more than mere words.

Your Pause can Refresh your Audience . . . give it a chance to anticipate what comes next
Your Pause can Refresh your Audience . . . give it a chance to anticipate what comes next

The public speaking pause is part of your nonverbal repertoire.  It’s a superbly useful tool.

The comfortable pause communicates your competence and confidence.

The pause telegraphs deep, serious thought.

The Power Pause is underutilized today, but has served as arrow-in-quiver of the finest presenters over centuries.

Presentation Master Grenville Kleiser put it this way in 1912:  “Paradoxical tho it may seem, there is an eloquence and a power in silence which every speaker should seek to cultivate.”

When you use the pause judiciously, you emphasize the point that comes immediately after the pause.  You give the audience time to digest what you just said.

And you generate anticipation for what comes next.

So save this technique for the moments just prior to each of your main points.

How do you pause?

When?

Silence is Your Friend

A truly effective pause can be coupled with a motionless stance, particularly if you have been pacing or moving about or gesturing vigorously.

Couple the pause with a sudden stop, going motionless.

Look at your audience intently.

Seize their attention.

Hesitate.

Don’t waste this powerful technique on a minor point of your talk.  Time your pauses to emphasize the single most important point – your MIP – and its handful of supporting points.

Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says:  “A pause is effective and powerful if it is active and in the moment with your intentions and head and heart.  A pause filled with breath and attention to what you are saying to your audience will give you and your audience a bridge of transitional energy from one idea to another.”

Pause, and You Accent What is to Come
Pause . . . to Accent What Comes Next

Finally, the pause can rescue you when you begin to spiral out of control or lose your train of thought.  Remember that silence is your friend.

Need a life-preserver?

Need time to regain your composure?

Try this . . .

Stop.  Look slightly down.  Scratch your chin thoughtfully.  Furrow your brow.  Take four steps to the right or left, angling a bit toward the audience.  Look up . . . and continue your talk.

Voila!  You just bought 7-8 precious seconds to collect your thoughts.

Remember the especially powerful effects you can achieve in your business presentation with the public speaking pause.  It’s a sure way to build your professional presence on the podium.

For more on superb business techniques like the public speaking pause, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Make the Right Presentation Choices

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

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

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

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

Dozens of times.

Invisible Presentation Choices

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

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

As something we simply “do.”

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

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

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

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

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

Not a “Soft Skill”

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

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

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

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

An especially powerful presentation.

especially powerful presentation choicesFailing that, perhaps just something that can flog a bit of life into our tired efforts.

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.

It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

Why was it a great presentation?

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

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

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

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.  This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.

No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

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

. . . or a dud.

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

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

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

More than 100 techniques?

Surely.

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

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’s the power of synergy.

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

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.

To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

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

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

Presentation Skills 201

Steele Presenting of Presentations SkillsLong ago, when I was a young man in the army training at a base in Texas, I loaned a book to my roommate, Jim.

It was a foreign policy book by a controversial former president.

Jim read it . . . oh he read it.

It animated him and addled him, and it inspired him like no one else I had seen before or have seen since.

He would slap the page and exclaim, “That’s it.  That’s it!

Jim did this often in the course of his read.  I’d hear him in the bunk below mine.

Slap!

“That’s it!

And so it went.

That’s It!

I don’t recall that he ever returned the book, and that’s just fine, as I like to think of Jim slapping the page even now, somewhere in rural New England where I hear he ended up.

You don’t come across books like that often.  I hear tales of poor, uninspired folks who never do.

Books that crack the carapace of cynicism.

I’m a self-appointed judge of such things, and it takes a heckuva book to crowbar me off the passive-aggressive rock of smug observation and get me hooting and hollering.

But I found a book like that.  Yes, I found one.

You’re holding it.

Deceptively slight of build, innocuous in its appearance, William Steele’s Presentation Skills 201 is presentation fissile material of the first order, glowing with power on every page.

Presentation Skills 201 – High Concept

This isn’t the Great American Novel, no.  You hold in your hands, instead, the Great American Presentations Book.

Whoa!  Have I gone overboard?  About to slap the page with a robust “That’s it!”

You bet.

Let me explain.

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

I own perhaps the largest vintage public speaking book collection in the United States, outside the library of congress – more than 3,000 volumes, going back to 1762.

quintilian especially powerful presentation skills
Quintilian said it all 2,000 years ago . . . except for the 10 percent you learn here

I’m a student of Demosthenes and Cicero, Quintilian and Blair.

