While David Cameron certainly boosted his ‘statesman-like’ credentials on his recent trip to The White House, the news reports revealed a couple of fine details that provide useful pointers for business presenters.
First, Cameron got ‘caught out’ lobbying senators on the President’s Iran sanctions bill and was confronted on the matter at the press conference. But he handled the situation in the way that the best magicians handle a challenging moment: make a bold move; then underline your move with a ‘convincer’.
Without the slightest hesitation he answered: “Yes I have contacted a couple of Senators this morning”. Then he followed through immediately with: “And I may speak to one or two more this afternoon”. He was firmly on the front foot. So much so, in fact, that he then took the opportunity (and what an opportunity!) to make a very self-assured statement about domestic matters and his belief that election debates need to be held outside of the main campaign.
President Obama, meanwhile has learned the trick of wearing European-style ties with stripes that slope upwards from left to right, so sending out more positive signals than the more traditional downward stripes worn by previous Presidents (see my previous blog here). Where his presentational style continues to falter a little is in the right-to-left line ups.
Rule of 6 of the Rules of Magic states that ‘Attention tracks from left to right, then returns to settle at the left’ – because in Western Cultures we read that way. This applies in particular when you are using a screen or other visual aids, but with just two people on show the person positioned on the left in the audience’s view will be assuming the more dominant position. Magicians know about this principle; Ant and Dec have a slightly different take, saying ‘the tallest must go on the left'; the White House needs to catch up!