Ten Positive Actions Make for a Powerful Presentation

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Ten Positive Actions Make For A Powerful Presentation on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

If I were to ask you if you’ve ever heard a presenter say, “What we’re not is…”? I expect that your answer would be, “Sure!” I would also expect—more likely than not—that you would have left that presentation without a clear idea about what that company did.

The tendency to define terms—companies—products—services—by what they are not has become a chronic and pervasive factor in business communications. A likely reason for this trend is the need to differentiate in an increasingly competitive and crowded business world; to set one’s products or services apart from other players in the sector.

Nowhere is this competitiveness more apparent than in the political world. Last year, we went through one of the most negative election campaigns on record, and it left our already-polarized nation more polarized than when it started. In that ferocious world, the negative went far beyond differentiation straight into attack mode. All of which left our country divided into separate armed camps, bristling with antagonism at the other side.

Last week, that dark cloud was pierced by a positive ray of sunshine. Ironically, the beam was lit by a man whose primary career was as a fierce warrior engaged in mortal combat. William McRaven was a United States Navy admiral and SEAL team member who commanded the United States Special Operations Command that is credited with leading the hunt and kill of Osama Bin Laden.

After he retired from the service two years ago, Mr. McRaven became the chancellor of The University of Texas System. Just before his retirement, he gave a commencement address at the University of Texas that the Wall Street Journal called “the most successful college graduation speech in history.”

The speech has had nearly four and a half million views on YouTube, was released last week in book form called, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, and immediately jumped to number one bestseller on Amazon.

The structure of Mr. McRaven’s speech and short (144 pages) book is exquisitely simple: 10 positive actions with use cases to illustrate each. Rather than attempt to summarize the author’s superb, smart, and succinct ideas, I will let you see the speech or read the book for yourself, but I will point out that every one of those 10 actions is a positive message that can, as the book’s title states, “change your life…and maybe the world.” Best of all, none of the 10 relies on the usual self-help tropes known as the Three Gs: Gimmickry, Goop, and God.

I will also point out that each of the 10 is about personal responsibility. And when you think about it—really think about it—all that counts is one’s own responsibility—not negating, blaming, or attacking others.

It’s all about you.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Ten Positive Actions Make For A Powerful Presentation on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.