I study the great speakers of history to glean just one more nugget of wisdom from the wealth laid up over centuries.  I buy presentation books even now to see if there is, indeed, anything new under the sun.

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

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

When I read this book the first time, I entered the reading task methodically as I do for a welter of presentation books.  And I skim many of them.  Just to see if there truly is anything new under the sun.

Most of them huff-puff along, chugging in workmanlike mundanity.

They can stretch a nugget of technique across five anecdotes and across twice as many pages as needed.  Not nearly enough for me to un-cock the skeptic’s eyebrow.

So . . .

High Praise, Indeed . . . and Deserved

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

Surely it is the most succinct.

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

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

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

Here, however, there is much, much more than simply “one more thing.”

We all deliver presentations, every day of our lives.  But we do not think of our many discussions as presentations.  We deliver our points of view usually quite well in venues as disparate as church socials and local pub happy hours.

But when it comes time to deliver what we think of as a “real” presentation, well . . . many of us suddenly turn into zombies.  Presentation zombies – stiff, mechanical, glazed-eye zombies.

We hear advice, sure.

And the proffered solution to much of the undead in the presentation enterprise comes as “communication theory” and a handful of vague apothegms passed down from an archaic and unquestioned oral tradition . . .

Don’t put your hand in your pocket!

Make eye contact!

Move around when you talk!

This, of course, is unsatisfying and completely inadequate, certainly for those steeped in the basics of powerful presenting and who want to, as they say in the vernacular of my bailiwick, “take it to the next level.”

So, this is one of those rare times that I recommend and endorse a book in the presentation genre; and in case you didn’t get it by now, I’m utterly delighted to craft a preface to this second edition of Presentations 201.

I have found wisdom on every page – every page – of Mr. Steele’s tome and it holds an honored place at my right hand.  I reference it often, and you will as well.

You may even, as I have, slap the page on occasion . . .

“That’s it!

Train of Thought

chin scratchYou’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.

That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.  It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt.

You can’t remember what to say.

Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.

Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.

You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the stance.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.

If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.

It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.

In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques to regain your train of thought:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement bails you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . . “In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult the especially powerful The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

I Recommend this Presentations Book

A bit of prelude . . .

Presentations Book
The Best Advanced Presentations Book in the World

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

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

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

Most often, I am disappointed.

Until now . . .

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

Presentation Skills 201

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

Surely the most succinct.

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

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

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

Examples?

On rushing through your presentation:

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

On making slides:

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

On handouts:

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

Money is Precious

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

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

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

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

Laser Pointer?

Laser Pointer Presentation Destruction
Even Skywalker doesn’t give a laser pointer presentation

Your remote control clicker that advances your slides can have other features allegedly designed to “enhance” your presentation.

The chief culprit among these enhancements is a horrid little device called – the Laser Pointer.

Even the best of us occasionally thumb that laser pointer self-destruct button built into most remote control clickers.

That’s right . . . self-destruct button.

No Laser Pointer Presentation!

But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation!

You’ve waited your entire life for the chance to legitimately use that laser pointer instead of playing sniper or teasing the cat.

Haven’t you?

You’ve pictured yourself be-suited and commanding the room . . . standing back, perhaps with a jaunty posture.  You sweep the screen behind you with the bobbing speck of red light.

The meekest among us is invested with bombast and hauteur by even the most inexpensive laser pointer.

Don’t do it.  Just say no to the laser pointer.

Put down the light saber, Skywalker.

The laser pointer is 21st century overkill technology.  It distances you from your presentation message at the exact moment you should meld yourself with it.

How so?

If something is so crucially important on your slideshow – perhaps a graph or a series of numbers – that you must direct audience attention to it, then step into the presentation.

Gesture to the data with your hand.

Use Cave Man Technology

Merge yourself with the data.

Step into the presentation.  Become the animation that highlights your points of emphasis.

Don’t divide audience attention between you, the data on the screen, and a nervously darting red speck.

Instead, concentrate your audience focus on your major points, touching the screen, guiding us to the facts and figures you want us to internalize.  It’s a cave painting, so run your hands over the cave wall.  Show us what you want us to see with your hand.

Now, I issue a caveat here.

