Establishing Executive Presence

Dedline's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,940

Greetings Monkeys;

Starting a Certified User Thread to find out from those who are established in their career to share perspective on Establishing Executive Presence.

As an example, I am in a new role where I am to convey our firm's point of view on the state of the industry to C-Level executives. In my previous role, my presentations were either solution sales or technical deep dives to educate mass audiences. In a solution sales presentation, you've got to make the technical sizzle and there's a distinct climax during the presentation. For technical deep dives, it's all about structuring a lecture and making sure that you've got all line of questions covered. The persona for solutions sales is all about character. The persona for technical deep dives is academic in nature.

But for "Establishing Executive Presence", how do you go about developing this persona? How would you go about refining this polish? What intangibles do you consider important?

Aspects of my presentation style that I've started to work on during presentations:

  • Cadence -- Working on slowing down my speech, taking strategic pauses. I spend a lot more time on speech preparation now because I now need that extra monitor on slowing down, breathing and pausing. I'll have to continue to do this until it becomes second nature.
  • Style -- No longer selling or lecturing, but now leading an open-dialog while conveying "thought-leadership". This format was very difficult for me to understand because I've always viewed it as bullshit, but you're trying to condense a macro-company story into 30 minutes while tailoring it to relevance. The hardest part is the open-dialogue, but I'm working on a strategy on how to perfectly position pauses to evoke engagement.

General Executive Presence:

  • Where early in your career you were best to suppress your personality, it's advantageous at this level to start pushing a measured amount of personality to set culture without being overly polarizing.

So when left to your own devices to sharpen this character, what do you think matters and how do you go about polishing that attribute?

Comments (41)

Apr 2, 2018

Monday morning bump. Common CU's!

Apr 2, 2018

This is going to be a difficult one to answer. A lot of the certified users here have terrific information and experience, but far fewer are polished executives. On that note, a lot of executives I've met have shit executive presence, so if we had a collection of them it wouldn't even guarantee good advice.

What I will say is that I'm right there with you on recognizing the need for improvement yet neither having a clear assessment on what needs to change or a clear path to achieve personal growth. Just last week I paid $150 or whatever for Victor Cheng's "Gravitas" program just on the off chance it would offer insight. I can always report back once I make my way through it.

    • 2
Apr 2, 2018

Great point @CRE

I agree with you: There really have only been a few executives that I have found truly impressive. From those executives, I've logged attributes which made them a cut above. Those attributes are what I'm trying to source. You don't have to be a polished executive to have an opinion on what makes the world-class ones a cut above.

An example of an attribute I'd like to highlight: seamless handling of questions from an audience. I've recognized two unique styles:

  1. Masterful question deflection: Laud the question-asker for asking such a fantastic question, acknowledge and then, restate the question in the form of a question that you'd prefer to answer. Tell a compelling story that lasts long enough to where the question-asker wouldn't burden the presenter / audience by re-clarifying his initial question, and you're out. Truly impressive presenters can tell a story that's so close to the actual question asked and so compelling, that the question-asker is left either dazzled & doesn't care about his initial question, OR is left in this twilight-zone thinking that maybe his question was answered and needs to search for internal meaning to said answer (because he/she is the executive, after all).
  2. Technical Thought Leader: Laud the question-asker for asking such a fantastic question, restate the question, and then nose-dive deep into the topic citing industry and technical fundamentals which will either scare the question-asker shitless, or he/she will nod knowing that presenter is for real / anointed in the domain. Once the presenter has this confirmation, abstract the conversation up a few levels and tie it back to lay man business bullshit to reconnect with the whole crowd.

Please let me know how that "Gravitas" program is. Victor is well regarding in the consulting community and his content is solid. Curious to see what you think of the product!

    • 5
Apr 2, 2018

There is something similar to Dedline's point #1 that doesn't fully answer the question because you rely on the world being smart enough to figure it out. Not deflecting, more giving the impression that the fine details don't matter as much as the ability to deliver results. Someone (executive) is responsible for delivering results and someone (peon) is responsible for running around chasing down decimal points. You want to gravitate from one to another.

