Executive presence: How to have it, how to project it and how to use it.
Have you heard the term ‘Executive presence’? If yes, good work. You know you need it, you know you want it and you’re reading this because you want to know more about it. If this is the first time you’re hearing the term, then read on. This article should help you immensely. Executive presence is the energy that an executive gives off when they enter a room or speak to a crowd. It is their captivating factor. They use it to draw people to them, and to get people to do what they want. Some call it their charisma or their charm. Some say it is the essence of Leadership. However you want to define it, one thing is certain, you need it. If you want to get promoted and make it all the way to the hallowed paneled walls of the C-Suite, then a good dose of Executive presence will speed up the cogs that decide. People with Executive presence exude a confidence in themselves and their abilities that is magnetic. This is the thing you can’t put a handle on, but which makes you want to follow someone. I recently attended a talk by the French President and as soon as he entered the room, it became super-charged. Even before you saw him. When he eventually spoke, he was so magnetic that even if you didn’t vote for him, he’d have your vote right there and then. So how do you attain this master skill called Executive presence? Here are 4 key things to do to make you look and sound like the charismatic leader you know you can be. Dress the part Everyone knows that first impressions matter. And the first thing we see when we meet someone? The clothes they are wearing. So, dress the part! I can’t emphasize this enough. Seriously, dress like you’re already part of the C-Suite. Show you’re serious about your career. How does your CEO dress? If you stood next to him or her, would someone assume you were part of the Executive team or would they ask you for a cup of coffee? Remember that feeling when you first dressed up for some event? How did it make you feel to be looking good? Did it give you confidence? Well it should have. Looking good and dressing well inspires confidence and that makes other people assume you are possibly more confident than you actually are. Confidence is what leaders have and it is what you want to move up the corporate ladder or land more clients. Wear clothes that suit you and dress a little better than your peers. If you’re at an important event or going to an important meeting with senior Executives make sure you dress similar to them. You don’t want to stand out and look like you are trying too hard or that you don’t belong, but you do want to look like you already belong. Also make sure you wear clothes that suit you and that you’re also comfortable in. Comb your hair, get a nice old watch and make sure your shoes are shinning and the soles of your shoes don’t have holes in them. Iron your shirts and make sure you smell okay too. I always tell people to dress like they’re one level higher in the organization : that way, you can be sure that you’re dressing better than your peers and getting one step ahead of them. Polish your message Leaders are great storytellers. They can explain complex things in simple ways. They are great at bringing people together and to do that, they need to speak in words and in a language that everyone can understand. So don’t use geek-words, don’t get complicated and make sure you are using simple, basic words when delivering any message. In fact, speaking in a simple, easy to understand way makes you sound more credible and more in charge of your subject. I often tell my finance team to explain their division’s results as if they were explaining it to their dentist (no offense to dentists). Assume your audience doesn’t know all the acronyms and just tell them what you need to tell them in a simple and comprehensible language that everyone can understand. Practice your storytelling and presentations before you deliver them. Rehearsal is so important to great delivery. In rehearsal we find the ability to simplify and master what we are presenting. Could you imagine any professional athlete, even the best of them, not practicing before a game? Of course not, so why don’t you practice before that next presentation. These are the games of the corporate world. Master them. Slow down I’ve never heard a Leader in any organization or from any country speaks so fast that you have trouble following them. Leader’s know that they have to make sure their messages are understood, and so they speak at a slightly slower pace than a usual conversation. They pause for effect as well. In fact, when you pause, the group or people you are presenting to, usually stop and focus on you. People don’t like silence, generally, and punctuating your presentations with a short pause in a subliminal cue that tells your audience something important is about to happen, I need to pay attention. Speaking at a slightly slower pace also helps your pronunciation and helps your vocal stamina so you sound in control all the time. Stay rooted and use your hands When presenting or speaking in front of people, most presenters tend to walk back and forth across the stage or in front of the presentation screen. Don’t do this. Just don’t. Walking back and forth requires the audience to follow you and that means they’ll be focusing more on how you are walking than what you are saying. You don’t want that. You want them to remark your dress sense, but that is only for the first minute, after that they need to be captivated by your story. So stay rooted to the stage and move sparingly. Standing still with an open stance exhibits strength. Walking makes it seem like you are thinking about what next to say. You want to show mastery of your subject, so stand rooted and strong. Also use your hands. Whilst we may not talk in close encounters with lots of hand movements and whereas we may not be all Italian, using your hands is extremely important as it captivates attention. You draw people to you and you exude energy and passion for your subject. These are further elements that help show that you are in control, you have mastered your subject and you are confident. We all follow confident leaders and confidence is the underpinning of true Executive presence. Read this article again and then go forth and put this into practice. Through practice we attain mastery. Remember success is all about practice. The CFO