Tag Archives: audience

Business Presentation Audience?

Your Presentation Audience deserves your best
Especially Powerful Response to Your Presentation Can be Yours!

Do you face a listless, distracted business presentation audience?

Are your “listeners” checking iPhones every few seconds?

Texting?

Chatting in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks?

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

Your Presentation Audience Needs You to Be . . .

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes me on how to connect with an audience that seems disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Here, I identify a remedy for you – how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.

Here is what you need to be for your audience.

It isn’t your listeners’ fault if you’re monotonous, unprepared, listless, nervous, or dull.  It’s your job to entertain and energize your audience with your own enthusiasm.

Giving a business presentation is much more than just showing up in front of your long-suffering presentation audience and delivering a stilted talk.  Much more.

Respect your audience and work hard to dazzle your listeners.  They’ll appreciate it more than you know.

In addition to giving you solid counsel on your audience, I also suggest how you can energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

It’s not easy, but you can do it with several techniques developed over centuries of public speaking practice.  And in the process, you can acquire personal competitive advantage.

Please overlook my bad hair day in this video as you take in this powerful advice on How to Engage With Your Presentation Audience for an especially powerful presentation.

Have a look here . . .

An Interesting Presentation?

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?

Become a 3-D presenter.

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

And I talk about that here.

Three-D Presentations

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

And you 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.

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

By doing something daily, however brief, that stretches your mind or enables 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.

Time to Dabble . . . Just a Bit

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.  We forget that other fields offer insights.

For myself, while teaching in the LeBow College of Business‘s management department this semester, I sometimes sit in on a course sponsored by another college’s history Department “Grand Strategy.”

What a leavening experience: Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Lincoln, and many others . . .

How does this help in preparing my own classes?  In surprising ways.  Linkages appear, and the dots begin to connect themselves.

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, deeper, and richer than they otherwise would have been.

It will do the same for yours, and it can 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

Cicero was doubtless as good at business presentations as he was at arguing before the Roman Senate

Before computers.

Before television and radio.

Before the bullhorn and all of our multifarious artificial means of expanding the reach of our unaided voices, the public speaker stood tall and apart.

The public speaker.  The Business Presenter.

The Business Presenter

From out of mists of time, of the earliest Greek history came the public speaker as especially powerful citizen of the state, a persuader, a doer, a person imbued with almost magical powers to sway the crowd . . .

From the time of Corax in the 5th century B.C., public speaking blossomed and developed into what 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 to save your soul, the second to take your money, the third to save your life, the fourth to transport you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.

Other professions utilized the proven communication 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.

Began to suck the life from “presenting.”

Skills of the Master Business Presenter

The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over centuries.

The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument, the persuasive powers of words.

Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory, coupled with his unpopular 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’ve adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to improve, embellish, amplify, exalt our presentation.

Yet the result has been something quite different.

Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have served to supplant them, providing barriers between speaker and audience.  Each new advancement in technology creates another layer of insulation.

 

Seize every opportunity to deliver a powerful and persuasive business presentation, and you’ll find your personal competitive advantage increasing

Today’s presenters have grasped feverishly at 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 speaker to limp fireworks, and this has led to such a decline to the point where in extreme cases the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”

In many cases, this is exactly what happens.

The presenter pivots, shows us his back, and edges away from the stage to become a quasi-member of the audience.

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

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 simply 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 Business Presentation Training

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.

Many 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.

Business Presentation
The Waiter as Business Presenter

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.

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, learning your temporary profession’s rules.

I mean crafting a presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity, and then displaying enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.

It means becoming an especially powerful business presenter.

The Hero in Your Audience

Yes, hero.

Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you will win every time.

I’ve 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.

Hero Business Presenter
The Hero in Your Audience

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 are the same.

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 . . . but few bend to pick them up.

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

They and their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful presentations.

For more on powerful presentations, have a look at The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Presentation Paradox

Especially Powerful Presenting
Business Presentation Paradox . . . “I don’t want all those eyes on me!”

The presentation paradox afflicts many people:

“I want to give an especially powerful presentation . . . but I don’t like to be the center of attention.”

This is the presentation paradox for more people than you might imagine.

In fact, you may be one of them.

You dream of delivering a powerful business presentation.  An interesting presentation.  A presentation that sets everyone nodding.

A show that earns the accolades of the professor and your peers.

If you’re an executive delivering a report in the C-Suite, you note with satisfaction that no one surreptitiously checks email.

It’s a presentation that exhilarates you as a fist-pumping job well-done.

And yet . . .

Presentation Paradox Paralysis

And yet, you don’t want to be the center of attention.