  • While someone might quote all sorts of ROI #'s, a pro would say; yea, that's about right but I can squeeze another point or two out of it.
  • Someone says; the purchase price is blah, blah and blah based on X,Y,Z valuation. A pro says; That's still too much for this business and these assets.
  • Someone says; it's a fair price because of XYZ equations; a pro says; That's irrelevant, the other parties need to contribute more.
  • "If you want, I can do that math on that but can't we get someone else to do it and we can focus on something more important?"

Stuff like that helps. Not the full solution but you get the gist.

    • 4
Apr 2, 2018

I'm still honing my leadership presence as well, but have improved quite a bit in the past few years. A few concepts/actions that have helped me:

  1. The most powerful person in the room has the most relaxed breathing pattern. Forgot where I heard this one, but it is a simple shortcut to leadership presence.
  2. Know your material backwards and forward. Obvious, but its easy to get lazy.
  3. Toastmasters is a great way to practice presentation skills. Low stakes and you can get a lot of reps in. Cliche maybe, but there is a reason everyone knows about this organization, it works.
    • 2
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Apr 3, 2018

Make your words carry weight. Only speak when you have something meaningful to say. Talk slowly, clearly, and with a lower register

In a group setting, be the last to speak, after you've not only heard what everyone else has to say, but processed it as well

Be confident and assertive. Be knowledgeable about the big picture and trends affecting the business and industry. Be nice to the secretaries

Don't pick fights and arguments with people. Be tactful, polished, and diplomatic, but still have strong substantiated views

Last but certainly not least, Act As If

    • 2
Best Response
Apr 3, 2018

I think everything that has been said is right on the money, especially @Going Concern , but I would add a few things I've observed from our CEO:

1) Make everything about the company and the big picture in the verbiage you use - say "we" and "us" - it exudes leadership... like "do we really want to consider building in a market with so much new supply"? Instead of saying "I think", or "I feel", say, "my sense is"... like "My sense is that your assumptions are excessive and this deal could hurt us".

2) Ask smart questions - the kind that no one thinks to ask but everyone wants to know the answer to. Although I guess if you're smart enough to think of the tough questions to ask, you're probably already an executive.

3) Have a personality. Don't be Mr. No-Name - develop a sense of humor (no stupid jokes) and distinct personality to stand out from the crowd.

4) Use people's names while talking to them. I know this is ancient advice from Dale Carnegie, but I think it still works today. "That looks good, John, but...".

Awesome discussion topic!

    • 11
    • 1
Apr 3, 2018

Clicked the MS button by accident when I meant SB, sorry. These are all solid points

    • 2
Apr 9, 2018

Those are all excellent! "Judge a man not by his answers, but by his questions" the old saying goes.

"How to Win Friends..." really is full of wisdom.

Apr 10, 2018

How to Win Friends is a great book, and I agree with everything but #4. I have no idea why, and I believe I'm the exception, but when people say my name during conversation I instantly distrust them... So weird I know, but it's a pet peeve of mine.

"I ain't Mike Jones keep my name out'cha mouth"

    • 1
Apr 10, 2018
itsanumbersgame:

How to Win Friends is a great book, and I agree with everything but #4. I have no idea why, and I believe I'm the exception, but when people say my name during conversation I instantly distrust them... So weird I know, but it's a pet peeve of mine.

"I ain't Mike Jones keep my name out'cha mouth"

Hahahahaha completely agree. Don't be dropping my name like you know me.

    • 1
Apr 11, 2018

Perhaps it's a very fine art which requires experience and tact.
Do it properly and you get at the heart and mind of the listener, no doubt.
Do it badly (e.g. using the name as filler of your pauses) and you sound as a sales rep.
Compare
"John, that's a good point but ..."
With
"Well... John, that's a good point but ..."
I hope I've expressed effectively the idea -the sense is to use the name to grab the attention, not to show simply that you know the name of the guy you're talking to. Hence, if the name is strategically placed in the right spot of the sentence (e.g beginning, end) contributes to the weight of your words. If somewhere it just sounds unnatural.

