Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

Archive for September, 2008

Are You the Authority?

Posted by Presentation Skills on September 25, 2008

You are speaking to a prospective client. You are making your pitch for business. As part of your presentation you quote some figures to support your argument. The question is, ‘Do you quote the source of the figures or do you leave that bit out?’

What is the answer? Well that all depends. What are you trying to achieve? Are you setting yourself up as the expert or are you after another authority to back your argument.

Today I was working with Peter as he prepared his sales pitch for new business. He is an expert in trading commodities (iron, oil, wheat etc). During his presentation he said,

‘BHP tells us that in the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

So should you quote the figures as coming from BHP or leave them off?

What is the effect of quoting BHP in the figures? Quoting BHP as the source will set them up as the expert. They will be the people with the information and you will be seen as ‘the messanger’ that knows the information. This puts you in a subordinate role and not the true authority.

To overcome this, we changed the sentence to read,

‘In the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

The difference is subtle, but profound. Without the reference to BHP, Peter became the expert. He was no longer playing a subordinate role to BHP. Peter was now the one to be listened too and the centre of authority. If he is pressed on where the figures come from, he could state that the figures come from BHP. This would act to further reinforce his position.

Should this be the tactic that you use all the time? Certinally not. Once you have set yourself up as the expert, you can use other authorities to support your position. By using other authorities to support your stance as an authority you are strengthening your position. However, if you do it the other way around, you will be seen as trying to achieve your authority by riding on the coat tails of others.

What if you are not an expert at what you are trying to argue? What do you do then?

This is where you can draw on other authorities to establish your credibility (as opposed to authority). By stating what you believe and then having others support your position you gain vicarious authority. Alternatively, you can state how others support what you are saying. This authority will never be as strong as setting yourself up as ‘the’ authority, but it will be better than having no authority at all.

Do you agree?



Speak Motivate and Lead: How Real Leaders inspire others to follow



Posted in Politics and speaking, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

No Thank You

Posted by Presentation Skills on September 18, 2008

Should you open a presentation, a sales pitch or training session with, ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Thanks for coming along’?

When you stand to speak (or are seated at a team meeting) you need to grab your audiences attention right from Word Won. This means that you have to be giving them information, setting the scene or otherwise involving them in your presentation right from the first word. You have very little time to get and keep their attention. Don’t waste it!

But I hear you say, ‘People do not make judgments that quickly!’

Yes they do! Just watch someone channel surfing in front of the TV. Within a few seconds they have moved on to something else. Your audience will do the same mentally to you, so don’t waste anytime.

There is also another reason why you don’t want to start with ‘Good morning’ or something else as pointless. When you say ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Thank you’ you are putting the focus on you, and not your audience. It is about you giving the audience something and – in social terms – you are asking for something in return (them to say Good morning to you). And 9 times out of 10, the audience wont say anything, so they are not giving back and the relationship is broken before it begins.

I am not advocating losing all social niceties!

You can say Good morning to your audience once you have set the scene. Once you have them wanting to listen to what you have to say, you can greet them and go through the pleasantries if you must. When you do this, it will mean more to the audience and they will keep listening after it! This is what you want.

So don’t waste the start of your next presentation. Start with a bang and leave the salutations for later.



You liked this tip? There are many more great points like this in my latest book, Speak Motivate and Lead.

Posted in presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

What’s your first word?

Posted by Presentation Skills on September 16, 2008

What is the first word you say when you speak? Is it …Ummm… …Errr… or ‘Well…’ How does this make you look and sound?

The first word you utter sets the tone for how people will understand and respect your message. Are you being powerful, persuasive or pointless?

Powerful words have a reason to be said. They help convey your message in a way that adds value. They give direction to what you are saying and where you are going. They are often short words in short sentences.

Similarly, persuasive words give a direction as to where your message is going. They invite your listeners along on the journey. Often they are words that have emotional attachments to them.

Pointless words kill your presentation. They should be avoided at all costs. What are pointless words/phrases? They include:

  • Um, er and Arr
  • Oh
  • I
  • Me
  • Welcome
  • Thank you
  • Hello (except when greeting in a one-on-one situation)
  • What we are going to look at…
  • I’d like to tell you…
  • Can I ask you a question about…

When you start any message with these type of words, you will lose your power and the respect of your audience. Your message will be diluted and you and your audience wont even know why or how it happened.

Now it’s your turn to listen. For the next two days, listen to the first word people say when they are speaking. This can be on the ‘phone, in a meeting, or in the coffee room. Count how many pointless words you hear and see how it affects your feeling of their message. Then compare that to the powerful or persuasive words that others use.

Let me know how you go.



Speak Motivate and Lead: How Real Leaders inspire others to follow

Posted in nervousness, public speaking, public speaking tips | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »