A few weeks back, I gave an overview of the four main presentation styles. Last week, we covered the Energetic Presentation Style. The week before, we covered the Analytical Presentation Style (Technical Presentations). You’ll remember from the last two sessions that the Analytical Presenter and Energetic Presenter are polar opposites in the way that they like to present. The Energetic has high energy and tends to like to create presentations that are general and broad. The Analytical likes details and is much more sedate in his or her delivery.
This week, we will cover the strengths and weaknesses of the Authoritative Presentation Style. This is the style of presenter that is more “direct” and “logical”. Just as a review, by direct, we mean that this style of presenter will often be more spontaneous and quick to act. By logical, we mean that this style will focus more on facts and data versus people’s feelings. You will find this style of presentation more frequently in certain industries such as the military, construction, manufacturing, and sales.
We will cover the last style, Empathetic, next week. You will find that the Authoritative Presenter and Empathetic Presenter are also polar opposites just like the previous two presentation styles.
Strengths of the Authoritative Presentation Style
CONFIDENCE: The absolute biggest strength of the Authoritative Presentation Style is that this presenter will exude confidence. (Even when the speaker is nervous.) Audience members will look at this presenter and, quite often, see poise and control. This presenter often speaks with a stern voice and has a great presence in front of a group.
PASSION: Although the Authoritative Presenter is more Logical versus Emotional, they tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves. So, when they are excited or passionate about the topic that they are presenting on, that passion is obvious to the audience. This enthusiasm is often contagious as well. So, when the Authoritative Presenter gets inspired about a topic, he or she can generate a following of people that are also very passionate about the topic.
GOAL ORIENTED: This presenter is extremely goal oriented. He or she will like to have a clear strategy with milestones along the way. As a result, this presenter will often create clear and linear presentations that are easy to follow. They also tend to like step-by-step procedures that can be duplicated. So this presenter will often spend time, prior to the speech, figuring out the simplest way to get the audience to understand the content. They like to break a big topic into component parts to make it easier to understand.
Weaknesses of the Authoritative Presenter
BLUNT: The biggest weakness of the Authoritative Presenter is that they are extremely blunt. They tend to speak without a filter. So, whatever comes to mind gets said. This speaker is very direct, and the style can come across to others as being arrogant or standoffish. This speaker detests when people wastes their time, so they also want to be considerate of the time of others. As a result, they want to avoid “beating around the bush” and just get to the point. This style of presenting can be abrasive to the audience members who are higher on the Emotional scale (Energetic and Empathetic).
ARGUMENTATIVE: Human beings, as a whole tend to be fairly self-centered. We all think that we are right. However, the Authoritative Presenter tends to take this to the extreme. So, they sometimes see honest questions as confrontations to their authority.
Innocent Audience Member: “Just out of curiosity, why did you choose path B versus path A?”
Authoritative Presenter: “Well, I’ll tell you mister… I have been choosing paths for the last 20 years, and I think I now a thing or two about paths. The fact that you are questioning my path decision making is down right offensive!”
This style of presenting can sometimes insert an unintended barrier between the speaker and the audience. An audience member who is just looking for clarity can feel bullied just for asking an honest question in good faith.
GET EASILY FRUSTRATED WITH AUDIENCE: If you recall earlier, I mentioned that this style of presenter likes to organize the presentation into component parts. They do this to make the topic easier to understand. However, sometimes the audience will still get confused. This happens because the Authoritative Style will often lecture the audience, so the communication can be one-sided. As we all know, at any given time in a presentation, audience members can tune in and out. So, if the audience members have mentally tuned-out while the presenter is giving these details, they will miss important items. This causes confusion. When the Authoritative Presenter experiences this confusion from the audience, he or she will become increasingly frustrated. It will appear to the audience that the presenter is losing his or her temper or losing his or her cool. In realty, though, the speaker is frustrated. The speaker feels like he/she has failed in the explanation process.
REACT NEGATIVELY WHEN CONFRONTED: I mentioned earlier how this type of presenter can react negatively to a simple question that someone asks for clarity. The reaction is even more extreme when the Authoritative Presenter is challenged. If someone in the audience disagrees with the presenter, the presenter will often react in an aggressive manner. This style is called Authoritative because this speaker craves control and authority. So, when they feel like someone else is trying to acquire that control, they will react strongly.
Five Key Things that a Authoritative Presenter Can Do to Deliver a Better Presentation.
Give an Introduction and Conclusion to Reinforce Your Main Points.
Make Your Presentations More Interactive.
Use Analogies and Metaphors to Make Presentations More Fun.
Insert Stories and Examples for Each and Every Bullet Point.
Use Self-Deprecating Humor.
Zig Ziglar, was a motivational speaker for decades, and he was also an Authoritative Style of presenter. He used to say, “Tell ‘Em What Your Gonna’ Tell ‘Em. Tell ‘Em. Then Tell ‘Em What Ya Told ‘Em.” Basically, he was encouraging us to give an introduction that gives an overview of the entire presentation. Next deliver the meat of the presentation. Finally, give a conclusion that summarizes your presentation. This repetition allows the audience to better retain the content of the speech. Since the Authoritative Style of presenter is really good at breaking a complicated topic into component parts, this repetition can be very helpful to the audience’s retention of the information. If they just hear the content a single time, they will forget a lot of it. This will increase that frustration from the presenter. So the repetition helps both the audience and the presenter.
