Jacqui Harper is known as the ‘presentation doctor’ at INSEAD, where she is a visiting professor teaching Executive Presence. Previously a TV news anchor for the BBC, she has also presented news programmes for Sky News and ITV. As a communication coach at Crystal Business Coaching, Jacqui has transformed Executive Presentations for over fifteen years. Her book Executive Presentations: Develop presence to speak with confidence and skill was published by Practical Inspiration in 2018, and shortlisted for the Business Book Awards in the highly competitive Self-Development category.
In this guest post, she explains why she wrote the book…
I start with a story. Two people are sitting opposite each other on a train to central London. They soon discover that one is reading a book on presentations and the other is about to deliver a presentation. “This page might help” says the lawyer. The civil servant is so pleased to discover a way to use mind maps to improve delivery that she takes a picture of the page with her smartphone.
When I was told this story by the lawyer I was jubilant – it shows that Executive Presentations is practical and helps speakers when they need it most – just before giving a presentation.
I can’t hide my joy that it’s not only the lady on the train that sees the power of Executive Presentations. It has been singled out as an outstanding self-development book. It has been shortlisted for the Business Book Awards 2109. It was named Book of the month by HR News. And HR Director says, “this author has thought of everything and is there for presenters, new and old, for every single step of the way”.
My goal when I started writing was to help speakers soar. It’s not about getting a little better but providing practical strategies and tools to excel. As a visiting professor at global business school INSEAD, I listened closely to leaders across many countries and industries. The subject of business presentations came up often and so did the question of how to achieve mastery.
I drew on my background for answers. I am a newspaper reporter turned TV anchor turned business school professor turned author. While that number of reinventions rivals Madonna’s, it also means I have wide-ranging expertise to transform business presentations.
I’ve focused on two ways to improve business presentations: develop internal and external presence.
External presence is to do with how we physically show up when speaking: how we use our voice and body language and how we express ideas with words. I’ve used techniques from my media days for this.
For example, when I joined BBC TV I received voice training before presenting news bulletins. The purpose was to improve my vocal skills. In my case that meant slowing down my delivery and improving articulation. In the book I show readers how to become vocally competent. The techniques are quick and easy to apply.
Internal presence, however takes longer to develop. It’s about exploring your inner landscape to know yourself and what you need to change. I have created a tool called a Presence Audit that helps you lean into your best self. This evolved from my work as an executive coach.
One final thought: there is a terrific bonus for your organisation. As you develop your presence, people around you also improve theirs. The writer Marianne Williamson expresses this beautifully when she says:
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.