You believe that you can get by with directing everyone’s attention to a screen behind you.  To slides filled with gibberish in tiny font.

If the room is dark enough, people may not even see you, and you think this is fine.

You see the disconnect here.

Delivering an especially powerful business presentation means changing what you do now . . . changing your behavior to achieve what you envision yourself becoming.

You actually must do something different to achieve different results.

To deliver an especially powerful business presentation means that you must become the center of attention.  In fact, you become the message itself, a sincere proponent of a position that you convey to an audience in animated and convincing style.

Presentation Paradox
Break out of the Presentation Paradox Prison

And yet this center-of-attention is the last thing that many business students want to be.

Many presenters would rather become part of the audience.

And some actually do.

They pivot to show the audience their backs.  Then they edge backward toward the audience, almost becoming part of the assembled listeners.

They assume the role of Slide-Reader-in-Chief.

Everyone reads the slides together . . . if they’re legible at all to the audience.  And this is an awful presentation, and you know it’s an awful presentation, and yet you do it anyway.

Why?  Why not change that?

Let’s break out of the presentation paradox prison today and adopt techniques that can hone our skills to a scalpel-like edge.  This won’t happen overnight, so let’s adopt one new thing each week and practice it to start building a personal competitive advantage.

You choose which technique out of many.  My recommendation?

This one . . . especially powerful self-talk.

Start now.

 

“I never get an interesting topic”

Interesting topic?
“I never get an interesting topic”

“I never get an interesting topic.”

Perhaps you’ve said that?

I’ve certainly heard it.

In fact, I hear this lament more often than I would prefer.  It embodies much of what is wrong with individual and group presentations.

There is no such thing as an inherently uninteresting topic.   Nor is there an inherently interesting topic.

Interest is something that you generate, combining your unique gifts and training to create something special that appeals to the audience.  Whether your audience is the CEO, a potential client, the Rotary Club, or your fellow students.

That’s your job.  In fact, that’s what you’ll be paid to do upon graduation.

Interesting Topic?  That’s Your Job

Cases are not assigned to you in B-School to interest you.  No one cares if they interest you.

That’s not the point.

Whether you find your topic personally interesting or not is irrelevant.  It’s your duty to craft a talk that interests the audience, perhaps even captivates the audience.

Persuades the audience.

And gives to you an especially powerful https://www.ihatepresentations.com/crafting-your-personal-competitive-advantage/.

We all would love to be spoon-fed “interesting topics,” wouldn’t we?  But what’s an “interesting” business presentation topic?

I’ve found the following to be true:

The students who complain about never getting an interesting topic actually do get assigned those topics – topics that are rich with potential and ripe for exploitation.  Some folks don’t recognize them as “interesting” because their store of information and context either is absent or is untapped.

So they invariably butcher a potentially interesting topic and miss every cue and opportunity to craft a great presentation.

It’s time to recognize that you simply want an interesting topic for yourself . . . not so you can do a bang-up job for the audience.

The Nail – A Powerful Presentation Topic

business presentation interesting topic
You make the business presentation topic about nails interesting . . . it’s your responsibility, in fact

The upshot is that if you don’t take presenting seriously, then you won’t do anything different for an “interesting” business presentation topic than you would for a “boring” topic.

The creative challenge is greater, in fact, for presenting on the topic of tenpenny nails than it is for, say, the Apple iPhone.  The initial perception might be that the iPhone is more inherently “interesting.”

It’s hip.  And familiar.

Students gravitate to the topic like bees to flowers.

But give me a student who gladly takes a business case that involves tenpenny nails and who weaves a compelling, imaginative, and professional presentation, and I’ll show you a future business star.

The best students recognize the drama and conflict and possibilities in every case.  They craft an interesting presentation regardless of the topic.

How do you generate interest?  How do you mine a case for what is dramatic, different, uplifting, unusual?  Public speaking master James Winans provides several suggestions from almost 100 years ago:

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

It actually requires thought and a broadening of context.

It requires the extension of horizon, and the expansion of the personal frame of reference.

In short, the learning of new stuff, which is always more difficult than relying upon what we already know – the tried and the true and the comfortable.

The Beast:  The Interesting Topic

And as an aside, what would you do with the topic of tenpenny nails if you were assigned the task of demonstrating to the general public, say, their value to the building industry?

Are these the three-inch nails that take their name from the original price-per-100?  I always thought so.

But an alternative explanation says the name has nothing to do with price.

Instead, it has to do with . . . .  Well, when you deliver a presentation on nails, you’ll find the answer.   The name, by the way, dates from the 15th Century, the same century as the invention of the Gutenberg printing method.

Now that’s a “killer app” with staying power.

Sound like an interesting topic?

For more ways to develop your acumen with regard to your business presentation topic, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bookend your Business Presentation Structure

Presentation Structure
Bookending is a Powerful Presentation Structure Technique

Bookend your presentation structure to give the audience a satisfying experience.

You can bookend your segment of a group presentation, too.

“Bookend?”

What’s this bookending and why is it so important to audience response?

Bookending brings your audience full circle, in a sense.  You first hook your audience with an intense introduction, and at then at the conclusion of your presentation, you recapitulate.

This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.

Presentation Structure Begins with This

The First Bookend.

This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative.  This is your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.

Your grabber must startle and delight your audience.  An interesting fact, a controversial statement, a powerful phrase.

Presentation StructureAnd then you follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.

Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they are about to hear, start to finish.

One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:

“There’s a deal on the table.  Don’t take it.  Here’s why.”

That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well.  It pulses with power.  If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?

In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.

That’s your first bookend.

The Middle of Your Presentation Structure

Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.

Why three?

Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times.  We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.  Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.

Duty.  Honor.  Country.

I came.  I saw.  I conquered.

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.”

“The Three Little Pigs.”

“Goldilocks and the Nine Bears.”

See how the last sentence jars?  Try to craft your presentation to constitute three parts.  For instance:  Product Concept, Marketing Plan, Financial Analysis.  Something like that.

This three-part presentation structure can serve you well as a framework for most any presentation.

As you wind to a conclusion, you then construct your second and final bookend.

Recapitulation of your Presentation Structure

You say these words:  “In conclusion, we can see that—”  Then . . .

Repeat your original situation statement.  Hearken back to the original introductory anecdote, cue, or visual image that launched your presentation.

Finally, say:  “We believe that our presentation substantiates this.”

You come full-circle, so to speak, and the audience gains a sense of completeness.  This recapitulation of your theme knits together your segment into a whole.  Your audience appreciates the closure.

Rather than a linear march, where nothing said in your presentation seems to relate to anything that came before, you offer a satisfying circularity.  You bring your audience home.

You bring you audience back to the familiar starting point, and this drives home the major point of your talk in two especially powerful ways:  1) the outright repetition of your theme, cementing it in the minds of your listeners, and 2) the story convention of providing a satisfying ending, tying up loose ends, and giving psychological closure.

It’s an elegant technique that can pay big dividends in terms of audience response.

Try it.

For more especially powerful presentation structure tips like this, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your essential companion throughout B-School.

An Especially Powerful Presentation Appearance

Presentation Appearance - one source of personal competitive advantage
Your presentation appearance transmits a message throughout your show

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

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

Your presentation 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.

Your Presentation Appearance . . .

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

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 competitive advantage to your peers, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.

Are you the “ageless rebel” battling the “Man”?

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.

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 President Barack Obama, for example.  He 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 will never see 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 some basic suggestions for ensuring a minimum pleasing appearance . . .

For more on creating an especially powerful presentation appearance, as well as the other six elements of your personal style, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Audience Engagement – Don’t Just Talk at Folks

How to engage your audience

Do you face a listless, distracted audience?

Are your “listeners” checking iPhones every few seconds?

Texting?

Chatting in side conversations?

Do they sit with glazed, far-away looks while you deliver your presentation?  Some call this the MEGO syndrome . . . Mine Eyes Glaze Over.

The problem is probably you.

No way are you delivering on what should be a passionate, especially powerful presentation.

How to Engage Your Audience in Your Presentation

In this video interview with Concentrated Knowledge Corporation’s Executive Insights Program, Andrew Clancy quizzes Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley (me) on how to engage your audience.  An audience that may seem disconnected and disinterested in what you have to say in your business presentation.

Here, I identify a remedy for you – the secrets of how to hook and reel-in an errant audience.  How to engage your audience for power and impact.

Here also are several tips on how to energize your presentation by discarding one of the most common speaking crutches and by moving into the Command Position.

The bar is so low with regard to business presentations that just making a few corrections of the sort discussed here can elevate your delivery tremendously.

Follow this advice to develop an especially powerful presentation.

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation produces Executive Summaries of many of the world’s great business books.  You can review CKC’s site at www.summary.com

CKC also offers great short courses at no charge.  This includes my favorite on business presentations, this one.

There is, of course, much more to delivering a powerful presentation.  Conscientious presenters attend to all seven dimensions of the presentation – voice, expression, gesture, appearance, stance, passion, and movement.

Great speakers also leaven their presentations with poignant stories.  Great speakers connect emotionally with their audience.