    • 2
Apr 3, 2018

my batting average isn't 100%, but I've presented to executives many times before. coupla rambling thoughts

  • cadence is key, if you slow down, you'll naturally cut out umms and ahhs. also, your voice will naturally drop in tone, and deeper voices carry more weight as GC said
  • silence is powerful, use it
  • unless it's deliberate, avoid the word BUT. it cancels out whatever you just said, so use it for impact, but sparingly
  • the thought leadership is important, I've said it 100x before, you need to take complex concepts and distill them into laymans terms. I don't go through the math of our retirement modelling nor do I go through the details of how we select managers. this isn't food network, I don't care how the sauce is made, I just want to know how it's going to taste and why it's appropriate for me.
  • however, this is a delicate balance, you don't want to totally gloss over the details, that makes it seem like you're hiding something. these execs aren't stupid, they just don't know your jargon. hit them with the key point, unpack it a little bit, and continue.
  • practice in front of a mirror. your nonverbals probably could use some work (everyone's can). do you talk with your hands too much? are you a robot? do you slouch? do you leave your mouth open when you're not speaking? is your head tilted? are you scowling? are you overly happy looking? as much as I hate his politics, barack obama is one of the best orators of our time. look at his youtube videos on mute. only pay attention to the nonverbals, mimic this as best you can.
  • the other thing I'll do when I'm giving educational type speeches is the "tell 'em sandwich." it helps you stay organized. it goes like this:
  1. tell em what you're gonna tell em
  2. tell em
  3. tell em what you told em
  • this may sound hokey, but it works. if there's a unique stat, poll the audience. say I'm giving a talk on the retirement crisis in America. I might say something like "raise your hand if you think the average 65 year old American has $50,000 or more saved...now keep your hand up if you think it's at least $100,000..." and so on. even if you're obama, you need to break up the dialogue with something, whether that's a question or something else, you need to do it. if you do a question, structure it so that when they get it wrong, they don't get pissed that they're wrong, they go "ooooooh" and want to lean in to listen more.
  • another thing I've seen at executive conferences or when there's a big room (say more than a dozen people) is RF clickers for poll questions. similar concept here, just more efficient for bigger crowds.
  • move. even if you have a podium, you should not be reading from that. regardless of if you're in a conference room for 10, an auditorium for 1,000, or somewhere in between, do not be a statue. move around as best you can, enough to garner interest, not enough to distract.
  • a common mistake I've seen is people pausing in the middle for questions (like having a PPT slide halfway through for Q&A), rookie mistake. I've seen conversations get derailed far too many times. if someone has an urgent question, take it, answer it if easy, if not, say we'll come back to it, and write it down. if you take Q&A midway through and someone's question derails the conversation, either you'll piss them off by skipping what's important to them, or you'll piss off everyone else for focusing on one person's question. you don't want mark baum in the big short, you can save that shit for later.

I may think of more, but no bad advice in here so far

@WallStreetOasis.com Patrick, great job on the CU-discussion idea, kudos bro.

    • 8
Apr 3, 2018

like most great things on WSO, wasn't my idea - thanks @APAE :-)

    • 2
Apr 3, 2018

Damn. A great leader is somebody who accepts all the blame and shares all the credit.

Patrick, you are one of the most responsive site owners I've ever come across. Keep being awesome.

    • 3
Apr 4, 2018

From the perspective of a far less tenured employee, these are all attributes of people I respect and hope to possess myself one day.

Apr 4, 2018

Movement is a huge one, when you read from the podium it exhausts the audience and attention spans will drop off like flies.

Great post.

Apr 3, 2018

1) Be able to take ownership.
2) Make things as simple as they can be, but not simpler.

Apr 3, 2018

Some really strong suggestions here.

A couple of mine are below.

I think of executive presence as going dramatically beyond simple public speaking skills. It's a set of traits that inspire other people to follow your lead. That should hold true whether you're talking for two minutes in an informal chat, for ten minutes as part of a formal boardroom conversation, for an hour as a keynote or fireside chat at an event, or just giving someone pointers on a daily task.

1) Know your audience.

This takes two forms.

One, always keep in mind who you're speaking to. The way you talk to your board members is different than the way you talk to your secretaries which is different than the way you talk to guys from your analyst class you're catching up with.

Think of the axes of respect, respectability, and familiarity. Visualize them as slider scales on a DJ board. For whoever you're talking to, do you have those three sliders toggled to the right place?

If you treat someone too deferentially (respect slider is too high), they probably think they have more power over you. If you treat someone not deferentially enough, they think you're arrogant. The trick is figuring out who that person is and the appropriate measure of deference to display.