This style of presenter will often lecture the audience, so the communication can be one-sided. So, even just a little interactivity with the audience can be extremely helpful. The easiest way to make a presentation interactive is to ask the audience an open-ended question about one of your main points. This technique has two advantages. First, it allows the presenter to gauge the understanding that the audience has about the content that is being presented. Secondly, though, it allows the audience to come to the understanding of the content on their own. The old adage is that people will “support a world that they help create.” So, this shifts from the presenter pushing the content onto the audience to the audience pulling the content from the presenter.
A challenge that some Authoritative Presenters will have, though, is that, since they have a tendency to be blunt and aggressive, this style may cause people to hesitate when the presenter asks them to participate in the discussion. A good way to combat this is to use what I call the “Think, Write, Share” technique. Give your audience a warning that you will ask them to participate. Then just ask them to think about the question. Next, ask them to write down their thoughts on a scratch pad. Finally, ask them to just tell you what they wrote. I use this technique in my 2-Day Presentation classes right at the beginning of the first session. I often say something like…
“Let me ask you to think about something. If you would, mentally come up with what you think are the top three things that physically happen to a person’s body when he or she is nervous speaking in front of a group. After you have thought about it for a few seconds, jot down a few of these things on the notepad that we have provided for you. (Wait until most people have at least a couple items written down.) Someone just tell me what you wrote down.”
Audience members will usually be nervous about just speaking up in a presentation. However, reading something that they just wrote down is much easier — much less risky. As a result, you’ll get better interaction.
(For details about different ways to do this, see 9 Reliable Ways to Add Audience Participation to Your Presentation.)
If you recall form last week, The Energetic Speaker is fantastic at using creativity to come up with great analogies and metaphors. The rest of us have to work at it a little more. However, when the Authoritative Speaker uses a good analogy to reinforce a point, it makes the presentation more clever and fun. This will make the audience like and respect the speaker more.
I once gave a presentation about how HR executives could get their executives to increase training budgets for them. One of my points was that the executives are more likely to invest in training if HR can prove to them that they will receive a return on that investment. I used a personal story as an analogy. I told them that my dad had recently passed away, and my mom found a bunch of boxes of old baseball cards that dad had kept in a closet. She ask me if my son, Ben, might want them. She said that if he didn’t want them, that she was just going to throw them out, because they were just taking up space. I replied by saying that, of course, Ben would likely want them, but that she might want to get them appraised before giving them away. She and I packed them into the car and took them to a card shop in town. The owner of the shop looked through the boxes very quickly, and offered her $200 for all of the boxes. She was shocked that this man was willing to give her that much money for something she was just going to throw away. She pulled me aside and whispered, “Maybe we should get a second opinion.” Executives in a company are very similar to my mom in that, if they see no value in an activity, they won’t fund it. Mom’s opinion about the boxes of cards didn’t change until the card collector put a value on the boxes. So the HR executives had to show the other leaders of the company the value of the training if they wanted a bigger budget set aside for it.
It was a fun and clever way to make my point.
(For More details, see The Secret Sauce for Your Presentations.)
Just like with the Analytical and Energetic Styles (and with the Empathetic Style as well by the way), good stories and examples will add in quality details and make the presentation more interesting for the audience. Stories are way more important for the Authoritative Style, however. The Authoritative Presenter is often blunt and strong willed, so the stories and examples make us more human and relatable. These stories will soften our gruff exterior. I always encourage this type of presenter to include at least one (and sometimes two) stories for each main point that they deliver.
In fact, this style of presenter will often have great success with what I call “Good Example, Bad Example” stories. I use this a lot. I will give a quick example of how I made a mistake in the past but learned something from it (bad example). But then, I will give an example of a success based on what I learned (good example). These contrasting stories work really well.
Remember that one of the big weaknesses of the Authoritative Speaker is that the audience will sometimes see them as being arrogant or condescending. An easy way to fix this is by using self-deprecating humor. In that Good Example/Bad Example technique that I mention above, I always use myself as the bad example. I will tell the audience how I totally screwed something up and use it as a learning experience. This often allows the audience to laugh a little. (Yes they are laughing AT me not WITH me, but that is okay.) Just doing this once or twice in each presentation allows the the audience to empathize with me versus seeing me as being arrogant.
What If I Have a Different Style of Speaking, But I’m Delivering the Presentation to an Authoritative Audience?
In a nutshell… Be concise. Have a clear goal in mind for your presentation and stay focused on helping the audience achieve that goal. Use stories and examples to prove your point versus quoting a bunch of facts and statistics. Authoritative Style people love to contradict facts and statistics. For every fact that you present to them, they will find at least one anomaly where that fact wasn’t true. However, if you are delivering your content based on your own person experience, they can’t argue with you as easily.