For more on especially powerful presentations and how to engage your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bad Business Presentation?

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

. . . or in the business school classroom?

Is there a Law of Bad?

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

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

But of course, no one tells you this.

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

And yet, these monstrosities sprout everywhere.

Ubiquitous Bad Business Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He rarely looks at you.

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

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

It’s boring.

It’s unintelligible.

The slides are unreadable or irrelevant.

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

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

Just Cobble Together a Bad Business Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Feel Your Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Malaise in Corporate America

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

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

Monotone voices.

Busy slides with tiny letters.

Listeners shifting in their seats.

Motionless speakers planted behind a lectern.

Aimless and endless talking with seemingly no point.

No preparation and no practice attended these presentations.

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

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

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

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

No, of course not.

Glimmers of Hope . . . Gigantic Opportunity

Generalizations are just that – general in nature.

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

And this presents you with magnificent opportunity.

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

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

Presentations that are anything but dull.  So . . .

It’s time for your debut.

Time to break the Law of Bad Business Presentations.

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

Positive Presentation Attitude . . . Be Careful with Candor

A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation
A positive presentation attitude can make or break your business presentation

Your positive presentation attitude is one of the most neglected aspects of your business presentation.

For any presentation, really.

Maintain a positive presentation attitude, especially if you offer criticism.

Especially where criticism of current company policy is concerned.

Especially when your team must convey bad news.

For instance, that the current strategy is “bad.”  Or that the current executive team is not strong enough.

In student presentations, I sometimes see that students take an adversarial attitude.  A harsh attitude.  This is the natural way of college students, who believe that this type of blunt honesty is valued.

Honesty is . . . well, it’s refreshing.

Isn’t it?

Positive Presentation Attitude for Personal Preservation

Honesty is important, sure.

But a tremendous gulf separates honesty and candor.  And we must be clear on the difference between the two.

Honesty means you tell the truth . . . Candor means you spill your guts about everything that’s on your mind in the bluntest way possible.

Big difference.

If you say in your presentation that the current strategic direction of the company is dumb, you tread on thin ice when you convey that information.

In that way.

Remember that you can express honesty in many ways.  Presentation prudence suggests that we learn a few of them.  Use the right words to convey the bad news to the people who are paying you.

These may be the people responsible for the bad situation in the first place.  They could be emotionally invested in a specific strategy.  They could be financially invested in it.

Uh-oh.

Wound Someone’s Ego, You Pay a Price

Anyone can use a sledgehammer.

Anyone.

But if you use one, know that the receiving end of that sledgehammer isn’t pleasant and that you should expect reciprocation somewhere down the line.

And so . . . most times it pays to use a scalpel.

With lots of consideration and skill.

Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude
Use tact in criticizing current policy for an especially powerful presentation with positive presentation attitude

Remember that as much as we would like to believe that our superiors and our clients are mature and want to hear the “truth” – warts and all – human nature is contrary.

We’re easily wounded where our own projects and creations are concerned.

So, if you attack the current strategy as unsound, and the person or persons who crafted that strategy sit in the audience, you have most likely and needlessly doomed yourself.

Expect an also-ran finish in the competition for whatever prize is at stake, whether a multi-million dollar deal.  Or simply credibility and good judgment.

It takes skill and finesse to fine-tune your work.

To deliver a fine-tuned presentation.

Learn to deliver a masterpiece of art that conveys the truth, but with a positive presentation attitude that is constructive and persuasive without being abrasive.  When you do, then you will have developed incredible personal competitive advantage through the vehicle of your presentation skills.

That is, after all, why they’re called skills.

Your presentation will effervesce . . . it will join the ranks of the especially powerful.

So remember that tact and a positive presentation attitude is as important to your presentation as accuracy.  Internalize that lesson, and you’re on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations that persuade more than they insult.

For more on shaping a powerful and positive presentation attitude that stays on point and helps to build your personal competitive advantage, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Know your Audience . . . for an Especially Powerful Presentation

Know Your Audience is still good advice
Know what it means to really Know Your Audience

“Know your audience” is an hoary folk-wisdom kind of phrase that we’ve all heard and said at some point.

But what does it mean?

It’s almost like an incantation, similar to that trusty chestnut make eye contact!

So what’s this mysterious . . . know your audience?

Many of us in the presentation enterprise define it to our taste to mean what we want it to mean.

And that’s where we go wrong.

Hector that Audience! Show ’em Who’s Boss!

“But the audience should want to learn this.”

Invariably I hear this lament, or something akin to it.  A plaintive whine, really.