(Amusingly, this also varies by situation. In the hedge fund space, for instance, you'd get laughed about behind closed doors if in an investment pitch you act with the same level of decorum as is necessary to not get talked down about in private equity.)

Respectability you can basically think of as manners or presentability. Your pledge brothers are going to laugh at a joke that's halfway off-color. Your secretary may feel uncomfortable overhearing it, even though she may never mention it (duh, there's a power imbalance).

Even if your board is full of cool people who you get along with great outside of work, if you're profane in front of them, that's a mistake. They are always evaluating you as an extension of the firm; they want to know you're always going to put the best light on the brand you all share. In this political climate, it's also always safe to assume that your respectability slider needs to be higher in front of women, no matter their seniority relative to you. Don't do something dumb that can bite you in the ass.

Familiarity is how collegial you can be with someone. I remember a story about Hank Paulson being irked at Sarah Palin for going straight to using his given name (he's born Henry but known as Hank) without ever having met him. (Couldn't find the longer article, here's a shorter one.) Some people require that you treat them with a different level of familiarity than you may default to. As an interesting wrinkle, some situations require that you treat someone with a different level of familiarity than you normally treat that very same person in normal circumstances.

In short, always think of these three levers when you're talking to someone and adjust your behavior accordingly.

Two, do the research. There is absolutely no excuse in this day and age for not knowing what's on the first two or three pages of Google about someone. It takes 10 minutes max. Scan their LinkedIn, read whatever things are mentioned about the philanthropies they're involved with, see if you can read anything their alumni magazine may have mentioned about them, look for news articles mentioning deals they did ... the usual.

You do not want to creep someone out by immediately rattling off everything you know about them right when you meet them. You can, however, manipulate people (in a positive way) by mentioning things that you know you have some commonality on without referring to the research you did. Or, you can selectively mention that you did see something about them and then mention whatever you want to about yourself to spark the conversation.

Also, having a body of knowledge on someone in advance can save you both time and pain. Time in that if you read everything about someone's asset allocation strategy, for instance, before your first meeting, you can look smart when they ask "So, what do you know about us" by rattling off a concise recap of what they do. They'll think you're really well-informed, plus you save yourself from listening to some windbag drone on for eight minutes about his firm. Pain in the sense that if you discover something someone cares about a ton, you can avoid unknowingly stepping on a landmine by accident.

2) Master the mechanics.

Speak in shorter sentences; it gives the impression you know your stuff cold.

It's okay to take pauses; it demonstrates mastery and the fact that you're not nervous.

If you're standing in front of a group, don't look like a robot; move around. There's all kinds of cool research that shows if you have a list of points to make, taking a distinctive step to a new spot when you introduce a new point helps people remember all the points better (the visual delineation signals newness to their brain).

All the stuff like this is discoverable online. People are also giving tips in this thread.

3) Make people feel noticed.

Remember people's names and use them when answering their questions or saying goodbye at the end of meetings.

Give gifts.

It costs $20 to get a small pack of gourmet chocolate or something else small. If you give that to the secretary of a guy whose office you're in twice a month for three months while banging out a deal, she is going to absolutely love you, make sure you reach him on the phone whenever you need it, get scheduled in earlier rather than later, and will sing your praises to him without him even asking about you.

When you close a deal, get all the people involved a real bottle of something decent. Your budget will vary based on your seniority, but if you're post-MBA and making over half a buck a year, there is zero reason you can't spend a couple thousand on real wine or whiskey that you package up nicely and send to your counterpart at the fund you bought from or sold to, the lawyer that managed the deal, and anyone else who spent dozens of hours laboring on the deal too.

Be a real person.

Show what matters to you. I'm not saying you need to go all Leonidas and scream what you're thinking at people. I am saying that it's good if people know you care a ton about college football and have gone to your rivalry game for the past eight years running, or that you're a marathoner, or that you like to hunt and have a big game trip in Africa coming up. It lets people relate to you, ask questions that you demonstrate real interest in answering, and helps you look like a human with a personality.

///

In summary, you need to look like someone worth following. You can do that most easily by being someone worth following, and that's a non-trivial endeavor. It requires a rewiring of your brain. I mean it. There is so much social programming around making people more conforming and more docile. This isn't too say you need to transform into some kind of chest-beating neanderthal, it's to say that you'll notice you start to stand out a bit when you develop a habit of taking initiative, going the extra mile, putting in that extra bit of effort, doing the things fewer people do.

