Executive presence – the opposite of the person that is in the room, but you didn’t notice them come in; the one that sits in the corner and if and when they speak, they do so quietly and somewhat apologetically. Does this sound a little bit like you or a colleague?
Having an executive presence is all about improving your self-esteem and confidence. Easier said than done, right?
So here are five practical top tips to work on:
Practise high status body language
People with gravitas hold themselves in a certain way. Think of a Jester and what type of body language he is displaying (asymmetrical, fast, distracting) compared to a King’s (straight, slow and engaging).
Next, think about your body language in meetings and presentations. Are you slouching in your seat or do you avoid standing up to speak? Do you click pen lids or have other ‘Jester-like’ distracting habits? Instead, sit up straight, be calm and still, whilst maintaining a connection with those around you. If you need to stand up to speak, then dial up the King in you and dial down the Jester.
Change how you speak
The way you talk contributes to the overall impression of gravitas. Those with low presence speak infrequently, quietly and in a manner that invites the listener to question what they are saying. Unconsciously, they might be finishing their sentences with an upward intonation (as you would for a question). This gives the perception of low executive presence because they use questions too much and this uncertain tonality for more than just questions. Even their statements and recommendations sound weak and uncertain, as if they are questioning themselves. This leads to the listener doubting what’s being said.
Those with executive presence speak clearly, at a good volume and with a commanding tonality just like a King. In my best-selling book “High Performance Presentations” I talk about using a Command Tonality (which goes down at the end of a sentence), meaning that people take them and their recommendations seriously.
It’s not just how you say things, but the content of what you are saying that matters. Plenty of people in the boardroom are talking about low level, detailed problems and not considering the bigger picture. Think strategically about how the wider business is impacted and not just you or your team. Adapt your communications and recommendations accordingly and always be prepared to answer these bigger picture questions during presentations to senior executives.
Adapt to personality styles
There are four key personality styles; Results, Sociable, Caring and Information. Depending on your type of business it is likely the board is made up of one or two dominant types. Observe the executives around you and adapt to ensure you communicate with them in the manner in which they understand and resonate most with. In our personality styles e-learning programme , I talk about how to communicate with each of the styles on the phone, by email and in face to face meetings. For example, ‘Results’ style people like short and snappy communications with no room for ‘all that fluff’. ‘Fluff’ for them meaning no need to say “Hi Dee, how was your meeting on X? I wonder, if you get time, would you mind completing the …..”.
Other styles have other preferences of course and it’s good to know what to do and with whom to get maximum impact.
Gain a positive mindset
How you see yourself in your own mind is often how others see you. If you aren’t confident and self-assured, you might be good at hiding it, but sometimes the mask will slip. That’s where training would come in useful, especially in a presentation environment, to help you gain a more positive frame of mind. You’ll then find it easier to increase your executive presence.
Dee Clayton is a speaker, trainer, author and founder of Simply Amazing Training. Her latest book, ‘High Performance Presentations Public Speaking Tips & Presentation Skills to Engage, Persuade and Inspire’, is available on Amazon and contains more on SAS and how to use it.