We've all met 'that' person. The person who has incredible self confidence, who articulate complex arguments with a silver tongue, who's words oozes in to well crafted verses of eloquence, who is gifted with the ability to capture attention, who is able to improvise on-point and witty answers to any left field queries, who exudes a personality that warms and rocks the audience to sway to a well timed beat. How are they able to exhibit such gravitas, think quick on their feet and appear so comfortable doing it?
In the business world, a meeting, a speech, a presentation, a discussion, or a negotiation, are all just examples of human congregations held either trying to share, negate or support information in order to reach a common understanding.
In order to influence that understanding, here are five tips to help you own a powerful, confident and charismatic presence, to command a room:
To be Confident is to Appear Confident : Humans are visual creatures, and while they are listening to your words, they are judging those same words with your body language, mood and appearance. An upright posture is key, standing or seated. Deliver your points with gestures, timed intonation and strong eye contact. Even in disappointment, do not slouch, fidget and express anxiety. Your mood will either make or break your influence over the audience. Humour is often a quick go-to to appear at ease as well as win attention. However, serious arguments might require a calm and composed demeanour, with opportunities to exert dominance. Sometimes sudden changes in tone, changes in position (sitting to standing up) establishes an intangible hierarchy between you and the listener. Always own the self belief to position yourself as the expert of the matter, the one in the winning position to close a deal, but never lose your temper or appear pessimistic. Losing your temper just betrays your lack of ability to be in charge. Optimism is “the fuel of heroes, the enemy of despair, the creator of the future”.
Dress to Impress : And avid TV drama can attest to the magnetism displayed in a mock courtroom, when the charming attorneys give their closing. Their arguments may be able to sway the jury of their peers, their delivery dazzling onlookers, but it is their dressing that positions them to win. With confident strides and wave of their hands, their dapper outfits immediately exerts a message, "Listen to me!". To use the same visual tool to assist you in an office, or in an external meeting with a client, or giving a speech to the public, always ask yourself, is what you’re wearing going to inspire confidence in your abilities? Think about your audience before you enter the room. What will they wear and how will you be compared to them. An easy rule to remember is to just have 'one extra piece'. If you are in an office meeting with all smart casual dress codes, wear a smart business attire (not sloppy or mismatched). If everybody there comes in with well pressed shirts/blouses, wear a tie. A jacket, well polished shoes, so on and so forth. Don't wedge a gap too much that might convey to the audience you are clueless and way out of reach. And don't be afraid to overdress a tad bit. You are there to be the focal of attention, so bring it. Dress to impress, stand out and deliver the message with authority.
Light a Pathway with Story Telling : Often we mistake incessant rambling that dominates a conversation, as expertise. To convince an audience, we need to engage the audience. And to do that, we need to be a mesmerising and memorable story teller, that can mould complex information in to an interesting tale. Great stories have an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution. Begin by introducing yourself and the task at hand with a hook, that signals the listener to pay attention. Your hook could be a question, a startling statement, an anecdote or a video. Next, bring forth your vision, and paint a vivid picture of what you want to achieve with colourful literary techniques to invigorate the imagination. Interest then is often easiest created by a sense of urgency and necessity. Let them feel the hunger and play with their curiosity, pace the reveal and harness their attention to your advantage. You can use modern business tools to assist your reveal, but to avoid your presentation/speech/discussion interfering with your discovery process, structure your text around your core messages and have supporting facts that enhances, and not muddy the waters. These facts can be illustrated in different ways, revisited and emphasised, but never overestimate their ability to create understanding. Your facts and visuals are just aids, seasoning to the recipe but the main ingredients of the story needs to emanate from you. The introduction must flow naturally to your vision, and progress to a sequence of data that is persuasive and finally a lighted path to deliver your climactic conclusion with flair and conviction.
Do Your Homework : Prepare, practice, revise, rewrite, rehearse and restart if you need to. Do not scoff at notion of having the power of knowledge at your fingertips. Knowledge breeds confidence, and confidence breeds charisma. Your colleagues, counterparts or the audience does not need to know that you have toiled over your data, the likely points that they will bring up to counter your own, and the fact you have your text well rehearsed and down pat. Politicians are aided by speech writers, but they slave over the words and revise and rehearse and rewrite over and over again. Why shouldn't you? It may be enough to deliver an average presentation or engage in a normal conversation with what you already know, but the key is to know what you do not. Study the composition of the audience before hand, anticipate questions that might be asked, and write down the probable answers in your notes. A good speaker is able to survive on talent, but a great orator knows that blood sweat and tears must go into every word uttered.
