This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.
Presentation Bookends, the How
Start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative. This is your “grabber.”
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.
You then 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 will 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.
Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.
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.
The Latin phrase for it is “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect).
Yes, apply the Rule of Three . . . and apply it ruthlessly.
Here I offer controversial advice, and not every presentation guru will agree with it. But it forms the basis for an especially powerful presentation.
With it, you never go wrong.
Think about that for a second. How many things in life can you say that about? You never go wrong.
What is this Rule of Three?
For a moment, let’s consider this “Rule of Three.” This is always a successful method in structuring the staging portion of your presentation.
This means that you select the three main points from your material. Then you structure your show around them.
It’s that simple.
And it’s powerful.
Think about this for a moment.
There is something magical about the number three.
We tend to grasp information most easily in threes.
Consider these examples:
Stop, look and listen – A well–known public safety announcement
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare
Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar
“Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill
“Faith, Hope and Charity” – The Bible
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – the Declaration of Independence
“The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood Western
“Duty – Honor – Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur
The Rule of Three in presentations is a standard structural model advocated by many presentation coaches. And with good reason.
It’s a powerful framework, incredibly sturdy. Think of it as a reliable vessel into which to pour your superb beverage.
With the rule of three, you can – literally – never err with regard to your presentation structure.
Here’s an Example . . .
Offer substantiation for your thesis and ultimate recommendation in three main points.
Strip down all of your convoluted arguments, all of your evidence.
Restrict all of your keen analysis to the three major points that you believe make your case.
In the Toughbolt Corporation example above, note that in our thesis statement and ultimate recommendation, we mentioned three positive reasons for our chosen course of action:
“ . . . this presentation demonstrates that this course of action is fiscally sound, the best use of scarce resources among the alternatives, and a basis for rapid growth.”
These three factors serve as your basic Rule of Three structure for the middle of your presentation.
Most efficient use of resources over other expansion alternatives
Financial Analysis of the projected acquisition
Projected returns and growth rate
Does this mean that other information is not important?
Of course not.
It means that you have selected the most important points that make your case and that you want to rivet in the minds of the audience. The Rule of Three in presentations means that you select the major facts not to be “comprehensive” in your presentation, but to be persuasive in your presentation.
With respect to subsidiary points that appear in your written analysis, you have the opportunity to address those issues in a question and answer session to follow your show.
Do you ever cobble together a half-dozen makeshift slides cut-and-pasted from a written report, larded with bullet points, and then rely on some sort of last-minute presentation magic to save your butt?
Wishful thinking that maybe PowerPoint pyrotechnics can save the day?
Perhaps the bravado of phony self-confidence to get you through a painful experience?
Guilty as charged?
Most of us are guilty at some point.
And the results can be heinous.
Software “Magic” Cannot Save You
The results are slides that confuse the audience rather than reinforce your major points delivered in awful, mind-numbing presentations.
“Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career. Invest in your slides, but invest in your own visual skills as well. The alternative is to inadvertently commit career suicide.”
Absent specific instruction, you might believe that it’s acceptable to simply cut and paste graphics from a written report directly onto a slide.
And . . . why not?
Who says this is a bad idea?
After all, the professor wants to see certain material on the screen, doesn’t he?
Well, I’m giving it to him. ’nuff said.
This is awful for the reason that the slide presentation sometimes doubles for a written document. This is an incredibly stupid mistake, and with it you forfeit personal competitive advantage to your more careful peers.
One . . . or the Other
Your PowerPoint can serve admirably one or the other purpose . . . but not both.
The presentation – or show – is an entirely different form of communication than the written document that is meant to be reviewed later.
Never let one serve in place of the other.
Prepare two separate documents if necessary. One is your detailed written document, and the other to serve as the basis for your show.
When you commit the error of letting a written document serve as your public presentation, here’s what usually happens: You project a parade of abominably cluttered slides onto the screen while you talk about them. Usually prefacing what you say with the words “As you can see . . . .” [this is called As You Can See Syndrome, or AYCSS]
The results are quite often poor, if not downright ugly and embarassing for all concerned.
It’s a roadmap to disaster.
But the insidious part is that no one tells you the results are disastrous.
And they do not tell you what makes your creation an abomination.
So let’s discuss the types of issues you face in assembling your show, so that you can craft an especially powerful presentation.
No Magic in Your Slide Deck
Start by recognizing that no slide show can substitute for a lack of ideas, a lack of preparation, and lack of a story to tell.
Nifty slides cannot save you.
There is no PowerPoint magic.
PowerPoint cannot rescue you with its colors, sound, and animation.
This is akin to Hollywood filmmakers who spend millions of dollars on dazzling special effects and neglect the story. They bomb miserably.
On the other hand, Hollywood can caft a winning film with a superb story and drama, but with minimal special effects.
For example, see the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men.
You cannot craft a winning film with no story.
Or a bad story populated with people you don’t care about.
Forget the notion that slides are somehow the backbone of your show. They have no special properties. They can merely enhance your show . . . and they can most assuredly help destroy it.
“Slides are not a magic pill; they won’t organize a disorganized presentation; they won’t give a point to a presentation that doesn’t really have one; and they never make a convincing presentation on their own.”
So is there a reasonably easy way to get around this busy-slide pathology?
Of course, and this leads us to one solution to the problem of overburdened slides.
Remember three words when you prepare your slides, and you can eliminate 90 percent of your PowerPoint pathologies.
Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize
First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.
If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience. Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.
Walk to the screen and point to the information categories. Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”
Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.
If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.
Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.
Third, emphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers. You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.
