I attended a senior financial womens conference recently and heard two very prominent leaders in the industry speak. Interestingly, though both very successful, one seemed to exude much more of that magical quality called executive presence than the other. What was the difference?

Its the Little Things

The less impressive speaker peppered her comments with lots of ums and trailed off at the end of her sentences, suggesting that she wasnt certain of what she was saying. I am sure she was, but the empty non-words and sentence swallowing undermined the overall impression she made. If you had to decide who you wanted to follow, buy from, invest with, or follow, chances are you would have decided on the other speaker, whose speech was clear, strong, and confident.

As the saying goes about pornography, you may not be able to define it, but when you see it, you know it. The same is true for executive presence. You know it when you see it. Some people have it at 21 and some at 61 are still seeking it. Here are 7 things you can do now to enhance your own executive presence, particularly during presentations and demos:

  • Be credible. Come prepared. Know your material. Do your homework on the industry, your clients, and your audience.
  • Have the courage of you. This is the hardest part of executive presence to internalize. You need to be comfortable in your own skin. Do not try to be someone else. As Oscar Wilde said, Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. Authenticity is critical.That does not mean doing anything you want. It means having a quiet inner conviction as to who you are, what you stand for, and what you are trying to achieve.
  • Genuinely Care. Depending on the situation, care about helping the client; care about your group understanding a new concept, product, or process; care about your listeners.
  • Watch your language. Use words that resonate; lose awesome and cool. Be precise, descriptive, and articulate. Eliminate non-words and end sentences with authority.
  • Be curious, not arrogant. Listen actively. Avoid the fight or flight knee jerk reactions to people who disagree with you or who think differently. People with executive presence are able to manage their feelings and the feelings of others. They aim to understand first and then they respond accordingly.
  • Dont take yourself too seriously. People who cannot laugh at themselves are brittle and snap easily. They rarely inspire a following.
  • Look the part. Rightly or wrongly, people frequently judge others by their appearance. Double check your clothes, grooming, posture, and mannerisms to ensure there is a consistency between what you are saying and what people are seeing. Wearing jeans and a sports jacket may work somewhere else, but not necessarily in the office of a CEO and executives.

Try This…

Look at the presenters in business (and you may want to include the past and current candidates for President as well – worldwide). Notice the ones who seem to exude executive presence. What do they do? What dont they do? How do they behave? There is a good chance they are modeling many of the above behaviors.