Make Them Believe : Believe in yourself, and the masses will follow. To convince, you are playing with the psychology of the listener who naturally is reluctant to depart from their own self beliefs. To entice them to come over to your side, you need to show how much you believe in yourself and your messages. You are going to have to come across to them as being trustworthy. The audience will see that you care about what you are spewing, but do you care about what they think? Are you going to be listening to them? While sometimes you will be delivering a monologue that does not allow immediate feedback, include supplementals that answers possible questions. What you need to be looking for is signs, both verbal and visual, that your audience is agreeing with you. With agreement, comes belief, and with belief comes a following.
You don't have to be Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson to own an arena. While he electrifies the room even with just a wink, a raised eyebrow and a toothy smile, that amazing appeal is not merely a god-send without a path of his self improvement. Actors or performers learn their craft and spend years honing their abilities to portray the bewitchery that their profession requires. You can be that 'person' too, the confident and charismatic you, by keeping these five tips in mind the next time you need to make a great impression. Make sure you develop, practice and perfect your posture, appearance, delivery, preparation and wit, and soon you will have an audience orbiting around your words, as you command the room with ease, with a presence that signals warmth and self-belief.
Note: Adrin Shafil is an engineer, currently working as a Drilling Manager in Malaysia. He finds that writing is a great stress relief tool and he finds joy in sharing his insights online and answering any questions from graduates, mid-career colleagues and even fellow managers. If you like his articles, please click 'like', share the article on your profile and connect or follow his feed for more great information and tips.
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Things just keep getting more dire for Venezuela’s PDVSA – once a crown jewel among state energy firms, and now buried under debt and a government in crisis. With new American sanctions weighing down on its operations, PDVSA is buckling. For now, with the support of Russia, China and India, Venezuelan crude keeps flowing. But a ghost from the past has now come back to haunt it.
In 2007, Venezuela embarked on a resource nationalisation programme under then-President Hugo Chavez. It was the largest example of an oil nationalisation drive since Iraq in 1972 or when the government of Saudi Arabia bought out its American partners in ARAMCO back in 1980. The edict then was to have all foreign firms restructure their holdings in Venezuela to favour PDVSA with a majority. Total, Chevron, Statoil (now Equinor) and BP agreed; ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips refused. Compensation was paid to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, which was considered paltry. So the two American firms took PDVSA to international arbitration, seeking what they considered ‘just value’ for their erstwhile assets. In 2012, ExxonMobil was awarded some US$260 million in two arbitration awards. The dispute with ConocoPhillips took far longer.
In April 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce ruled in favour of ConocoPhillips, granting US$2.1 billion in recovery payments. Hemming and hawing on PDVSA’s part forced ConocoPhillips’ hand, and it began to seize control of terminals and cargo ships in the Caribbean operated by PDVSA or its American subsidiary Citgo. A tense standoff – where PDVSA’s carriers were ordered to return to national waters immediately – was resolved when PDVSA reached a payment agreement in August. As part of the deal, ConocoPhillips agreed to suspend any future disputes over the matter with PDVSA.
The key word being ‘future’. ConocoPhillips has an existing contractual arbitration – also at the ICC – relating to the separate Corocoro project. That decision is also expected to go towards the American firm. But more troubling is that a third dispute has just been settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes tribunal in favour of ConocoPhillips. This action was brought against the government of Venezuela for initiating the nationalisation process, and the ‘unlawful expropriation’ would require a US$8.7 billion payment. Though the action was brought against the government, its coffers are almost entirely stocked by sales of PDVSA crude, essentially placing further burden on an already beleaguered company. A similar action brought about by ExxonMobil resulted in a US$1.4 billion payout; however, that was overturned at the World Bank in 2017.