When you orient, eliminate, and emphasize, you polish your meaning to a high sheen. This puts you on your way to an especially powerful presentation that gives you Personal Competitive Advantage.
You dump distractors that leech the strength and from your presentation.
Consequently, by substraction you infuse your presentation with power. You provide your own presentation magic that arises from your skill as an especially powerful presenter.
Public speaking – or the “presentation” – was the province of four groups of people: Preachers, Politicians, Lawyers, and Actors. The first saved your soul. The second took your money. The third saved you from prison. The fourth transported you to another time and place, if only for a short spell.
Other professions utilized the proven skills of presenting – carnival barker, vaudevillian, traveling snake oil salesmen.
No, these were not the earliest examples of America’s business presenters.
But they surely were the last generation before modernity began to leech the vitality from public speaking.
To suck the life from “business presenting.”
Skills of the Masters
The skills necessary to these four professions were developed over centuries. The ancient Greeks knew well the power of oratory and argument.
The knew the power of words.
How the right words could bring especially powerful vitality to a speech.
In fact, Socrates, one of the great orators of the 5th Century B.C. , was tried and sentenced to death for the power of his oratory. He filled his presentations with the “wrong” ideas.
In our modern 21st century smugness, we likely think that long-dead practitioners of public speaking and of quaint “elocution” have nothing to teach us.
We’ve adopted a wealth of technological firepower that purports to exalt our presentation message.
And yet the result has been something different.
Instead of sharpening our communication skills, multimedia packages have supplanted them. Each advance in technology creates another barrier between the business presenter and the audience.
The Business Presenter and Powerpoint
Today’s presenters have fastened hold of the notion that PowerPoint is the presentation.
The idea is that PowerPoint has removed responsibility from you to be knowledgeable, interesting, concise, and clear.
The focus has shifted from the business presenter to the fireworks.
This has led to such a decline that the attitude of the presenter is: “The presentation is up there on the slides . . . let’s all read them together.”
And in many cases, this is exactly what happens.
Almost as if the business presenter becomes a member of the audience.
PowerPoint and props are just tools. That’s all. You should be able to present without them.
And when you can, finally, present without them, you can then use them to maximum advantage to amplify the superior communication skills you’ve developed.
In fact, many college students do present without PowerPoint every day outside of the university. Some of them give fabulous presentations. Most give adequate presentations.
They deliver these presentations in the context of one of the most ubiquitous part-time jobs college students perform – waiter or waitress.
Presentation Training – More Money
Waiters and waitresses are business presenters.
For a waiter, every customer is an audience, every welcoming a show.
The smartest students recognize this as the opportunity to sharpen presentation skills useful in multiple venues, to differentiate and hone a personal persona, and to earn substantially more tips at the end of each presentation.
Most students in my classes do not recognize the fabulous opportunity they have as a waiter or waitress.
They view it simply as a job, performed to a minimum standard.
Without even realizing it, they compete with a low-cost strategy rather than a differentiation strategy, and their tips show it.
Instead of offering premium service and an experience that no other waiter or waitress offers, they give the standard functional service like everyone else.
As a waiter, ask yourself: “What special thing can I offer that my customers might be willing to pay more for?”
Your answer is obvious . . . you can offer a special and enjoyable experience for your customers. You can become a superb business presenter.
In fact, you can make each visit to your restaurant memorable for your customers by delivering a show that sets you apart from others, that puts you in-demand.
I don’t mean for you to put on a juggling act.
Or to become a comedian . . .
Or to intrude on your guests’ evening.
I do mean to take your job seriously. Learn your temporary profession’s rules and craft a business presentation of your material that resonates with confidence, authenticity and sincerity.
Display enthusiasm for your material and an earnestness to communicate it in words and actions that make your audience feel comfortable and . . . heroic.
The Hero Had Best be in Your Audience
Every business presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is your audience. Great business presenters evoke a sense of heroism in customers.
Do this, and you win every time with an especially powerful show.
I have just described a quite specific workplace scenario where effective presenting can have an immediate reward. Every element necessary to successful presenting is present in a wait-staff restaurant situation.
The reverse is likewise true.
The principles and techniques of delivering a powerful presentation in a restaurant and in a boardroom are not just similar – they are identical.
The venue is different, the audience is different, the relationships of those in the room might be different.
But the principles that inform the great business presenter are the same.
And so, back to the early practitioners of oratory and public speaking.
Here is the paradox: a fabulous treasure can be had for anyone with the motivation to pluck these barely concealed gems from the ground, to sift the sediment of computerized gunk to find the gold.
Adopt the habits of the masters.
Acquire the mannerisms and the power and versatility of the great business presenters who strode the stages, who argued in courtrooms, who declaimed in congress, and who bellowed from pulpits.
Their secrets offer us the key to delivering especially powerful business presentations.
Nike developed a well-known ad campaign with the theme: “Find Your Presentation Greatness.”
Well, it really didn’t refer to business presentations, but it well could have, without losing much in translation.
“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for us all. This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us.”
I like the positive thrust of the ad series, which places the locus of excellence inside each of us and urges us to cultivate a desire to strive and succeed, come what may.
The Hard Truth . . . Our Greatest Enemy
Key in this is often the hard truth that often we can be our worst enemy when it comes to achieving success.
Business presenting can be like that.
More often than not, the biggest obstacle to delivering a superb presentation is our self-doubt and fear of failure. This can stymie the best of us. It can result in half-hearted efforts that give us an “out” when we flop.
