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When’s the last time you saw a speaker on stage without any props? No PPT, no slides, no flip charts. Just a human being – standing alone.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does it can be exhilarating.

The most powerful leaders know this and use it to their advantage. That includes Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM.

Rometty talks about her communication style in Joann S. Lublin’s new book, Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World.

In her four years at the helm of IBM, Rometty has won praise for being clear, open and approachable. She’s constantly doing videos, participating in forums, and interacting in conversation groups. She’s a popular and in-demand public speaker in the business world and beyond.

But she never uses PowerPoint or slides. Rometty says she stopped using them twenty years ago because she felt they detracted from her image as a leader.

On the other hand, Rometty says, what augments her power is knowing her stuff cold.

That’s what a leader does. She masters the material. She has command of the facts and figures. She knows the trends, the projections, the data, the details. She understands her natural allies and her competitors, so she can interact with both from a position of strength and poise.

It pays to become an expert, at every stage in your career. Just don’t rely on props to convey your expertise – speak for yourself.

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