by Stanley K. Ridgley
One of the conundrums of business presenting is that it’s what is known in the parlance as a “soft skill.”
This moniker, whatever else it purports to mean, suggests that skill at business presenting is somehow “softer” than, say, accounting . . . and that therefore it needs much less attention or development.
Or that it’s somehow “easier.” That it’s something that can be “picked up along the way.”
This belief – and it’s out there, held by distressingly large numbers of folks – does incredible damage to the early careers of young people, who form a decidedly wrong impression of the craft of speaking publicly.
And it requires practice, just like any other discipline.
But invariably, the “soft skill” label moves it down the priority list of faculty and college administrators and, hence, of the students they serve.
I can quickly gauge the attention on business presenting at an institution by simply watching a cross-section of presentations. To be generous, student business presentations are usually lacking across a range of dimensions. They come across most often as pedestrian and workmanlike. Many are quite bad.
But this is not to say that they are worse than what passes for presenting in the corporate world. They are, frankly, usually as good – or as bad – as what is dished out in the “real world.”
The Great Embarrassment
The great embarrassment is that the majority of business students have untapped potential for becoming competent and especially powerful business presenters, but never realize that potential.
Some students pass through the business school funnel with only cursory attention to presentation skills. Perhaps I’m too demanding, and the degree of attention I’d like to see just isn’t possible. But . . .
But the craft of presenting needs only the proper focus and priority to transform young people into quite capable and competent presenters
And some institutions get it right.
I’m blessed to serve an institution that takes presenting seriously and whose winning results in case competitions demonstrates this commitment to preparing business students to excel in the most-demanded skill that corporate recruiters seek. A coterie of professors, particularly in finance, have recognized the power bestowed by sharp presentation skills, and so emphasize their acquisition far beyond the norm in most schools.
Administrators, too, insist that students pass through rigorous workshops that inculcate in students the presenting skills to last a business lifetime.
Especially Powerful Results
Merely by virtue of exposure to the proper techniques, students gain tremendous personal career advantage. And by elevating business presenting to a level commensurate with the sub-disciplines of, say, marketing, operations, or risk management, B-Schools can imbue their students and faculty with the appropriate reverence for the presentation enterprise.
One result of this is the creation of young executives who tower over their peers in terms of presenting skills. And especially powerful presentation skills are in high demand by corporate recruiters.
And so, back to the original contention of folks who wonder what could one possibly write about in a “business presenting blog” . . . just as there is much to be learned, it means there is much to write about.
There is much to be distilled from 2500 years of recorded presentation wisdom.
The wisdom is there . . . it remains for us to seize it and make it our own for enhanced personal competitive advantage.
© 2013, Stanley K. Ridgley. Reprinted with permission.
For more on especially powerful business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.
About Stanley K. Ridgley
Stanley K. Ridgley, PhD is one of the country’s foremost experts on delivering Business School Presentations and is the author of the award-winning 2012 book, “The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.” He is also the faculty instructor for the course “Strategic Thinking” in the DVD series TheGreatCourses.com. Dr. Ridgley brings to bear the most powerful instructional techniques from one of America’s great business schools and combines them with the lessons of military leadership and high strategy learned on the front lines of the Cold War as a Military Intelligence Officer.
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