The Self-Development Lab


“Rotman may well have the most far-reaching personal development initiative of any MBA program in the world.”

– John Byrne, Editor-in-Chief, Poets & Quants, Founding Editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek MBA Rankings

I had my first experience with the SDL today, and it boy did it BLOW MY MIND.The insights we got from Maja Djikic, Associate Professor & Director, SDL were phenomenal to say the least.

We had our first presentation last week in the subject Business Ethics and every class is equipped with a motion detection camera that records each session. The video was played to us in front of our group of 5 and we were given pointers as to how to improve our presentation skills. I’ll adopt a first person tone for better effect:

  1. Don’t make your presentations like a script. It’s good to have a script but when you begin to present, you ‘interact’ with your audience, the script only exists for you to fall back on IF you forget what you wanted to say
  2. Be sure to look at everybody, and that means all sides of the setting, not at just one part of the crowd.
  3. When presenting as a team, the other team members should be looking at the speaker. And not just in a normal when-is-my-turn-gonna-come kinda way but like they’re saying the most fascinating things in the world. If you look at the audience, chances are you’re going to make eye contact with a few and distract them. If you look down, you obviously seem disinterested
  4. With slides – it’s always better to animate. Not gaudily. But the purpose animation serves is to regulate content. At any given point in time, you try to limit the amount of content that appears on a slide. This is because audiences have limited information processing capacity especially while listening to you. They’re going to tune out and just try to read the heavily worded slides. You don’t want that now do you?
  5. You’re in control of your audiences’ cognitive process, you’re directing it. So when you’re speaking about a particular bullet on your slide, point to it with your hand, briefly look at it, so your viewers do, and then look back and regain eye contact. Keep them under this hypnotism.
  6. Pill of Truth: You are not connecting with the audience. You are merely looking at them to engage their interests to tweak your speed/tone/content/delivery accordingly
  7. Don’t stand behind the podium. Not unless you’re reading out notes. Come in front, engage. Even if you stand on the podium, don’t lean on it.
  8. Body cues: Feet close together, facing the front. Most people who’re nervous go for the good guy pose which is essentially keeping your feet like a V. Avoid that.
  9. Then there are those who adopt the bouncers pose, often called the Power Pose. This though is a common misnomer. It isn’t so much the power pose as it is a THREAT pose. Because when you’re standing hands held below your abdomen, it’s got the shortest reaction time for you to immediately switch like an athlete with spread feet and get into a tackle in the event of a threat.
  10. Now for the most important part – your hands. Hands say a lot. When people are trying to digest complex concepts, they usually sit on their hands. Make sure your hands aren’t below your hip, as your hands are supposed to direct the viewer’s gaze. You don’t want them to be staring at your crotch. Hands above the chest or close to the heart are usually reserved for something really emotional. So keep it in between. A box that is parallel to your abdomen.
  11. Some people put one hand in their pockets and just wave with another. The problem with this is that it isn’t really gesturing so much as it random waving – there is only so much you can do with one free hand. Another commonly noticed feature is the dead clicker hand – when you’re holding the clicker and so all you use that hand for is clicking the button to transition slides.
  12. While waiting, it’s ok to be at ease, hands held behind, or in your pockets, but don’t sway. Don’t click your knuckles or look around. Be enamored in what you’re team member is speaking about.
  13. Putting your hands in your pockets while speaking conveys a sense of casualness. Think of how CEOs have their hands in their pockets when they say something like they’re going to fire someone. It’s because they don’t care. Now unless that’s the impression you want to convey, never put your hands in your pockets while addressing an audience. Men often put their hands inside their pockets because they feel anxious but want to look relaxed. It almost always never succeeds.
  14. Movement: Movement is crucial because even a little bit of movement can indicate doubt in the minds of viewers. You need stand like a tree trunk. Stable roots, strong bark and branches that are flexible. The branches are your hands. What ‘stable roots’ also means is that you stand on two legs, not balancing yourself on one and sway.

All of this said and done, use it to rehearse but when you go into present, park them. Forget about them. From then on, it ceases being about you anymore.

The reason these are all probably more important than your content itself is because of this – Your audience may not even know you’re weird or aggressive or nervous or not confident but they’re feeling it. Subconsciously. At a subliminal level. It’s why so many people say they prefer the other person but are unable to say why. It’s because he got his visual cues right. So go and fine tune yours. And Thank Maja when you’re at Rotman.



Yours truly in action making a joke. It did not go down too well with a few. A separate post about that later…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s