“The audience shouldn’t care how I dress/sound/gesture/move/squint/laugh inappropriately/show bad slides.  The audience should adapt to my style . . . which, frankly, is just fine.

“The audience ought to appreciate a gender-enlightened method of speaking!”

I have actually heard this.

Elaborate explanations follow as to why the audience should do this or be that, or simply doesn’t appreciate what the speaker has to offer in the way it’s offered.  Self-righteous and even haughty explanations follow.

And of course, all of this springs from premises as rotten as a plank in a 19th century waterfront pier.

The Audience Marketplace Judges You

The marketplace is a wondrous place with much power seething below the surface.

It gives feedback with ruthless honesty.

It doesn’t give a damn what anyone learned in a philosophy course as a grad student.  It thumbs its nose at the idealism of what “ought” to be.

If you have a product that nobody’s buying, no amount of hectoring will change that.

Knowing that marketplace means know your audience.

And know your audience means inspiring your listeners, not hectoring them.  It means giving them a chance to be a hero.  Every audience wants and needs that, and it’s your job to give it to them.

Not to lecture them on their sins and on your supposed superiority.

They don’t want to hear from Indiana Jones.  They want to be Indiana Jones.

Many sources are ensconced on the web that address the issue of know your audience . . . in different ways and to different purposes.  Here’s one for engineers, for example.  Here’s another for marketers.  And here is yet another for general communication purposes.

A Powerful Example of Know Your Audience

One of the greatest public speaking instructional films available is A Time to Kill, based on the novel by John Grisham.  The film is filled with presentation examples and powerful scenes that illustrate great presentation techniques.

“Know your audience” is exemplified in a powerful scene toward the end of the film, the night before the closing arguments are to be made in a murder trial.  The defendant, Samuel L. Jackson, urges his lawyer Matthew McConaghey, to get inside the heads of the jurors.

Jackson reveals to McConaughey the key to the case – emotional involvement of the jury, and this means know your audience.

Here is the powerful Jackson monologue, urging McConaughey to know your audience when the stakes are life itself:

America is a wall and you are on the other side.  How’s a black man ever going to get a fair trial with the enemy on the bench and in the jury box?  My life in white hands?  You Jake, that’s how.

You are my secret weapon because you are one of the bad guys, you don’t mean to be but you are – it’s how you was raised.  Nigger, Negro, black, African-American, no matter how you see me, you see me different, you see me like that jury sees me, you are them.

Now throw out your points of law Jake.  If you was on that jury, what would it take to convince you to set me free?  That’s how you save my ass.  That’s how you save us both.

View the entire film for a powerful lesson in speaking and in knowing your audience.  The trailer appears here . . .

 

For more insight on how to analyze and to know your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Respect Your Audience for Presentation Power

Respect your audience and your earn their respect
Respect your audience and you earn their respect

Always speak to the people in your audience in ways that move them – respect your audience.

Speak to your listeners in their language and to their needs.

Always offer them your respect and your heart.

Does this seem obvious?

“Respect Your Audience” Seems Easy

That’s the paradox.

We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game.  We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms.

We say what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear.  We speak in language that gives us comfort.

Then we blame the audience if they don’t “get it.”

Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why folks have gathered to hear the message.  Often, a business presenter may offer an off-the-shelf message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it.  She ignores the precept respect your audience.

The Curse of Hubris

Paradoxically, this occurs often when men and women of power and accomplishment address large groups of employees or conference attendees.  Infused with the power and sometime hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.

But it doesn’t.

They don’t prepare.  They offer standard tropes.  They rattle off cliches.  They pull out blandishments.  And they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.

What he says and the way he says it, whatever it was, becomes gospel.

But the presentation emperor has no clothes.  He does not follow the precept of respect your audience.

Contempt?  Close to It

What we actually witness from presenters of this type is a form of contempt.  Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.  The lack of preparation by speakers disregards the audience.  It shows contempt for the time of people gathered to listen.

For instance, last year a successful young entrepreneur spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea and then pitching that idea to venture capitalists.  His idea was tremendously successful and, as I understood him, he sold it for millions.

Now, he stood in front of our students wearing a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.  He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines.

What was his sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?

You Call That Good Advice?

“Make really good slides.”

That was it.

Just a few moments’ thought makes clear how pedestrian this is.  What does it truly mean?  You need a millionaire entrepreneur to tell you this?

“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.  Did this fellow follow the respect your audience mantra?  I think not.

I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit.  Likely as not, he developed a great idea, defined it sharply, and practiced many times.

It was presented knowledgeably by well-dressed entrepreneurs, and this is what won the day.  And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by.

So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.  Speak to your listeners as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.