Turns out this brings manifold returns in all arenas of your life. You become more likable, more date-able, more welcome at social gatherings, more a center of attention, and generally better thought of.

Amazing to see @thebrofessor back. Great thread idea, @Dedline. I've noticed that things go way better when you tag as many users as you can, it helps get the ball rolling.

@AmoryBlaine / @Layne Staley / @Frieds / @dcrowoar / @hominem / @Whiskey5 / @Disjoint / @TippyTop11 / @Simple As... / @TorontoMonkey1328 / @BobTheBaker / @Frank Slaughtery / @SSits / @Dingdong08

    • 10
Apr 3, 2018
APAE:

Think of the axes of respect, respectability, and familiarity. Visualize them as slider scales on a DJ board. For whoever you're talking to, do you have those three sliders toggled to the right place?

If you treat someone too deferentially (respect slider is too high), they probably think they have more power over you. If you treat someone not deferentially enough, they think you're arrogant. The trick is figuring out who that person is and the appropriate measure of deference to display.

(Amusingly, this also varies by situation. In the hedge fund space, for instance, you'd get laughed about behind closed doors if in an investment pitch you act with the same level of decorum as is necessary to not get talked down about in private equity.)

Respectability you can basically think of as manners or presentability. Your pledge brothers are going to laugh at a joke that's halfway off-color. Your secretary may feel uncomfortable overhearing it, even though she may never mention it (duh, there's a power imbalance).

Even if your board is full of cool people who you get along with great outside of work, if you're profane in front of them, that's a mistake. They are always evaluating you as an extension of the firm; they want to know you're always going to put the best light on the brand you all share. In this political climate, it's also always safe to assume that your respectability slider needs to be higher in front of women, no matter their seniority relative to you. Don't do something dumb that can bite you in the ass.

Familiarity is how collegial you can be with someone. I remember a story about Hank Paulson being irked at Sarah Palin for going straight to using his given name (he's born Henry but known as Hank) without ever having met him. (Couldn't find the longer article, here's a shorter one.) Some people require that you treat them with a different level of familiarity than you may default to. As an interesting wrinkle, some situations require that you treat someone with a different level of familiarity than you normally treat that very same person in normal circumstances.

In short, always think of these three levers when you're talking to someone and adjust your behavior accordingly.

Very interesting idea here. Did you come up with this on your own?

    • 3
Apr 4, 2018

deleted

    • 2
Apr 4, 2018
Going Concern:

Very interesting idea here. Did you come up with this on your own?

Yes, I did. Thanks for the kind words. I took ninety seconds before beginning my reply to think through the rudimentary heuristic I rely on when monitoring my demeanor toward other people. This was the best I could codify it on the fly, and I wrote it here.

To your other comment, I simply don't have the time to go through an exercise like that unfortunately. I wasn't envisioning it as a scale of 1-3, but rather of 1-10.

You aren't going to be able to perfectly match the 'right' level of respect / respectability / familiarity for the person(s) you're interacting with 100% of the time, but ideally you're never more than two points away from the correct value.

e.g. Think of someone who ought to be getting a 9 in 'respect' and an 7 in 'familiarity' (e.g. a Managing Director at an investment bank who is a family friend of a kid doing a summer analyst stint, who got the kid the job, and made sure the kid wound up in his group). A bad interaction would be where the kid gets 'respect' correct and dials it up to 10, but goes with a 'familiarity' of 2. He freezes, is unnecessarily stiff or formal, and the MD ends up wondering why a kid who he's handed beers to as a teenager on a shared summer multi-family vacation is now such a mouthbreather once he puts a shirt and tie on.

Conversely, if someone who merits a 'respectability' value of 6 and a 'familiarity' value of 4 (e.g. the average professional contact of any mid-career finance professional on this site) receives a 'respectability' value of 7 and a 'familiarity' value of 2, none of the conduct or treatment he receives from you is going to seem too unexpected or unfitting.

It's the accuracy versus precision thing. If the right answer for the TEV of a company is $520m, which answer do you want, "about half a billion" or "$278,936,580"? Obviously the former. It's imprecise, but it's way more accurate. So also here. You don't have to perfectly match the right answer, you just need to be directionally correct.

