Are you giving a presentation to a business audience any time soon? If so I recommend you take command of the stage.

What does that mean? It is easier to explain in the context of a rock concert. The best example I know of was when James Brown took the stage in a concert right before the Rolling Stones.

You can read about it in this New Yorker article: The Possessed: James Brown in Eighteen Minutes. It is the story of a Teenage Awards Music International concert that took place 50 years ago. As you will see, James was not happy that the Rolling Stones were the closing act.

“Nobody follows James Brown!” he kept telling the show’s director, Steve Binder. Mick Jagger himself was hesitant. He and Keith Richards were boys from Kent with an unusual obsession with American blues. They knew what Brown could do. In Santa Monica, they watched him from the wings, just twenty feet away, and, as they did, they grew sick with anxiety.

Watch the video and you will see why the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards grew sick with anxiety. James Brown clearly took command of the stage.

Ok, other than my admiration of James Brown and my feeling that the 18 minutes he was on stage that night may have been among his best, what can you learn from his performance and how can you take command of the stage?

If you are a regular reader, you likely have read some of my presentation ideas before. Here’s how I recommend you take command of the stage.

  1. Present with high energy. (I always listened to Tina Turner just prior to going on stage.)
  2. Start and finish strong. If any part of your presentation is boring put it in the middle.
  3. Never stand behind the podium. You don’t want anything between you and your audience.
  4. Make Your Presentation Unique. If you are one of many presenters and everyone else has slides, consider giving your presentation with no slides. If their slides have lots of words, make sure yours have few or none.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice. I feel certain James Brown rehearsed again and again. Have someone watch you practice. Have someone shoot video of you practicing. Look at your facial expressions. Look at what you are doing with your hands.

Look, I know you and I will never match James Brown, and I know that a legal presentation will never generate the audience response that a rock star receives. But, that does not give us a license to bore an audience.