“I wasn’t even trying,” we can say with a shrug. And thus spare ourselves the ignominy of putting our heart and effort into a presentation, only to have it “fail.”
The exasperating truth in this is that we need not fear failure. Or even a job poorly done. If we invest our minds and hearts in the right kind of preparation, we need not ever “fail” at delivering serviceable, even fantastic, presentations.
We all have the tools. We all have the potential. We can all give a great presentation.
But . . . the Path to Presentation Greatness?
But it requires us to do the most difficult thing imaginable, and that is actually change the way we present. This may seem obvious, but it’s not.
Many folks think that a great presentation exists somewhere outside themselves – in the software, in the written notes, in the prepared speech, in the audience somewhere.
The thought that we must step outside our comfort zone and actually adopt new habits while shedding the old ones is . . . well, it’s daunting. And I hear every excuse imaginable why it can’t be done. Usually having to do with “comfort.”
“I’m just not comfortable with that.”
Of course you’re not “comfortable” with that. You’re comfortable with your old bad habits. That’s what “habit” means.
These are new habits of superb presenting, and when you adopt them as your own, you become comfortable with them. When you do, you will be on your way to your own greatness.
You’ll be on your way to delivering especially powerful presentations. Great presentations!
That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.
Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.
What makes speaking so powerful is that 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. It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice. It’s what they sense on a subliminal level. That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.
Here, Paulson has described the impact of Personal Presence.
It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message. A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.
Here is where you become part of the message and bring into play your unique talents and strengths.
Naked Information Overflow
But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow and pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, communicating with and persuading an audience.
Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background, into that indistinguishable mass of grays.
And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.
Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.
They would just as soon compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.
If you become an automaton, you cede important personal competitive advantage.
You forfeit an especially powerful opportunity.
The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker. That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.
Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective. It becomes a bad communication exercise.
It becomes an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.
Rise of the Automatons
Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.
Faded is the notion of the skilled public speaker. Gone is the especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, powerful and convincing.
Absent is Quintilian’s ideal orator: “The good man, well-spoken.”
We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.
This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter, in command of the facts and delivering compelling arguments using all the tools at his or her disposal.
This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.
Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd. Or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™
Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the personal competitive advantage it provides?
You’ve seen the silhouette of a man beside a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus, or a Brontosaurus. The silhouette provides you a frame of reference so you understand the physical dimensions of something new and strange.
You can compare the size of a man with the new information on dinosaurs.
Likewise, we want to provide a frame of reference so that our audience understands the results of our analysis.
We provide a comparison as a baseline.
For instance, if you are talking about financial performance, and you have selected an indicator (such as ROI, or yearly sales revenue growth, or something similar), don’t simply present the information as standalone. Compare your company’s financial performance against something else.
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 . . .
You’d step over to the wall and run your fingers over the colored lines.
You’d trace the outline of the images as you shared the story that the painting illustrates. You’d use the graphic to bring your presentation to life.
Likewise, in your own business presentations today, when you interact with your PowerPoint slides, I suggest that you use 10,000 BC technology – you should “touch the cave paintings” to meld with your presentation.
Take ownership of your business presentation, and touch the cave paintings you’ve created to flesh out and support your message.
Step to the screen when you’re ready to refer to a chart or a graph.
Orient us to what we’re about to see.
Explain the vertical and horizontal axes so that we can quickly grasp the data.
By stepping to the screen and gesturing, you enhance your participation in the presentation, becoming the animation for the slides under review.
And you preclude using one of the most heinous devices ever created that can destroy potentially outstanding business presentations.
Think of the Laser Pointer as a Presentation self-destruct button.
That’s right . . . self-destruct button.
Even the best of us occasionally thumb that laser pointer self-destruct button that is built into most remote control clickers.
But you want to deliver a Laser Pointer Presentation, don’t you?
You’ve waited your entire life for the chance to legitimately use that laser pointer!
You’ve pictured yourself be-suited and commanding the room . . . standing back, perhaps with a jaunty posture, as you sweep the screen behind you with the little bobbing speck of red light. The meekest among us is invested with bombast and hauteur by even the most inexpensive laser pointer.
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.
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 10,000 B.C. Technology
Merge yourself with the data. Step into the presentation so that you, in essence, 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.
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.
Instead, run your hands over the cave wall, touch the cave paintings to meld with your presentation and communicate with your visuals in especially powerful fashion to gain especially powerful personal competitive advantage.
Whether the finance presentations class is in Philadelphia . . . or Mumbai . . . or Cali . . . or Chennai . . . I hear the same universal and eerie refrain from finance students on how they should give a finance presentation . . .
“Finance Presentations are different.”
“We don’t do all of that soft-skill presentations stuff.”
“For us, the numbers tell the story.”
Finance Presentation Mysteries
Numbers seem to enchant business-people in deep and mysterious ways, as if numerical constructs are somehow less malleable than the English language.
They seem less subject to manipulation.
In a chaotic world, a spreadsheet exudes familiarity, a firm valuation offers comfort.
An income statement serves as anchor.
For some, numbers convey a certitude and precision unavailable to mere rhetoric.
This illusion of certitude and precision exerts influence on finance folks to believe that, well . . . that the laws of human nature that stymie the rest of us do not apply to them in the coldness and hardness of objective numerical analysis when they give a finance presentation.
But this is an illusion.
And the result is 2D presenting, full of voodoo and bereft of nuance and subtle analysis.
Where business presentations are concerned, finance folks are not different, special, unique or otherwise gifted with special powers or incantations denied the mere mortals who toil in marketing or human resources.
We are all subject to the same demands placed upon us by the presentations beast.