    • 4
Apr 3, 2018

I can't even begin to tell you how to build an executive presence because there is no "path" to learn this kind of stuff, imo, however you can absorb it by being around someone who "has it."

I know this is not as relevant to most here but I am very fortunate to be working with one of the Partners at my firm who happens to be a F50 CEO in his former life. Doesn't matter if it's on a call or in a meeting, the guy commands the board room and his audience.

One of the most important piece of advice he gave me was, word for word: you need to have experienced enough to confidently tell a CEO/board/committee that you don't agree or have a different view. You gain confidence by experience. Period.

    • 2
Apr 3, 2018

Direct eye contact and silence are incredibly powerful tools. Learn to use them to your advantage-- and no, that doesn't mean power-bro over everyone you meet, you'll end up looking like a total weirdo. Using them at opportune times, with comfort, is a much different story and subconsciously communicates your command of the situation.

    • 3
Apr 4, 2018

Couldn't agree more. I love looking at people silently just waiting to see what they eventually say.

Reminds me of a story I heard from a guy the analyst class ahead of me. The guys who interviewed him at the hedge fund he accepted an offer at were talking about some of the other candidates. They did a 2-on-1 interview with some guy where one of the interviewers was quiet almost the whole time. They threw all kinds of brainteasers and quantitative questions at the guy. They put him through three stock recommendations (brutal). They asked him to attack the logic behind one of the active positions the fund held. The guy made it through 90 minutes of a challenging interview. Then the silent dude pipes up for basically the first time. "Are you trying to fuck us, man?" The guy froze. He literally just had to say "No, man, I'm not trying to screw you over, I just want the job, I really want to try a public market investing role." He just melted down and got all sweaty and stammer-y over a simple question that only required a 'no' answer.

I also chuckled at your "power-bro" comment. I always get a kick out of the guy who walks up to me and puts a death-grip on my hand. Yeah, we all get it, a firm handshake is a sign of confidence and character. Putting a bear clamp on my hand for a solid four seconds tells me you're trying just a bit too hard, chief.

    • 4
Apr 4, 2018

It's tough to make these observations actionable, ya know? I don't want to recommend that people learn how to use eye contact and silence, and then be indirectly responsible for some college kid in a bad suit walking into an interview and thinking he'll show executive presence by one-word answers and staring holes into his interviewer's pupils.

I interviewed a guy for the consulting equivalent of an analyst position, and he walked into the room and immediately started shouting at me about his qualifications. It caught me so off-guard I was ready to fight. I learned later that he'd been advised to "drive the interview" and "project confidence with his voice," and he ended up doing neither.

Subtlety, folks.

    • 3
Apr 3, 2018

These are all great tips and suggestions. However, you will never have executive presence if you feel you don't belong in the room.

    • 4
Apr 4, 2018

I think one of the often overlooked qualities of leadership is knowing when it is OK to admit you do not know the answer to something. Having true "domain expertise" comes with acknowledging to others that your domain is not all-encompassing. Acknowledging this the right way can gain even more influence and trust from others. "To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge."

    • 2
Apr 4, 2018
AmoryBlaine:

I think one of the often overlooked qualities of leadership is knowing when it is OK to admit you do not know the answer to something. Having true "domain expertise" comes with acknowledging to others that your domain is not all-encompassing. Acknowledging this the right way can gain even more influence and trust from others. "To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge."

This is a great point. There is something very confidence inspiring when someone is bold enough to be very clear about what they do not know. It is an excellent sign of knowledge, honesty, and awareness

    • 1
Apr 10, 2018

It's also an opportunity to gain power. If someone asks you a question you don't know the answer to and you designate the correct person to ask "Our best person to answer this question is John Genius. John, could you provide a response to this?". You just became the leader of the group. You know who knows what and just delegated responsibilities. You admit you don't know the answer but retain control. In group interviews that involve hypothetical scenarios and discussion, the best candidate is not the one with all the ideas that debates and tries to force their way. It's the person that passes the discussion around and arbitrates, bringing the group to a consensus. They also gain power over people with the good ideas by becoming qualifiers "This idea could be really good for this reason." or "The challenge we may face going that route is...".

