How to Maintain Executive Presence When You Have to Use Slides


One of my clients was recently preparing for a major presentation to 250 senior leaders of a $30 billion corporation.  Let me tell you what was making him nervous.  This is what he told me:

“I’m putting the finishing touches on my slides and I’m nervous.  I wish I didn’t have to use them, but I have slides that MUST be shown.  I want to be able to engage the audience, and ENGAGE THEM LIKE NO OTHER PERSON EVER HAS, but I’m worried I’m not going to come through how I’d like because of all the slides I have to show.”

I understand the problem he was having exactly.  Seen it a million times.

The problem with slides is they can easily BREAK your connection with the audience.  The most important component of your presentation is the deep, powerful human connection you should make with every person in the room. 

If you don’t have that connection, your words don’t sink in.  Instead of penetrating and creating a powerful effect, your words just bounce off. 

How many times have you sat through presentations where the presenter’s words were just bouncing off and didn’t mean anything to you?  You tune them out and start thinking about something else.  Right?

That strong connection you make with your audience is vital because it creates the channel that allows your words to fully ARRIVE and have an impact.

But the question becomes HOW to maintain your deep connection when you have slides?  Very few people have solved this. 

One of the biggest problems I see is that most presenters are more connected to their slides than they are to the audience. 

This causes their communication to lose potency.  And when your communication loses power, so does your impact. 

So, this is how to handle it.  The key is to SLOW DOWN TIME. 

This is NOT something most people know how to do!  Most people feel time is racing by when they’re up there.  Have you ever felt that?  Everything is going by really fast?  Feeling that way makes you look like an amateur even if you’re a seasoned professional.  Feeling that way, that time is racing by, kills your presence.

What you need to do to have executive presence is slow down time.

The way to slow down time is be completely in the moment.  Not have your mind racing ahead, anticipating or ping-ponging all over the place.  You have to control what your mind is doing.  Be fully in the moment. 

That not only will take you out of looking terribly uncomfortable or distracted, out of looking like an amateur, it makes you look like a professional.  But even more importantly, it gives you PRESENCE.  An executive level presence.  And that makes everyone pay attention.

Additionally, STAY in the moment when you’re working with your slides.  Realize that it takes you a moment to put the next slide up.  And that it takes the audience a moment to absorb the new slide. Take your sweet time putting the next slide up. Take your sweet time letting the audience absorb the new slide.  Don’t rush.  Stay in the moment.  Slow down time.

After they’ve absorbed what’s on the slide, then re-make that solid connection with them.  See that their attention is on you and that they’re READY to receive your communication.  Then with that connection in place, only now communicate your next point.  And communicate it powerfully and with poise. 

Whatever you do, do not start talking again until you have that connection again.  Frantically racing to change slides as fast as you can and talking the whole time you’re doing it makes you look clumsy, makes you look like an amateur. 

Do this for each slide.  Take your sweet time in between slides, make sure you have that connection with your audience, and that they’re ready to receive your communication, before you start talking.

Your audience will stay with you the whole time.   

My client gave his big presentation and emailed me immediately after.  This is what he wrote:

“My main stage presentation is done and I felt GREAT!  I gave a 2nd one this afternoon and it went equally as good.  Responses have been so supportive saying I was able to engage them MORE THAN ANY OTHER presenter this week, which was my goal.  I really felt CONNECTED to the audience and didn’t allow the slides to ruin that connection.  I got a lot of really great feedback where people commented on the very strong presence and platform skills that engaged the audience fully.   Without question, I'm EXHAUSTED and INVIGORATED from giving the 2 presentations.  I really felt like I stopped time …”

You can do this too. 

Be in the moment.  Stop time.  

This way you can use slides AND maintain executive presence.  You can also maintain a very deep connection with your audience which, remember, is your channel for communication.  And, remember, without that connection no communication happens. 

With executive presence and that strong connection, your words will sink deep and have a profound impact.