These demands that nettle us equally and indiscriminately during the business presentation process.
As with most things, there is bad news and good news in this slice of life provided here. And the great news is that you can achieve especially powerful personal competitive advantage by virtue of your newfound presentation skills and techniques.
Let’s look . . .
How Not to Give a Finance Presentation
The bad news is that modern finance presentations are a vast wasteland of unreadable spreadsheets and monotonous, toneless recitations of finance esoterica.
It seems that there must be a requirement for this in finance.
In fact, many finance presentations devolve into basic meeting discussions about a printed analysis distributed beforehand. The group of presenters merely stands while everyone else sits and interrupts with strings of questions.
Several presentation cliches guarantee this sorry state of affairs a long life . . .
“Just the facts”
Exhortations of “Just the facts” serve as little more than a license to be unoriginal, uninteresting, and unfocused.
“Just the facts”
Folks believe that this phrase gives the impression that they are no-nonsense and hard-core. But there is probably no more parsimoniously pompous and simultaneously meaningless phrase yet to be devised.
It achieves incredible bombast in just three syllables.
What does it mean, “Just the facts?” Which facts? Why these facts and not those facts?
Events are three-dimensional and filled with people. They require explanation and analysis. Mere “facts” are flat, two-dimensional, unemotional, and unsatisfactory proxies for what happens in the real world.
“Just the facts” masks much more than it reveals.
“The numbers tell the story.”
This is a favorite of folks who seem to believe that the ironclad rules of presentations do not apply to them. “We don’t deal with all of that soft storytelling,” finance majors often tell me.
“We deal in hard numbers.”
There’s so much wrong with this that it’s difficult to locate a reasonable starting-point.
Numbers, by themselves, tell no story at all.
If numbers were conceivably capable of telling a story, it would be a considerably incomplete story, giving a distorted picture of reality.
The end result of these finance presentations shenanigans is an overall level of mediocrity and outright bad presentations. If firms want nothing more than a group discussion about a handout, with the only thing distinguishing the “presenters” from the audience is that they are standing, then so be it.
It may be useful.
It may be boring.
It may be morale-building. It may be team-destroying. It may be time-wasting.
But whatever else it is, it is not a business presentation.
“Cut ’n’ Paste”
This is the heinous data dump that all of us inevitably see. PowerPoint slides crammed with data in tiny, unreadable font.
The display of these heinous slides is accompanied by a sweep of the arm and the awful phrase: “As you can see . . . ” The cause of this pathology is the rote transfer of your written report to a PowerPoint display, with no modification to suit the completely different medium. The result?
Slides from the netherworld.
The Good News
In every obstacle exists an opportunity.
Because the bar for finance presentations is so low, if you give a finance presentation using the powerful principles that apply to all business presentations, your own shows will outstrip the competition by an order of magnitude. This, of course, implies that your content is rock-solid.
Because it should be.
Your ratio analysis, your projected earnings, your sophisticated modeling should all reflect your superb finance education.
But how you give a finance presentation is the key to presentation victory.
All of the presentation principles that we discuss here apply to finance presentations.
They apply particularly to the parsimonious display of numbers and the necessity for their visual clarity. If anything, finance presentations must be more attentive to how masses of data are distilled and displayed.
And external factors must be melded with the numbers so that the numbers assume clarity and meaning in an especially powerful 3D presentation.
If you do the above, and nothing more, then your finance presentations will easily outshine the hoi polloi.
But if you delve even more deeply into the masterful techniques and principles available to you, learning to use your tools skillfully, you can rise to the zenith of the finance presentations world precisely because you are part of the tiny minority who seizes the opportunity to deliver an especially powerful presentation.
I’m gratified to be working with Soundview Executive Summaries again, and this new product of theirs is impressive.
Soundview is moving briskly onto the cutting edge of online learning. SoundviewPro launched today, and it’s a powerful business model that delivers great value.
Here’s how it works . . .
Business Presentations Video Instruction . . .
I’ve joined a number of other instructors to provide instruction in areas of expertise — mine, one hopes, is business presentations. Here’s the short promotional business presentations video . . . and no, as much as the still shot might suggest it, I’m not going through a facial transformation scene.
The description for my own business presentations video course appears here:
Far too many business presentations feature a speaker that could easily be part of the background. Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D. will put you in the command position and teach you to be (rather than give) your presentation.
Ridgley packs weeks of learning into six strategically designed classes that cover everything a business presenter needs to know. You’ll learn how to structure your message, the correct way to create visuals that match your critical points, and how to deliver a story that is as mesmerizing as it is memorable.
You’ll even learn the vital mechanics of presenting that are too often overlooked: posture and movement, voice techniques, hand gestures and how to interact with your visuals. In an entertaining course loaded with historical examples, you will discover that great business presenters aren’t born; they’re made. This is your opportunity to make yourself the next marquee speaker.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
•The importance of the Power Zone.
•A foolproof presentation structure.
•The power posture that projects confidence.
•How to transform an ordinary slide into an extraordinary visual.
•Why it is essential to make your audience the hero of every story.
Go to: www.soundviewpro.com to sign up for Soundview’s Business Presentations video course . . . it’s free.
The course is based on my business presentations book and has loads of visuals and supplementary materials available in addition to the videos.
Asking “What’s the job market like?” is the wrong question.
Let’s say you get an answer.
What, exactly, will you do with the answer? Hmm?
It’s reminiscent of the young man who came to me for advice on getting his MBA, and his first question was “What are the hot jobs?”
“Hot jobs? I don’t understand your question, exactly.”
