Presentation: The Art (and Science) of Compelling People



11:50am - 12:40pm



Key Takeaways

  • Understand techniques that makes speakers effective and compelling.
  • Hear research driving effective presentation techniques.
  • Learn success stories on projecting presence and the art of effective communication.


The success of any company hinges on its people. Effective leaders must persuade, inspire and enlist others to join them on a regular basis. Whether pitching to investors or speaking with colleagues in a more informal setting, an individual’s ability to influence others stems from a combination of confidence, passion, and emotional intelligence.

This 50-minute session will cover a range of concepts and skills critical to understanding the connection between leadership and presence, including: a framework for building credibility and trust; the role of nonverbal cues; tactics for exercising informal influence, and performance techniques to prepare for high- stakes meetings while managing anxiety. It will focus on highly portable and broadly applicable skills that will serve participants well in all aspects of their professional lives. This program is designed to be interactive, with active participation and all-group exercises.

This methodology has been honed by KNP Communications, a private firm that specializes in helping its clients become outstanding live communicators in any setting.


QCon: What is your role today?

Ronit: I wear a couple of hats. I am launching a social enterprise to connect communities to share knowledge and expertise no matter where they live or what language they speak. Separate from that, I work with a communications firm called KNP. We coach people on how to cultivate their executive presence and how to exercise leadership skills more effectively. This training draws on social science research with the goal of understanding what makes compelling people compelling and adopting what is relevant to our own lives.

QCon: I hear you talk about business executives and political leaders. Are the skills you are going to talk about directly translatable for a software development team?

Ronit: They are directly translatable for anybody who has to move people in their direction. This applies to anyone who is leading a team in some form. You don’t have to have the formal authority. This talk is for anyone who is pitching, anyone who is talking to clients, and anyone who is trying to talk to investors, board members, or other staff members.

QCon: What’s the motivation for your talk?

Ronit: The goal for the talk is to enable participants to have a framework to assess what makes people compelling, and what make makes them persuasive leaders. The hope is to make the audience think about their own presence, so they can hone that to be more effective. We’re looking at it through the lens of a person's capability, competence and relatability.

I will draw upon a range of social science research and look at how these findings apply to diverse communities (and whether these principles differ when you look across national, gender and racial lines). Finally, we’ll explore individual improvements that people can make in order to enlist others for their purpose.

QCon: Can you give me an example of how you’ll tackle the topic?

Ronit: We all have our worldviews, right? We all come from a particular place. Wherever we are coming from, there are people there who share our views. There are those who get it, and those who don’t. If for some reason, you fall outside of that circle of those who get it, you will not be able to move and persuade people to join your camp as easily or swiftly. Some of the techniques we will be looking at are how do you get people in your corner? How do you project both the capabilities and the competence that will make people believe that you can deliver on your promises and keep their concerns in mind? 

It starts with our non-verbal cues. Social science demonstrates that people assess and make judgements about other people fairly swiftly. First impressions happen really quickly and often they put a lot of primacy on our visual and our vocal cues: what we look like and what we sound like. Much less is weighted to what we are actually saying if our nonverbals are distracting or inconsistent.

So how do we make sure that what we project visually and vocally has that combination of strength and warmth? What is our posture like? What is our tone of voice like?  What is our facial expression like at a given moment? Are our gestures supporting a projection of strength and warmth?

I am going to be showing examples: a combination of imagery, stories, and data that is going to support the need for this kind of framework. The idea is what if we want to be projecting both strength and warmth.

As an interesting aside, there have been studies and experiments done about how this differs for men and women (like the Howard and Heidi Roizen case study where a group of Business School students studied how students reacted to a man/woman CEO). 

In this study, half of these students were presented with a case that had Howard as the CEO  and the other half of the students had the same example, but with Heidi as CEO. Everything was identical except that the CEO’s gender was changed. The professor was testing to see how students reacted. When this test was initially done a couple of decades ago, people loved Howard. They thought he was authoritative and decisive. They really did not like Heidi. They thought that she was overly aggressive and too demanding. That gap is actually improving significantly. So it’s interesting that today, when the study is being replicated the results are not as stark. Yet when men project warmth, they are not seen as less strong. However, when women project strength, they are often seen as being less warm. So as women take on leadership roles, they  sometimes have to dial up both the warmth and strength simultaneously to be able to stay in good standing. We look at examples of how to do that for both men and women.

We also look at how warmth and strength are not diametrically opposed. So dialing up your strength visually, vocally, and verbally does not necessarily mean that you are dialing back warmth. There are different mannerisms that come across for each of these axis that can be projected and enhanced, without undercutting the other axis. This is an example of some of the things we’ll discuss.

Speaker: Ronit Avni

Social Entrepreneur & Media Strategist

Serial entrepreneur at the intersection of media, technology and social impact. Peabody Award-winning media producer and director. Founder and former executive director of Just Vision, whose work has been featured in every major news outlet. Public speaking trainer with KNP Communications. Founder of LocalizED, a soon-to-launch knowledge-sharing platform for diaspora communities to give back without moving back. Named 2009 Young Global Leader through the World Economic Forum. Board member of

Find Ronit Avni at



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Conference for Professional Software Developers