We gain by following the respect your audience mantra.

Conversely, we all can learn from the people we meet and the speakers we listen to, even the bad ones.

For more on how to respect your audience, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Presentation Openings

The Presentation Opening
The Presentation Opening sets the tone for your Business Presentation

Of course you know how to begin a business presentation with a powerful presentation opening.

The Presentation Opening is surely easy.

Right?

But do you really know how to launch a powerful presentation?

Consider for a moment . . .

Don’t Tiptoe

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

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

Do you back into it?

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

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?

Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices.

A Bad Presentation Opening

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Walmart case.  The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years.

She spoke in monotone.  She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

Craft a superb presentation opening
Grab Your Audience with The Presentation Opening

I waited for her main point.  As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point.  At the end of her segment, I asked a gentle question.

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

The Wrong Presentation Opening

She was reciting “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.

Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously.

She has since progressed to graduate school.  And now she delivers powerful presentation openings.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say for a presentation opening is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?

Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about.  When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

You begin with your presentation opening.  Here, you present the Situation Statement.

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

The audience has gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution.  Or to hear of success and how it will continue.  Or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

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

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

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

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk.  Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clutter your presentation opening with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign. Do not start this way:

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

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

Craft a powerful presentation opening for energy
Especially Powerful hooks and grabbers for your presentation opening

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2013 and increase our market share by another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

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

No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.  Just an especially powerful and direct statement of the reason you are there.

Put the Pow in Power!

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

“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.

“We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.

The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.  We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our intro to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

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

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

For more on crafting an especially powerful presentation opening, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

King, Jobs, Aristotle and the Persuasive Presentation

The persuasive presentation has a long history

Martin Luther King . . .

Steve Jobs . . .

Aristotle . . .

These three quite different men shared a respect for the power of the spoken word.

The power to persuade.

What is Rhetoric?  Do We Care?

Twenty-three centuries ago, Aristotle gave us the means to deliver powerful business presentations.  The best speakers know this, either explicitly or instinctively.

We all owe a debt to Aristotle for his powerful treatise on persuasive public speaking Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the function of discovering the means of persuasion for every case.  These means of persuasion are delivered as a form of art.  Aristotle identified the three necessary elements for powerful and persuasive presentations – the ethos or character of the speaker, the attitude of the audience, and the argument itself.

The persuasive presentation

And the value of this powerful tool?

Just this . . .

Aristotle identified four great values of rhetoric.

First, rhetoric can prevent the triumph of fraud and injustice.  Second, it can instruct when scientific argument doesn’t work.  Third, it compels us to act out both sides of a case.  When you can argue the opposite point, you are best armed to defeat it.  Finally, it is a powerful means of defense when your opponent attacks.

As modern college texts wallow in the fever swamp of “communication theory,” Aristotle’s Rhetoric offers us a crystalline tool of power and efficacy – a sure guide to the proper techniques in business presenting.

Modern Persuasive Presentations

Two men as different as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs understood the power of rhetoric to inspire people to action.  Dr. King for the transformation of society . . . Steve Jobs for the revolutionizing of six different technology industries.

Dr. King used one particular rhetorical technique that has become the touchstone of his legacy – his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” during his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  This technique is called the anaphora.  It involves the repetition for effect of a key phrase during a presentation.  Dr. King ensured that the Dream of which he spoke would be the emotive catalyst for action.

The anaphora is part of what Aristotle recognized as art in rhetoric and is an advantage that rhetoric has over straight “scientific” expository speech in calling people to action.

Dr. King recognized the emotive power of rhetoric, and it is this power that can move listeners to action when pure logic cannot.

The persuasive presentation

A Different Venue

Steve Jobs, too, utilized the technique for a different purpose, a much more mundane purpose – the selling of electronics.  For example:

“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle.”

The anaphora is just one example of an especially powerful rhetorical technique.  It can imbue your business presenting with persuasiveness.  And there’s more . . . so much more available to you.

Business Presentation expert Nancy Duarte provides a comprehensive list of 16 rhetorical devices that Jobs used for his business presentations.  Devices that you can use as well.

When we understand the power of rhetoric and how that power is achieved, it transforms us into more capable and competent business presenters.

Perhaps not as transcendent as Dr. Martin Luther King, but certainly especially powerful presenters in our own bailiwicks.

For more on the persuasive presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop the Presentation Warm Up!

Eliminate the presentation warm up Stop all that metaphorical throat-clearing at the start of your business presentation.

The presentation warm up.

You know exactly what I mean.

All that filler you pump into your business presentation at the beginning.