“I ask about the hot jobs, so I can move into that concentration,” he said. He was serious.
That’s a foolish approach, and I told him so. It’s like chasing a will-o’-the-wisp. You expend energy, money, time. Fruitlessly. Or for extremely meager fruit.
Dump the “Hot Jobs” Approach
First, I don’t know what the “hot jobs” are or even what a “hot job” might consist of. Perhaps a field that has a temporary shortage of skilled candidates? If so, that shortage gets filled mighty quick.
Second, it gets filled mighty quick because there is no a lack of folks who latch onto the “hot jobs” mantra and swarm.
Third, if you base your studies on someone’s assessment of the “hot jobs,” you could end up in a program that you hate.
To top it off, when you graduate, that “job” might no longer be “hot.”
What a fine fix that would be, eh?
Make Your Own Job Market
In retrospect, I’m less critical now than I was at the time of such a question. Yes, it’s a dumb question if the purpose is to guide your study.
A much better question is “How can I create personal competitive advantage so that I win in whatever kind of market exists?”
It’s become almost cliche to “do what you love.” But there’s a good reason why successful people say this.
I recommend pursuing your passion and make it your goal to become the best at it in the entire world. Is that a foolish goal? Exaggerated ambition? Hardly.
Within the bounds of a chosen profession, there is always room for the woman or man driven by passion and a thirst for self-improvement. At the firm level, it can be called becoming “a category of one.” I direct you to the book by Joe Calloway of the same name.
Calloway’s book demonstrates how firm’s can move their brands from the commodity column into the premium brand column. You can do the same with yourself and your passion.
Become a Category of One
Let’s take the topic of cosmetic industry supply chain management. I’m not jazzed by this topic, but I guarantee that somewhere, someone is.
And that person should chase that profession insanely, becoming the finest cosmetic industry supply chain manager in the world, in both the micro and macro sense: learned in the industry, knowledgeable of the major players, and steeped in the intricacies of the specialty.
Relentless focus and study sharpens you like a surgical instrument.
And as your skills increase, the number of your viable personal competitors begins to fall off.
You increase your value to potential employers . . . you speak with far greater knowledge and surety than someone more superficially educated.
And it is this way that you find your calling. This is how you find your “blue ocean.”
It is here that you find your job market . . . not the job market.
Forget about pursuing the “hot jobs” of the moment, like the herd.
In all of this, in every bit of this, you can add value to your personal warehouse of skills by becoming a superb presenter. Every firm and every profession lacks great presenters.
Become that Category of One and showcase your skills as a powerful and competent presenter. Here’s how . . .
I often see posts on LinkedIn from people who perpetuate the “comfort” myth, who advocate personal comfort as the boundary line between who we are and who we hope to be in the realm of what we might call uncomfortable business presentations.
“I just don’t feel comfortable doing that” vies for one of the poorest excuses I hear for refusing to become a great presenter.
Sure, make me a great presenter . . . just don’t make me change what I’m doing now, because I might feel “uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable Business Presentations”
When did our “comfort” become the yardstick by which we measure presentation greatness? You think that you can become a great business presenter without changing behavior?
Odd as that sounds, many people believe it. Because they think the essence of great presenting exists somewhere outside themselves – in a software package or in some secret that’s been kept from them.
Just the other day, I saw someone post presentation “advice” in a major forum, urging would-be speakers to stick close to the podium if they “felt uncomfortable” moving more than a few steps away from it while speaking.
What awful advice. Heinous.
If you’re a person who buys into the “comfort myth,” then stay away from me and don’t even talk to me about wanting to improve your business presenting skill.
If your presentations suck, if you’re stiff, and your voice grates, and you hide behind the podium, and you can’t look at people, and you get tongue-tied, and you slouch and dance, and you’ve made your presentations this way as long as you can remember . . . I guarantee that you’ll feel “uncomfortable” doing anything else.
So, if “comfort” is your goal, just keep on keepin’ on. It’s one of the easiest “accomplishments” you’ll achieve in your life.
Comfortably Bad Habits
If your degree of “comfort” determines what you do in life, then resign yourself to mediocrity right now, this second.
“I just don’t feel comfortable mingling with people.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable training for a marathon.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable playing a difficult piece of music.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable practicing new presentation techniques.”
If that’s your attitude and your excuse, then prepare yourself to stay exactly where you are in life as you avoid uncomfortable business presentations. Settle in and get “comfortable,” because that’s where you’ll be 20 years from now.
Again, if your presentations suck now, if you’re stiff, and your voice grates, and you hide behind the podium, and you can’t look at people, and you get tongue-tied, and you slouch and dance . . . you’ll still be doing it 20 years from now, assuming that anyone in his or her right mind let’s you get up in front of an audience when the stakes truly count.
If you grow “comfortable” in your bad habits, they’re still bad habits. And you will break them only by adopting new habits . . . that discomfit you initially. They feel “uncomfortable” until they become “comfortable” for you.
So, if you want to remain right where you are, stagnant, never improving, I urge you to just stay “comfortable.”
Your more ambitious competition in the workforce will thank you.
Business will have a much better chance of surviving if there is no nonsense about its goals – that is, if long-run profit maximization is the one dominant objective in practice as well as in theory.
Business should recognize what government’s functions are and let it go at that, stopping only to fight government where government directly intrudes itself into business. It should let government take care of the general welfare so that business can take care of the more material aspects of welfare.
The results of any such single-minded devotion to profit should be invigorating. With none of the corrosive distractions and costly bureaucracies that now serve the pious cause of welfare, politics, society, and putting up a pleasant front, with none of these draining its vitality, management can shoot for the economic moon.