    • 3
Apr 4, 2018

I meet with CEOs of large energy companies 2 - 3 times / mo as part of my current role and hear them speak to small to mid-size audiences of bankers in debt syndicates. 1/3rd to 1/2 of them have low levels of charisma and induce drowsiness during their long presentations. So don't believe that in order to be a grade-A executive that you need to be a charismatic public speaker. Notable traits that make for a charismatic presenters are energetic speaking with inflection in your voice and knowing when to simplify/skip over certain points if you notice the audience's eyes glaze over. It's important to keep the audience engaged and there a number of tricks that can be deployed in order to succeed in this pursuit.

Note that it's a relatively rare trait and is exceptionally rewarded when encountered but it isn't everything as evidenced by the uncharismatic CEOs and CFOs that I've met.

Aside from those remarks I'll defer to the more senior guys in this forum to provide advice on how to develop and polish charismatic speaking skills as it pertains to an executive presence. Personally -- I'd say that I have this talent but public speaking is something I've enjoyed and practiced since I was a small child.

    • 2
Apr 4, 2018

In my view, you become a genuine executive with real "presence" when you make one simple, but very powerful decision:

You decide to create the results that you, and you alone, want.

Once you make this mental shift, everything else -- breathing, cadence, tone, charisma, confidence -- falls into place.

Apr 4, 2018

Honestly, watch some youtube interviews of Buffett / Munger. Not that it would be easy to replicate their intelligence or experience, but I think they both exhibit incredible stage presence, wit and avoid annoying buzzwords most talking heads use as a crutch. They both also have the gift of brevity when answering open-ended forum panel type questions.

Apr 4, 2018

A ton of great points here, great to see the certified user topics working as intended.

Something that I've noticed in working with Partners that I really respect, and I guess this plays into the points already raised about being "interesting", is the ability to bring relevant/humorous/interesting/etc. stories into your presentations. This allows you to connect with your audience, demonstrate that you're not a robot, and can help others to drop their guard.

Now that I think about, story telling in general is a big part of having executive presence in my mind. If you can't spin a good yarn and keep people interested in your story, you won't command a room.

    • 3
Apr 5, 2018

I second this. Most people can't tell an engaging story to save their lives.

In preparing a presentation, most people lack the fundamental skill of story-boarding. I was a strategy consultant for a while after being a journalist at a major worldwide weekly, and can't tell you how frustrating it was to regularly have to explain to people who imagine themselves to be clever how to present information. As a former journalist, I was better at it than almost everyone in my firm, which made me feel pretty good until I worked on a project for Nickelodeon. The cartoonists and writers there absolutely blew me out of the water. They tell stories through pictures and creative dialogue at the highest level.

I then had to start looking at my work product differently. It too was shit by their standard. I got better because they showed me a more engaging way of storytelling. I know that most MBB consultants pride themselves on their PowerPoint skills, but they don't make for interesting presentations. That's part of the reason McKinsey is moving towards asset-based consulting--their legacy analytics and deck creation are becoming stale. And with the massive repositories of previous work on file for newer generations of consultants to pull from, there is a noticeable lack of original thinking in strategists' work products these days.

When I moved into corporate development/ventures, I saw the same thing from bankers. The presentations are old and stale. No one even reads the pitch books that come in. When I left my last firm, I probably left 2000 (mostly unread) pitch books in stacks in my office for someone else to trash.

I wish more people could tell good stories and remember when they've told it before. Everyone that has lived an interesting life eventually cultivates a repertoire of go-to tales. Try to remember when and where you've told the story before. A lot of board meetings or executive committee meetings occur over a period of several days. As a board observer/member at various meetings, I end up having to see the same people a lot. If you can't remember what you've told people, I worry that you're not to be trusted with confidential information.

In summary, learn to tell a good story and remember what you've said and to whom you've said it.

    • 9
Apr 9, 2018

Dude, how many jobs have you worked at? I remember reading your breakdown on quickest path to PM and your descriptions of the different EM Macro desks back when I was a prospective monkey and I fully expected you to be Guillaume Fonkenell in like 15 years

Regardless - great advice on the importance of storytelling. Guess I'd just love to hear more about your story and why/how you made all these career jumps

Apr 9, 2018

+1, love it.

Apr 9, 2018
Comment
Apr 10, 2018