Somewhere, someone came up with the notion that you must “warm up” your audience before you launch into the meat of your talk.

A contrivance

Someone contrived the notion that you must thank everyone from your mother to the wait staff to the United States President.

Someone concocted the notion that you must praise the locale of your talk as if you’ve passed through the gates of paradise.

Forget all of that.

That’s nothing but throat clearing, and it’s done all for you, not your audience.  You’re warming yourself up to get over your nervousness.

You’re uttering meaningless platitudes that no one can call you on.  So you’re “safe.”

You think you’re safe, but you’re losing your audience, numbing them.  In their minds, they’re already folding their arms and yawning.

Stop the Presentation Warm Up!

Get to the point.

How?

Patricia Fripp is one of the nation’s finest executive and presentation coaches.  She offers especially powerful advice on launching your presentation:

Don’t be polite . . . get to the point.  [I told one client] “You’re polite . . . and that’s not a bad habit, but you don’t have much time.  They know who you are because you’ve been entertaining them.  They know where you are.  Make it about them.

“When you begin, why don’t you say:  ‘Welcome and thank you for the opportunity to host you.  In the next seven minutes, you are going to discover why the best decision you can make for your members and your association is to bring your convention to San Francisco and the Fairmont Hotel.’ . . . ”

You may argue that those polite opening comments are necessary because the audience is still settling down and not focused on you.  This may be true, but don’t let it be an excuse.  Go to the front of the room and wait until you have their attention, maintaining a strong, cheerful gaze and willing them to be silent.  If needed, state the opening phrase of your comments and then pause until all eyes are focused on you, awaiting the rest of the sentence.

I suggest you consult Patricia often as a source for no-nonsense presentation wisdom.  She’s in the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for a reason.

And do consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting to resolve more speaking issues like the presentation warm up.

Gangnam Style Presentation

Gangnam style Presentation Can elevate your own show
Gangnam Style Presentation is extreme, but instructive

Here’s a presenter who carefully follows the Three Ps of business presenting and quite obviously succeeds at his performance in a Gangnam Style Presentation.

The Three Ps, of course, are:  Principles . . . Preparation . . . and Practice.

The presenter calls himself Psy.

In this Gangnam Style presentation, Psy engages the Seven Secrets of presenting – the principles of Voice, Expression, Gesture, Appearance, Stance, Passion, and Movement – for a stunning performance.  Note that the acronym formed by those seven words is appropriate to this particular presentation:

VEGAS PM.

Applying the Three Ps

Moreover, while Psy exhibits incredible professional presence, he doesn’t rely solely on his charisma to carry his presentation.  He and his support team prepared meticulously for this performance, and they’ve obviously practiced much.

The presenter engages his audience, gives them exactly what they expected to receive, and encourages audience participation.

He exhibits tremendous focus on his main point, repeating his main point several times so that it isn’t lost – otherwise known as his song’s chorus – and he uses the same repeated choral movement to emphasize visually his song’s chorus.

View this Gangnam Style Presentation with these precepts in mind.

 

The comparison to superb business presenting is by no means a reach.

When you present, you give your audience a show.  Accordingly, you should prepare your show according to principles almost identical to those used by any stage performer.

You might not expect the kind of crazed enjoyment of your business presentation exhibited by the audience in the video (and I congratulate you if you achieve it).  But you can apply the precepts of presenting to meet your audience expectations, engage your listeners, and drive home your main point with repetition and focus.

Deliver a Gangnam Style Presentation

You can thoroughly prepare and practice your presentation, just as any worthy stage performer does.  Respect for your audience and your message demands no less than that you employ the Three Ps of business presenting.

Do this consistently, and you increase your personal competitive advantage tremendously as someone known for capable and competent business presenting.

For more on Gangnam Style business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Focus on Your Audience

Focus on your audience as a source of personal competitive advantage

Too often, we can find ourselves rambling or roaming in a presentation, and this usually means we’ve strayed from the hoary principle of focus on your audience.

We haven’t established a tightly focused subject, and we’ve not linking it to a tightly focused conception of your audience.

Without tight focus on your subject, you cannot help the audience to visualize your topic or its main points with concrete details.  Without details in your message, you eventually lose the attention of the audience.

So how do you include meaningful details in your presentation, the right details?

The Devil’s in the Details

By reversing the process and visualizing the audience in detail.

This is akin to the branding process in the marketing world.  Your brand must stand for something in the customer’s mind.  And, conversely, you must be able to visualize the customer in your own mind.

If you can’t visualize the kind of person who desperately wants to hear your message, then you haven’t focused your talk enough.

Go back and retool your message – sharpen and hone it.