It can thrust ahead in whatever way seems consistent with its money-making goals.
If laws and threats stand in its way, it should test and fight them, relenting only if the courts have ruled against it, and then probing again to test the limits of the rules.
And when business fights, it should fight with uncompromising relish and self-assertiveness, instead of using all the rhetorical dodges and pious embellishments that are now so often its stock in trade.
Practicing self-restraint behind the cloak of the insipid dictum that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has only limited justification. Certainly it often pays not to squeeze the last dollar out of a market especially when good will is a factor in the long-term outlook.
But too often self-restraint masquerades for capitulation.
Businessmen complain about legislative and other attacks on aggressive profit seeking but then lamely go forth to slay the dragon with speeches that simply concede business’s function to be service. The critic quickly pounces on this admission with unconcealed relish – “Then why don’t you serve?”
But the fact is, no matter how much business “serves,” it will never be enough for its critics.
Boldness is Needed
If the all-out competitive prescription sounds austere or harsh, that is only because we persist in judging things in terms of Utopian standards. Altruism, self-denial, charity, and similar values are vital in certain walks of our life – areas which, because of that fact, are more important to the long-run future than business.
But for the most part those virtues are alien to competitive economics.
If it sounds callous to hold such a view, and suicidal to publicize it, that is only because business has done nothing to prepare the community to agree with it. There is only one way to do that: to perform at top ability and to speak vigorously for (not in defense of) what business does . . . .
No Knuckling Under to Criticism
In the end business has only two responsibilities – to obey the elementary canons of everyday face-to-face civility (honesty, good faith, and so on) and to seek material gain. The fact that it is the butt of demagogical critics is no reason for management to lose its nerve – to buckle under to reformers – lest more severe restrictions emerge to throttle business completely.
Few people will man the barricades against capitalism if it is a good provider, minds its own business, and supports government in the things which are properly government’s. Even today, most American critics want only to curb capitalism, not to destroy it. And curbing efforts will not destroy it if there is free and open discussion about its singular function.
To the extent that there is conflict, can it not be a good thing? Every book, every piece of history, even every religion testifies to the fact that conflict is and always has been the subject, origin, and life-blood of society. Struggle helps to keep us alive, to give élan to life.
We should try to make the most of it, not avoid it.
Lord Acton has said of the past that people sacrificed freedom by grasping at impossible justice. The contemporary school of business morality seems intent on adding its own caveat to that unhappy consequence. The gospel of tranquility is a soporific.
Instead of fighting for its survival by means of a series of strategic retreats masquerading as industrial statesmanship, business must fight as if it were at war.
And, like a good war, it should be fought gallantly, daringly, and, above all, not morally.
With regard to presentations, I deal with two large groups of people, and none of these people seems truly to want to become an especially powerful business presenter.
For sake of descriptive simplicity, let’s call these two groups “Natural Born” and “McTips!”
“Natural Born” and “McTips!” represent two extreme views of what it takes to become a powerful business presenter.
Neither is remotely accurate.
And neither group is what might be called enlightened in these matters. Members of both groups are frustrating and irritating in their own ways.
Here’s why . . .
We often look for folks to excuse us from what, deep down, we know we ought to do, or what we can do. If we look hard enough, we find what we search for, and excuses are extremely easy to find.
Let’s look at these two excuses that hold us back from fulfilling our potential as especially powerful business presenters.
The First View
The first view would have us believe that great speakers are born with some arcane and unfathomable gift, combining talent and natural stage facility. That Bill Clinton sprang from the womb declaiming that he feels our pain. That Malcolm X was simply blessed with eloquence and power. That Ronald Reagan was born orating on lower capital gains taxes.
If the first view holds that great speakers are born with a gift, then quite logically this view leaves the rest of us to strive with middling presentation skills. The plateau of presentation excellence is forever denied us.
Thus, it becomes an excuse for us not to persevere.
Why bother to try?
Why not, instead, hire some of these natural born speaker types to do the heavy presentation lifting? The rest of us can skate along and pretend that we’re not actually lazy . . . or frightened . . . or disinterested . . .
. . . or unambitious.
The Second View
The second view is the opposite of the first.
This “McTips!” perspective would have us believe that delivering effective presentations is a snap. So easy, in fact, that one of my colleagues assured me confidently and with not a little hubris that he could teach his undergraduates “everything they need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”
He also assured me that “all that other stuff you talk about is B.S.”
Has the presentation landscape eroded so much that what was once taught as a fine skill is now mass-produced in 30-minute quickie sessions of speaking “tips”?
I actually saw a headline on an article that offered 12 Tips to Become a Presentation God!
Have the expectations of the presentation become so unexceptional?
Have our senses become so numb that we must accept the lowest common denominator of presenting, the notion that adequate presentation skills can be served up in McDonald’s-style kid meals . . . “You want to super-size your speaking McTips?”
Perhaps they have, today, but in an earlier time, respect for the powerful business presenter was near-universal.
In the 1800s, public speaking was refined to an almost-art; “elocution” was the new science/art, and departments of elocution and public speaking flourished in universities throughout the land.
In Philadelphia, on Walnut Street in fact, the National School for Elocution and Oratory became a Mecca for would-be stars of the pulpit, the stage, the bar, and the political wars in the 1890s.
On into the first decades of next century, public speech was regarded with respect and a high-skill to be mastered with much study and practice.
The fact is that despite however much we might wish otherwise, today’s PowerPoint high-tech software multi-media offerings cannot change the fundamental truth that it is still you who must deliver the presentation.