If the screen behind you is so high that you cannot reach it, then you might be justified in using the pointer.

But probably not.

Instead, if you want to highlight or draw attention to your points of emphasis, then utilize the highlighting animation available on most multimedia platforms.

If you’re uncertain what I mean by this, have a look at this brief video:

Nothing is more gratuitous in modern business presenting than the laser pointer.  And few things more irritating than the laser pointer presentation.

Rid yourself of this awful affectation today.

Pledge never to deliver another laser pointer presentation in your business life and instead deliver especially powerful presentations invested with confidence and competence.

Here’s how:

The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

100 Presentation Choices

especially powerful
Choose well, for an especially powerful presentation

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

Of course, it may not be exactly 100.

It could be 120.

Or perhaps 80.

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

Dozens of times.

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

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

As something we simply “do.”

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

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

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

“Make eye contact!”

“Move around when you talk!”

“Don’t put your hand in your pocket!”

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

Not a “Soft Skill”

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

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

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

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

An especially powerful presentation.

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

One evening, we may see a memorable, delightful, scintillating presentation.

It’s a show that engages us, that sparkles with memorable visuals and that implants core ideas and powerful notions in our minds.  A great presentation!

Why was it a great presentation?

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

A shortcut to wealth.

And so we contrive abstractions and unsatisfactory responses:

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

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

But none of these easy answers yield something that we can actually use . . . something we can operationalize in our show.  This is because no easy answer exists.

No one reason.

No single technique.

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

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

What are the “100 Presentation Choices?”

Is it exactly 100?

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

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

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

Lots of them.

Practices that replace unthinking habits.

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

. . . or a dud.

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

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

More than 100 things?

Surely.

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

Lots of mistakes make for awful shows.  But getting those 100 things right can yield a show that’s spectacular for no single, discernible reason.

That’s the power of synergy.

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

If you’ve never given it thought, then you’re likely doing it wrong.

To learn how to adopt the perfect (for you) stance, go here and the secret shall be revealed.  And you’ll have learned a handful of the essential 100 presentation choices to launch you on your way to deliver especially powerful presentations and to develop a personal competitive advantage.

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

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

Mind-Blasting to Hook your Audience

Hook your Audience!
Hook your audience with an especially powerful grabber

Some experts estimate that you have an initial 15 seconds – maybe 20 – to hook your audience for your business presentation.

And with a kaleidoscope of modern-day distractions, you face an uphill battle.

In that short window of less than a minute, while they’re sizing you up, you must blast into their minds.  You must get them über-focused on you and your message.

So how do you go about hooking and reeling in your audience in those first crucial seconds?

Think of your message or your story as your explosive device.  To set it off properly, so it doesn’t fizzle, you need a detonator.

This is your “lead” or your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

This is your detonator for blasting into the mind.

This is a provocative line that communicates to your listeners that they are about to hear something uncommon.

Something special.

With this provocative line, you create a desire in your audience to hear what comes next.  The next sentence . . . and the next . . . until you are deep into your presentation and your audience is with you stride-for-stride.

“Thank you, thank you very much . . .”

But they must step off with you from the beginning.

You get them to step off with you by blasting into the mind.  You don’t blast into the mind with a stock opening like this:

“Thank you very much, Bill, for that kind and generous introduction.  Friends, guests, associates, colleagues, it’s a real pleasure to be hear tonight with so many folks committed to our cause, and I’d like to say a special hello to a group of people who came down from Peoria to visit with us here this evening, folks who are dedicated to making our world a better place, a more sustainable world that we bequeath to our children and our children’s children.  And also a shout-out to the men and women in the trenches, without whose assistance . . .”

Hook your audience
You won’t hook your audience with cliches and bad jokes

That sort of thing.

Ugh.

Folks in your audience are already checking their email.  In fact, they’re no longer your audience.

And you’ve heard this kind of snoozer before, far too many times.

Why do people talk this way?  Because it’s what they’ve heard most of their business lives.

You hear it, you consider it, you shrug, and you think that this must be the way it’s done.

You come to believe that dull, monotone, stock-phrased platitudes comprise the secret formula for giving a keynote address, an after-dinner speech, or a short presentation.

You come to believe that a listless audience is natural.

Not at all!

So How to Hook Your Audience?

The key is to do a bit of mind-blasting.