Think of the various consumers of products and services such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Whole Foods Market, Mercedes Benz, Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Can you actually visualize the customers for these products, picture them in your mind in great detail?

Likewise, can you clearly visualize the consumers for Greenpeace, the National Rifle Association, a Classic 70s Rock radio station?

Sure you can – you immediately imagine the archetype of the customer base for each of these.

Focus on Your Audience

Now, in the same way, can you visualize the consumers of Chevrolet?  Tide?  Folgers?  United Way?  The American Red Cross?

Of course you can’t, because these brands have lost focus.  The message is too broad.

The lesson here is to focus your message on a tightly circumscribed audience type.

Who is in your audience, and what do they want from you?

Prepare your talk with your audience at the forefront.  Visualize a specific person in your audience, and write to that person.  Make that person the hero.

Talk directly to that person.

The upshot is a tightly focused message with key details that interest an audience that you have correctly analyzed and visualized.  You speak directly to audience needs in a way that they clearly understand and that motivates them.

Craft your message in this way, and you’ll be on-target every time.

Find more secrets of especially powerful presenting in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Powerful Presentation Words: “This means that . . .”

Powerful Presentation Words can transform your show

“This means that . . .”

These three powerful presentation words hold incredible promise and potential for your business presentation.

And yet they go missing more often than not.

These three powerful presentation words can transform the most mundane laundry-list presentation into a clear and compelling tale.

The Most Obvious Thing . . .

One of the biggest problems I see with student business presentations is the hesitancy to offer analysis and conclusions.  Instead, I see slide after slide of uninterpreted information.

Numbers.

Pie-charts.

Facts.

Lots of reading from the slide by the slide-reader-in-chief.

Raw data or seemingly random information is offered up just as it was found in the various consulted sources.

This may be because young presenters receive little instruction on how to synthesize information in a presentation segment into a cogent expression of “Why this is important.”

As a result, these presentations present the illusion of importance and gravitas.  They look like business presentations.  They sound like business presentations.

But something’s missing.

The audience is left with a puzzle.Powerful Presentation Words are like magic

The audience is left to figure it out for themselves.

The audience is left to figure out what it all means.  Left to interpret the data, to judge the facts.

In other words, the presentation is subject to as many interpretations as there are audience members.

Does this sound like a formula for a persuasive and powerful presentation that issues a firm call-to-action?

Of course not.  This is a failed presentation.

You know it, and it seems obvious.  But still, I see it more often than not.

If you find yourself in this fix, delivering ambiguous shows that draw no conclusions, you can remedy this with three little powerful presentation words at the end of each segment of your presentation.

“This means that . . .”

How Powerful Presentation Words Work

At the end of your explication of data or information, you say something like this:

“This means that, for our company, the indicators displayed here suggest a more aggressive marketing plan than what we’re doing now.”

Or this:

“These figures indicate that more vigilance is needed in the area of credit risk.  For our department, this means that we must hire an additional risk analyst to accommodate our heightened exposure.”

See what this does?

You hand the audience the conclusion and recommendation that you believe is warranted.  You don’t assume that the audience will get it.  You don’t leave it to your listeners to put the puzzle together.

That’s what you are paid to do in your presentation.

You are tasked with fulfilling the promise and potential of your presentation.  Don’t shrink from this task.

Instead . . . relish it.

Try it.

If you do, this means that you will invest your presentation with power, clarity, and direction.

For more powerful presentation words, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Appearance can Make you . . . or Break You

Presentation Appearance
Presentation Appearance Matters

What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?

Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our physical 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 presentation appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message to your audience.

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

Are you the “Ageless Rebel” Battling the “Man”?

What’s you message?  That you don’t care?

That you’re confident?

That you’re attentive to detail?

That you care about your dignity, your physique?

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 losing 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 as Your Destiny

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

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 appearance and mesh their dress with their message.

Take President Barack Obama, for example.  He 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 will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up.  Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, was also a sharp dresser. 

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

Here are some basic suggestions for ensuring a minimum pleasing appearance . . .

For more on an especially powerful presentation appearance, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presentations

Bad PowerPoint means an awful Business Presentation

AYCS Syndrome + Bad PowerPoint
Bad PowerPoint is a Debilitating Presentation Pathology

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 strikes even the best of us, cutting us down in our presentation prime.

AYCS Syndrome + Bad PowerPoint

“As you can see.”

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?  It would seem so.

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 PowerPoint 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.

Bad PowerPoint is a business presentation pathology
Bad Powerpoint Can Sabotage Your Presentation

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 awful 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 anyone.

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

The Remedy for Bad PowerPoint can be found in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.