So no . . . you cannot learn “everything you need to know about presenting in 30 minutes.”
You cannot become an especially powerful presenter at the fastfood drive-in window, unless you want to ply presenting at the lowest common denominator of mundane slide-readers that populate every business and law firm from New York to Nashville, from Boston to Baton Rouge, from Savannah to San Diego.
Ask yourself . . . if learning to deliver top-notch presentations is so doggoned easy, then why are 9 out of 10 presentations such awful forgettable bore-fests?
The Third View – The Power Zone
There is a third group, and it is destined to remain small.
This group is privy to the truth, and once you learn the truth about presenting, you can never go back to viewing presentations the same way. Consider this pop culture analogy from the 1999 film The Matrix.
In The Matrix, humans live in a world that is not what it seems. In fact, everything they believe about the world is false. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) offers to reveal the truth to Neo (Keanu Reeves) about his existence. Morpheus offers Neo a Blue Pill and a Red Pill. The Blue Pill returns him to his old state of ignorance.
The Red Pill reveals the secret, and once he learns it, Neo cannot return to his old life.
The process of presentation discovery is much like the red-pill/blue-pill choice that Morpheus offers to the young computer hacker Neo . . .
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Likewise, you can stop reading this article this instant – the blue pill – and return to the righteous and relaxing world of “Natural Born” or “McTips!” Both viewpoints allow the average presenter to remain mired in mediocrity with an excuse that sounds plausible.
An excuse not to become an especially powerful business presenter.
One perspective means you don’t try at all, other means you offer token effort as befits a low-level pedestrian task. So, if you decide to take the Blue Pill, close this site and go your own way. Bon voyage! I wish you a hearty good-luck and Godspeed, and perhaps you will be happier for your choice.
But if you are one of the few who thinks for a moment . . . “Hmm. What if the Professor is right?”
Become a Powerful Business Presenter
Then you can read on to the next brief paragraph – the red pill – and be forever shorn of the excuse for mediocrity. For the truth is in the Power Zone.
Once there, you’ll never be satisfied with your old presentation life again.
You cannot go back.
That’s the paradox, the Curse of Freedom. It is completely within your power to seize the fruits of great presenting. It’s your choice.
You can launch an auspicious presentation career right now, right this minute. Or you can dismiss this site as yet another fraudulent claim to revealing secrets to you . . . only to have it exposed as a method that requires you to actually do something.
A method that transforms you.
Choose the Red Pill. Step boldy into the Power Zone.
The Power Zone is the province of the privileged few who understand the truth that anyone can become an especially powerful business presenter . . . with the right kind of hard work and the willingness to become a great presenter.
To join this third group requires you to take on a new state of mind.
If you already carry this view, that’s superb. If you don’t . . . you can decide now to adopt it or forever be relegated to the other two groups – believing you’re not good enough to become a powerful business presenter, or believing you already are a powerful business presenter . . . when you’re actually not.
Public presentations – great presentations – require study and practice and preparation and technique. A deep philosophical, academic, and professional history undergirds public speaking. This history informs the very best presenters and their work.
You dismiss it only to your great loss.
No, you need not become a scholar of public speaking. In fact, few people have that deep an interest in the subject and even fewer can claim that kind of knowledge today.
But what you can and should do is this: Open your mind and heart to the possibilities of found treasure.
You actually can become a capable presenter. You can become a great presenter, who delivers especially powerful business presentations.
When you enter the Power Zone, you are both cursed and blessed with knowledge. This knowledge represents two sides of the same coin.
You are cursed with the knowledge that the only limitation you have is you. You are blessed with the knowledge that you can become a good – even great – speaker.
An especially powerful presenter.
Now, you have no other real excuse. It’s totally up to you.
For the ultimate guide to developing your personal brand as an especially powerful business presenter, CLICK HERE.
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 to your audience.
You can’t tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits. And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.
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?” Do you offer an unprofessional appearance to make a statement of some sort? If so, then you err grossly. You pay a dear price for so meager a prize.
That price comes in the form of losing competitive advantage to your peers. To your competitors, 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. Here is an example of how important professional appearance can be to an organization.
Professional Appearance for Credibility
You can’t cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence. A message that emerges from a powerful presence.
This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even 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 professional appearance and mesh their dress with their message.
Take President Barack Obama, for example. He’s 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. Most presidents are, because image consultants know the power of a professional appearance.
You want solid information and best practices, not generic “presentation principles” and certainly not “communication theory.”
You want to know what works and why. You want to know right from wrong, good from bad.
You want to know what is just opinion and what, if anything, is carved in stone.
Think of this place as your Official College Guide to Business School Presentations, because here you’ll find answers here to the most basic questions.
What is this beast – the business presentation?
How do I stand? Where do I stand?
What do I say? How do I say it?
How do I reduce 20 pages of analysis into a four-minute spiel that makes sense and that “gets it all in?”
How should we assemble a group presentation? How do we orchestrate it?Where do I begin, and how?
How do I end my talk?
What should I do with my hands?
How do I conquer nervousness once and for all?
How can I tell “what the professor wants?”
How do I translate complicated material, such as a spreadsheet, to a PowerPoint slide so that it communicates instead of bores?
Business School Presenting answers every one of these questions. It answers many more that you haven’t even thought of yet.
You may not like the answers. You may disagree with the answers.
Fair enough. Let a thousand presentation flowers bloom across the land. Listen, consider, pick and choose your pleasure.