But it might not end there. The danger (at least on PDVSA’s part) is that these decisions will open up floodgates for any creditors seeking damages against Venezuela. And there are quite a few, including several smaller oil firms and players such as gold miner Crystallex, who is owed US$1.2 billion after the gold industry was nationalised in 2011. If the situation snowballs, there is a very tempting target for creditors to seize – Citgo, PDVSA’s crown jewel that operates downstream in the USA, which remains profitable. And that would be an even bigger disaster for PDVSA, even by current standards.
Infographic: Venezuela oil nationalisation dispute timeline
In 2018, U.S. exports of crude oil continued to increase to 2.0 million barrels per day (b/d), up 846,000 b/d (73%) from 2017 (Figure 1). The number of destinations for U.S. crude oil exports also increased from 37 to 42. Volumes by destination changed significantly between the first and second halves of 2018.
The increase in U.S. crude oil exports was the result of increasing U.S. crude oil production and infrastructure changes. U.S. crude oil production increased 1.6 million b/d from 2017 to 10.9 million b/d in 2018, with the U.S. Gulf Coast—where more than 90% of U.S. crude oil exports depart from—producing 7.1 million b/d. The increased production is mostly of light, sweet crude oils, but U.S. Gulf Coast refineries are configured mostly to process heavy, sour crude oils. This increasing production and mismatch between crude oil type and refinery configuration causes more of the increasing U.S. crude oil production to be exported.
In early 2018, modifications were made at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) in the Gulf of Mexico to enable the loading of vessels for crude oil exports. LOOP is currently the only U.S. facility capable of accommodating fully loaded Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), vessels capable of carrying approximately 2 million barrels of crude oil. After LOOP was modified to also allow exports, the increase in cargo scale led U.S. crude oil exports to surpass 2 million b/d for 25 weeks in 2018 compared with just 1 week in 2017. In addition to LOOP, other U.S Gulf Coast export facilities in and around Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, have been investing in increasing the scale of U.S. crude oil export cargos.
In 2018, Asia was the largest regional destination for U.S. crude oil exports, followed by Europe, and, as in previous years, Canada was the largest single destination for U.S. crude oil exports. Canada received 378,000 b/d of U.S. crude oil exports, representing 19% of total U.S. crude oil exports in 2018. South Korea surpassed China to become the second-largest single destination for U.S. crude oil exports in 2018, receiving 236,000 b/d compared with China’s 228,000 b/d (Figure 2).
However, the distribution of U.S. crude oil exports by destination varied significantly from the first half of 2018 to the second half. In the first half of 2018, the United States exported 376,000 b/d of crude oil to China, which made China the largest single destination for U.S. crude oil exports for that period. However, in August, September, and October of 2018, the United States exported no crude oil to China, and then in November and December it exported significantly less than in earlier months. In the second half of 2018, the United States exported 83,000 b/d of crude oil to China, a decrease of 294,000 b/d from the first half (Figure 3).
In the summer of 2018, as part of ongoing trade negotiations between the United States and China, China temporarily included U.S. crude oil on a list of goods potentially subject to an increase in import tariffs. At the same time, the difference between the international crude oil benchmark Brent and the U.S. domestic price West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures prices narrowed rapidly between June and July 2018. Brent prices went from $9 per barrel (b) higher than WTI in June to $6/b higher than WTI in July. The rapidly narrowing price discount of U.S. crude oils versus international crude oils and the potential for higher import tariffs caused Chinese buying of U.S. crude oil to slow.
Although U.S. crude oil exports to China slowed in the second half of 2018, exports to South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, and India increased significantly. U.S. crude oil exports to South Korea increased 247,000 b/d (222%) between the first and second half of 2018. U.S. crude oil exports to other destinations in Asia also increased, particularly to Taiwan, which rose 111,000 b/d (168%) in the second half of 2018 compared with the first half, and to India, which increased 86,000 b/d (97%) during the same period.
Despite the volume changes in U.S. crude oil destination between the first and second halves of 2018, the list of destinations has remained consistent over the past three years. Of the 27 destinations that took U.S. crude oil in 2016, the first year of unrestricted U.S. crude oil exports, 22 destinations did so again in 2017 and again in 2018 (Figure 4). Furthermore, few destinations appear to be one-time recipients of U.S. crude oil, other than those such as the Marshall Islands that were listed because of data collection methods and ship-to-ship transfers.
