12 Jan

Top Tips to Dramatically Boost Executive Leadership Presentations

During my tenure as a senior level Fortune 100 executive for Macy’s Inc. I was always giving presentations to the C-suite – and developed my own set of executive summary techniques and strategies. These high-level, short presentations can really put you on the spot and under intense pressure and scrutiny.

There is a lot at stake, including the opportunity for tremendous upside career advancement. That’s why you have to apply certain unique psychological and executive communication principles. Here are three of my top tips to ensure that your leadership presence is never diluted or jeopardized, but is consistently strengthened and enhanced.

Tip #1 Rely on Emotional Intelligence

What does it mean to feel pressure when giving a presentation? If you think about it, all that is happening is that you are having an emotional response to your situation. To take control and make smart choices when faced with that kind of challenge, you have to leverage your emotional intelligence.

Before walking into the room, check your ego at the door. Just accept that you will likely be opposed. Otherwise there would be no practical purpose or meaningful reason for them to ask you to even give your presentation.

Someone may pepper you with criticisms or play hardball with their questions. That’s why seasoned leaders never go in cold and unprepared. They first warm-up the audience by working behind the scenes to get a commitment and buy-in from their colleagues or bosses.

When that resistance is there, don’t meet it with your own resistance. The worst thing you can do is to lose your composure by being defensive. Instead be like water and flow around it by exercising empathy to understand that person’s perspective.

Tip #2 Stay Solution-Focused

Don’t view it as a contest of wits and willpower. You could win the skirmish and still lose the war. You’re both on the same team, and the point is to find a mutually-beneficial solution, not to score a petty ego victory.

Never rule out the possibility that there may be a nugget of truth in what they are saying. By acknowledging that, instead of blindly rejecting it, you may gain even more insight and knowledge to successfully leverage your point of view.

Really listen closely. Let them know that you respect their opinion or perspective. Give them that much. Then put it within the context of what you believe, think, and have learned from your own research and deliberation.

Process what they say, incorporate it into your talk, and keep moving the solution – and your presentation – forward. That’s how you demonstrate poise, confidence, conviction, and always-inclusive collaborative leadership.

Tip #3 Reframe Your Language

As you know, I am always emphasizing the power of language and how word choices have psychological and emotional impact. Use them skillfully, with positive energy behind them, and people will be influenced on subtle but powerful subconscious levels. They will also probably like you better, which never hurts your leadership career.

If you eagerly express your idea for what we should do and I authoritatively reply, “That’s a bad idea,” then I have just erected a huge wall between us. You feel thrown under the bus.

Each of us strongly and intimately identifies with our own ideas, and saying yours are bad can feel like a personal attack. Your intelligence may be insulted, your feelings could be hurt, and any possibility of synergy and collaboration just got obliterated.

But if I instead say, “That’s an interesting and important point you just brought up, and here is why I have a different perspective on it,” then your executive presentation stays right on track.

You can also use this effective trick: Pause and take responsibility and accept accountability in a way that disarms your opponent, by saying, “I realize I may not have made myself clear and articulated my idea well enough.” That clears the way for you to continue presenting your solution.

Practice these Tips and Let Cooler Heads Prevail

When giving a presentation that has the potential to get you a little rattled, just apply these tips. They will help you keep your poise and coolheaded executive presence, no matter what anyone throws at you.

You’ll be a more dynamic speaker and communicator – whether you are in the board room, beside the podium, closing an important contract, or are just engaged in day-to-day informal conversations.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified image master (CIM) and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand. Illustra Consulting Copyright © 2016, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIM, CPBS 1-800-267-3245, [email protected] This article may be reproduced only in it’s entirety, including the above bio.


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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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