2,500 Years of How to Give a Business Presentation
But you should know that I offer here the distillation of 2,500 years of public speaking and presentation secrets. Secrets developed by masters of oratory and public speaking and refined in the forge of experience.
Why Bother with How to Give a Business Presentation?
If you discovered that there was one thing – business presentation skill – you could learn that would immeasurably increase your chances of getting a great job after graduation, wouldn’t that be great?
What would you think of that? Too good to be true?
And what if you discovered that this skill is something that you can develop to an especially powerful level in just a handful of weeks?
What would that be worth to you? Would it be worth the price of a book to get you started?
Think of it – business presentation skills you can learn in 4-5 weeks that can provide you lasting competitive advantage through the rest of your working life. A skill that few people take seriously.
A skill in high demand by America’s corporations.
Companies haven’t nearly enough personnel who can communicate effectively. Nor logically. Comfortably. Clearly. Cogently. This is why corporate recruiters rate business presentation skills more important in candidates than any other trait or skill.
Capable business presenting is a high-demand skill.
This is the Secret Skill You Knew They Kept from You
The Secret Skill – the edge – you’ve always sought.
You, as a business student or young executive, gain personal competitive advantagevis-à-vis your peers, just by taking presenting seriously. You gain advantage by embracing the notion that you should and can become an effective and capable business presenter.
In other words, if you actually devote yourself to the task of becoming a superb speaker and learn how to give a business presentation with competence and confidence, you lift yourself into that rarefied 1 percent of business students and executives.
And the task is not as difficult as you imagine. But it isn’t easy, either.
You actually have to change the way you do things. This can be tough.
Most of us want solutions outside of ourselves. The availability of an incredible variety of software has inculcated in us a tendency to accept the way we are and to find solutions outside ourselves. Off the shelf. In a box.
This doesn’t work. Not at all. You cannot find the secret to great business presenting outside of yourself.
You already carry it with you.
But you will have to change.
But Great Business Presentation Skills Mean Change . . .
This is about transformation.
Transforming the way we think, the way we view the world. Transforming the lens through which we peer at others, the lens through which we see ourselves. Transforming you so that you know how to give a business presentation and deliver power and impact every time.
And it begins with your uniqueness. Each of us applies our own uniqueness to the tools and verities that make for great business presentations. We mark our presentations with our own personal brand.
Your realization of uniqueness and belief in it is essential to your development as a powerful business presenter.
Yes, you are unique, and in the quest for business presentation excellence, you discover the power of your uniqueness. You strip away the layers of modern mummification. You chip away at those crusty barnacles that have formed over the years without your even realizing it.
It’s time to express that unique power in ways that support you in whatever you want to do.
Explore the truths here on how to give a business presentation and begin today to energize your personal brand and gain personal competitive advantage.
Let’s move from the realm of what you do and say in front of your business presentation audience to how you appear to your audience . . . an important source of personal competitive advantage.
Your appearance can cultivate this advantage. So right now let’s dismiss the notion that “it doesn’t matter what I look like . . . it’s the message that counts.”
This is so wrong-headed and juvenile that you can turn this to immediate advantage. You can adopt the exact opposite perspective right now and steal a march on the competition. Most folks your age won’t go that route, particularly those stuck in liberal arts.
It’s much more dramatic to deliver a mythic blow for “individuality” than to conform to society’s diktats, eh?
Take the Smart Fork
Well, let those folks strike their blows while you spiff yourself up for your presentations. Present a superior appearance in both public and private job interviews to gain a personal competitive advantage.
Here is the upshot. Presentation appearance matters a great deal. It’s up to us to dress and groom appropriate to the occasion and appropriate to our personal brand and to the message we want to send.
“Slob cool” may fly in college – and I stress may. But it garners only contempt outside the friendly confines of the local student activities center and fraternity house.
Is that “fair?”
It’s fair for Personal Competitive Advantage
It certainly is fair! You may simply not like it. It may clang upon your youthful sensibilities.
But here’s the deal . . . You’re on display in front of a group of buyers. They want to know if your message is credible. Your appearance conveys cues to your audience. It can convey one of two chief messages, with little wiggle room between them.
First, your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are: Sharp, focused, detailed, careful, bold, competent, prudent, innovative, loyal, energetic . . .
Or . . .
Your appearance telegraphs to your audience that you are: Slow, sloppy, careless, inefficient, incompetent, weak, mercenary, stupid.
Moreover, you may never know when you are actually auditioning for your next job. So it pays to burnish your personal brand all the time to achieve the much-coveted personal competitive advantage.
That presentation you decided to “wing” with half-baked preparation and delivered in a wrinkled suit was awful. It might have held in the audience a human resource professional recommended to you by a friend. But you blew the deal. Without even knowing it.
Don’t Eliminate Yourself from Contention
How many powerful people mentally cross you off their list because of your haphazard appearance? How many opportunities pass you by? How many great connections do you forfeit?
Granted, it’s up to your discretion to dress in the first wrinkled shirt you pull from the laundry basket. But recognize that you may be paying a price without even knowing it.
Your appearance on the stage contributes or detracts from your message. So, as a general rule, you should dress one half-step above the audience to convey a seriousness of purpose.
For instance, if the audience is dressed in business casual (sports coat and tie), you dress in a suit. Simple.
Personal appearance overlaps into the area of personal branding, which is beyond the scope of this space, but two books I recommend to aid you in your quest for appearance enhancement are You, Inc. and The Brand Called You.
Both of these books are worth the price. They contain the right kind of advice to propel you into delivering Powerful Presentations enhanced by a superb professional appearance.