You must blast into their minds to crack that hard shell of inattention.

You must say something provocative, but relevant.  You must grab your listeners and keep them.  Hook them.  You must arrest their attention long enough to make it yours.

Something like this:

“The gravestone was right where the old cobbler said it would be . . . at the back of the overgrown vacant lot.  And when I knelt down to brush away the moss and dirt, I could see my hand trembling.  The letters were etched in granite and they became visible one by one.  My breath caught when I read the inscription–”

Or this . . .

“There were six of them, my back was against the hard brick wall, and let me tell you . . . I learned a hard lesson–”

Or this . . .

“I was stupid, yes stupid.  I was young and impetuous.  And that’s the only excuse I have for what I did.  I will be ashamed of it for the rest of my life–”

Or this . . .

“At the time, it seemed like a good idea . . . but then we heard the ominous sound of a grinding engine, the trash compactor starting up–”

Hook Your Audience!
Mind-Blast to Hook your Audience

Or this . . .

“She moved through the crowd like shimmering eel cuts the water . . .    I thought that she must be a special woman.  And then I knew she was when she peeled off her leather jacket . . . and, well–”

You get the idea.

Each of these mind-blasters rivets audience attention on you.  Your listeners want to hear what comes next.

Of course, your mind-blaster must be relevant to your talk and the message you plan to convey.  If you engage in theatrics for their own sake – just to hook your audience to no good end – you earn the enmity of your audience, which is far worse than inattention.

So craft an initial mind-blaster to lead your audience from sentence to sentence, eager to hear your next one.  And you will have succeeded in hooking and holding your listeners in spite of themselves.

For more on mind-blasting for especially powerful presentations, see the Complete Guide to Business School Presentations.

Secret #3 – Powerful Presentation Gesture

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

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

Presentation Gesture
Incorporate Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture for Competitive Advantage

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

From your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

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

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

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

A scratch of the chin.

Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

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

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

Presentation Gesture
What Kind of Presentation Gesture?

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

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

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

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

Especially Powerful Presentation Mastery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communicating Without Words

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

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

Yes, “majesty of epic proportions.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Presentation Gesture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up . . . Secret #4

Learn Rocket Science Presentations (in your Spare Time)!

Rocket Science presentations
Rocket Science Presentations . . . Hesto-Presto!

YOU Can Deliver a Rocket Science Presentation in 8 Easy Steps!

10 Tips to Become a Nuclear Physics God!

3 Tips for Winning Your Next Court Case!

Great Doctors are Natural Born . . . It’s talent, not study!

5 Easy Steps to Powerful Presentations!

Pernicious Myths . . .

Two pernicious myths pervade the landscape of business presentations, and these myths refuse to be swatted down.

Well, probably more than two myths are circulating, but these two big myths persistently burden folks.

These myths influence two large groups of people.

Without knowing it, these folks subscribe to two schools of presentation thought . . . Birthers and McTips.

The first group – the “Birthers” presentation school – believes that superb public speakers are “born that way.”

Folks in this group believes that it’s nature-not-nurture and that natural talent wins the day.  Since it’s an ability you either have or you don’t, well there’s no need to even try.

Just sit back and marvel at those outstanding public speakers who make it all look so easy, but who actually utilize a host of techniques to charm and dazzle you.

Techniques that would be available to you if you would only set aside the self-defeating notion that you can’t develop especially powerful presentation skills.

Rocket Science Presentations?  No . . . just reachable goals accessible through dedication and practice.

Supersize Those McTips?

The second group – the “McTips” presentation school – believes that public speaking is both easy and easily learned.

Folks here believe that following a few presenting “McTips” or easy “McSteps” can turn them into tremendous speakers.  “Make eye contact” . . . “Move around when you talk” . . .  “Use your hands” . . .    Presto.

Especially Powerful Presentations are not Rocket Science
Rocket Science? Hardly!

This McTips view is so pernicious that  it does more damage than good.

It’s like a get-rich-quick scheme that scams people.

And who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s a painless shortcut to one of the most universally despised activities in corporate America?

One colleague told me a while back, his fingers steepled in front of him, “I can teach my people all they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes . . . all that other stuff is just B__ S___.”

Really?

Rocket Science Presentations!

And if becoming a great presenter is so incredibly easy and the product of a few tips or steps, then why does the bar stay so low with regard to business presentations?

