Category Archives: competitive advantage

An Especially Powerful Appearance

Presentation Appearance sends a message
Your Presentation Appearance sends a Powerful Message

Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our physical presentation appearance transmits messages to those around us.

Most certainly, the presentation appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals.  This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

Your appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.

You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.  And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

“Ageless Rebel” battling the “Man”?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you are attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

Bad Presentation Appearance - Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Appearance that Hinders your acquiring of Personal Competitive Advantage

Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”

If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.

That price comes in the form of ceding personal competitive advantage to your peers, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.

Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys.

Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.

Presentation Appearance – Your Destiny?

You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence.

This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.

“I’m a rebel and exude confidence and independence!” you think, as you suit up in the current campus fashion fad.

The message received is likely much different:  “You’re a slob with no sense of proportion or clue how to dress, and I’ll never hire you.”

The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message.

Take former President Barack Obama, for example.  He was and is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.  On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.

And that’s usually the message he’s trying to convey in such dress: “Let’s get the job done . . . Let’s work together.”

Politics, Schmolitics . . .  He’s a Sharp Dresser

You never saw President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.

The messages must mesh.

The lesson here is that your dress ought to reinforce your message, not offer conflicting signals.

Here are suggestions to ensure a minimum pleasing presentation appearance . . .

Stick-Puppet Presenter?

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

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

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

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

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

Stripped of anything that might suggest personal competitive advantage.

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

The Pitiable Stick-Puppet Presenter

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

This is truly an ineffective form of entertainment.  This is as rudimentary as it gets.

The puppets shake and move up and down as someone voices dialogue from somewhere offstage.

Today’s business presentations are sometimes no better than stick-puppet presenting delivered in 2-D fashion.

Think of this, quite obviously, as “Stick-Puppet Presenting.”

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

Or a speaker who reads from a laptop computer and alternately looks at a projection screen behind him, reading it verbatim.

If any movement occurs, it is unconscious swaying, rocking, or nervous happy-feet dancing.

Stop stick puppet presenting for especially powerful personal competitive advantage
Move the right way for personal competitive advantage

Perhaps there is a bit of pacing back-and-forth to fulfill some ancient advice mumbled to the speaker years earlier:  “Move around when you talk!”

And so the stick-puppet presenter aimlessly wanders about the stage.

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

But we want movement . . . the right kind of movement.

We want to accelerate from 2-D to 3-D presenting, and one powerful step in that direction is the addition of proper movement.

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

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

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

Hook Your Audience

Especially Powerful Blast!
Hook your audience with especially powerful mind-blasting

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

But with a kaleidoscope of modern-day distractions, you face an uphill battle to seize interest.

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.

Mind-Blasting to Hook Your Audience

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.

But they must step off with you from the beginning.

And 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 . . .”

That sort of thing.

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

Ugh.

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

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

So 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!  The key is to do a bit of mind-blasting.  And this is the secret to hook your audience . . . and keep them hooked.

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.  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–”

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–”

Tell Me What Happens Next!

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, you’ll 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.

Hook your audience with especially powerful mind-blasting and you can achieve a measure of personal competitive advantage denied to others . . . because they’re simply unaware of this powerful technique.

For more key elements of especially powerful presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Transition Between Speakers

transition between speakers
Transition Between Speakers, Smooth and Confident

The second-most-searched term to lead folks here to Business School Presentations is “How to transition between speakers.”

As a result, I offer this classic post on how you pass the baton – the transition between speakers.

Baton-passing linkages within your presentation are incredibly important – they serve as the sinews of your presentation, binding muscles and bone of your show.

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 amongst a flurry of presenters scurrying about the stage in chaotic fashion?

Don’t Lose Your Message!

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

This is 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.

Pass the Baton without Musical Chairs

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

Lots of turns.

This “pass the baton” can disconcert your audience and can upend your show.

Minimize the transitions between speakers, particularly when each person has only three or four minutes to present.

To pass the baton in a presentation is no easy task . . . it takes preparation and the right kind of practice

Don’t rush.

Again, don’t rush the transition between speakers.

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

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

Don’t rush from the stage.  Stay planted in one spot until you finish for an especially powerful conclusion of your segment.

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

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

Transition Between Speakers – Harmonize

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.

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

Learn to give an especially powerful presentation every time.