U.S. average regular gasoline price increases, diesel price falls
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price rose nearly 8 cents from the previous week to $2.55 per gallon on March 18, down 5 cents from the same time last year. The East Coast price rose nearly 9 cents to $2.52 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price rose over 8 cents to $2.30 per gallon, the Midwest price rose nearly 8 cents to $2.48 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price rose nearly 7 cents to $2.32 per gallon, and the West Coast price rose nearly 5 cents to $3.03 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell nearly 1 cent to $3.07 per gallon on March 18, nearly 10 cents higher than a year ago. The Midwest price fell nearly 2 cents to $2.99 per gallon, the Gulf Coast price fell over 1 cent to $2.87 per gallon, and the West Coast price fell nearly 1 cent to $3.50 per gallon. The Rocky Mountain price increased nearly 1 cent, remaining at $2.94 per gallon, and the East Coast price rose less than 1 cent, remaining at $3.12 per gallon.
Propane/propylene inventories rise
U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 1.0 million barrels last week to 51.1 million barrels as of March 15, 2019, 6.3 million barrels (14.0%) greater than the five-year (2014-2018) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 1.2 million barrels, 0.4 million barrels, and 0.1 million barrels, respectively, while Midwest inventories decreased by 0.7 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 12.1% of total propane/propylene inventories.
Residential heating fuel prices decrease
As of March 18, 2019, residential heating oil prices averaged nearly $3.22 per gallon, 1 cent per gallon below last week’s price but 16 cents per gallon above last year’s price at this time. Wholesale heating oil prices averaged $2.09 per gallon, nearly 4 cents per gallon less than last week’s price but 8 cents per gallon more than a year ago.
Residential propane prices averaged $2.41 per gallon, less than 1 cent per gallon lower than last week’s price and almost 8 cents per gallon lower than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged nearly $0.84 per gallon, less than 1 cent per gallon above last week’s price but 3 cents per gallon below last year’s price.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Renewable generation provided a new record of 742 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2018, nearly double the 382 million MWh produced in 2008. Renewables provided 17.6% of electricity generation in the United States in 2018.
Nearly 90% of the increase in U.S. renewable electricity between 2008 and 2018 came from wind and solar generation. Wind generation rose from 55 million MWh in 2008 to 275 million MWh in 2018 (6.5% of total electricity generation), exceeded only by conventional hydroelectric at 292 million MWh (6.9% of total generation).
U.S. solar generation has increased from 2 million MWh in 2008 to 96 million MWh in 2018. Solar generation accounted for 2.3% of electricity generation in 2018. Solar generation is generally categorized as small-scale (customer-sited or rooftop) solar installations or utility-scale installations. In 2018, 69% of solar generation, or 67 million MWh, was utility-scale solar.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Increases in U.S. wind and solar generation are driven largely by capacity additions. In 2008, the United States had 25 gigawatts (GW) of wind generating capacity. By the end of 2018, 94 GW of wind generating capacity was operating on the electric grid. Almost all of this capacity is onshore; one offshore wind plant, located on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, has a capacity of 30 megawatts. Similarly, installed solar capacity grew from an estimated less than 1 GW in 2008 to 51 GW in 2018. In 2018, 1.8 GW of this solar capacity was solar thermal, 30 GW was utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV), and the remaining 20 GW was small-scale solar PV.
Growth in renewable technologies in the United States, particularly in wind and solar, has been driven by federal and state policies and declining costs. Federal policies such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credits for wind and solar have spurred project development.
In addition, state-level policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain share of electricity to come from renewable sources, have increasing targets over time. As more wind and solar projects have come online, economies of scale have led to more efficient project development and financing mechanisms, which has led to continued cost declines.
Conventional hydroelectric capacity has remained relatively unchanged in the United States, increasing by 2% since 2008. Changes in hydroelectric generation year-over-year typically reflect changes in precipitation and drought conditions. Between 2008 and 2018, annual U.S. hydroelectric generation was as low as 249 million MWh and as high as 319 million MWh, with hydroelectric generation in 2018 totaling 292 million MWh. Generation from other renewable resources, including biomass and geothermal, increased from 70 million MWh to 79 million MWh in the United States between 2008 and 2018, and it collectively represented 1.9% of total generation in 2018.