Why does our business landscape resemble a wasteland strewn with mind-numbing PowerPoint slides and populated with droning executive automatons?

Both views are not only wrong, but they can stunt your development as a top-notch business presenter.

Great presenters are neither born, nor are they easily made.

To learn how, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Move Around During Your Presentation

Business Presentation Shouldn’t you move around during your presentation?

Consider this.

A student approached me after class and shared this experience:

“I stand in one spot for the most part during my presentations,” he said.

“But another professor told me to move around when I talk.”

Hmmm.

Move around when you talk.

“Did he tell you how?” I asked.

“Tell me what?”

“Did he tell you how to ‘move around?’  Did he tell where to go . . . what to do . . . when to do it . . . tell you what it would accomplish?”

“No, he just said to ‘move around’ when you talk.”

“Just ‘move around?’”

“Yes.”

Ponder that piece of advice a moment.  Ponder that advice and then reject it utterly, completely.  Forget you ever read it.

What Rotten Advice

Never just move around during your Business Presentation.

Don’t wander aimlessly.

Never just “move around” the stage.

Everything you do should contribute to your message.  Movement on-stage is an important component to your message.  It’s a powerful weapon in your arsenal of communication.  Movement can and should contribute force and emphasis to your show.

But some people move too much. Like the professor urged, they just “move around” because they don’t know better.

And why should they know better, when some professor urged them to start prowling the stage for the sake of it.

Just as some folks are rooted to one spot and cannot move while they speak, some folks just can’t stop moving.  They stalk about the stage like a jungle cat.

They move constantly, as if dodging imaginary bullets. They fear to cease pacing lest their feet put down roots. Business Presentation

This kind of agitated movement is awful.

Aimless pacing around the stage is worse than no movement at all.

Aimless movement indicates indecision, the sign of a disorganized mind.

It’s usually accompanied by aimless thoughts and thoughtless words.

“Move around when you talk.”

It’s not the worst piece of advice a professor has ever given a student, but it’s incredibly naive.

At first, the advice seems innocent enough.  Even sage.  Aren’t you supposed to move around during your presentation?  Don’t we see powerful presenters “move around” when they talk?  Didn’t Steve Jobs “move around” when he presented at those big Apple Fests?

Yes, we see them “move around” quite well.

But do you know why they “move” and to what end?  Do you understand how they orchestrate their words and gestures to achieve maximum effect?

Do you recognize their skilled use of the stage as they appeal to first one segment of the audience, and then another?  Do you think that Bill Clinton or Barack Obama just “move around” when they talk?

If I tell you to “move around during your presentation,” what will you actually do?

Think about it for a moment, how you might actually follow-through with that sort of vague advice.

Will you flap your arms?  Do Michael Jackson isolations with your shoulders?  Shake your fist at the crowd?

Move Around During Your Presentation, You Say?

How?  Where?  When?  Why?  How much?

Awful advice. We will never know how much damage such well-meaning naiveté has done to our presentation discourse.  Like much of what is said, it carries a kernel of truth, but it is really worse than no advice at all.

Centuries of practice and delivery advise us on this question.  Edwin Shurter said in 1903 . . .

Every movement that a speaker makes means – or should mean – something.  Hence avoid indulging in movements which are purely habit and which mean nothing.  Do not constantly be moving; it makes the audience also restless.  Do not walk back and forth along the edge of the platform like a caged lion.  Do not shrug your shoulders, or twist your mouth, or make faces.

You are well on your to mastering your voice and to speaking like a powerful motivator.

Now it’s time to incorporate essential movement.  What must you actually do during your talk?  Where to do it?  How to do it?  Why should you do it . . . and when?

In my next post, I answer those questions and show you how to incorporate meaningful movement into your presentation – exactly the types of movement that add power, not confusion.

Interested in more especially powerful techniques for your business presentation?   Click here and discover the world of business presentations.

Business Presentation Structure . . . the Foolproof Framework

How to Build a Business Presentation Structure
Build a Powerful Business Presentation Structure

Build a Presentation with this simple business presentation structure:  Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

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

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

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

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

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

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

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

The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

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

How to Build a Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

Build a Sturdy Business Presentation Structure

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

I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

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

Business Presentation Structure for power and impact
Business Presentation Structure can make or break your show

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

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

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.  This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

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

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

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