I was having a call with someone earlier today, and we got on the topic of executive presence. This is timely, as I've recently been coordinating training for our team on this topic, so I've been thinking about it.
While I'm far from an expert at this, I do have some tips that I remind myself of before I go into meetings. Maybe these can help you.
#1 - say it like you mean it
This is really hard for a lot of technical people. They will hem and haw. Maybe they'll caveat and cage their language. They'll use lots of filler words (this is my personal crutch).
Here's the thing. People can tell when you mean what you say. And can tell when you believe what you say.
So the best thing you can do is to be confident in the information you're sharing. And the best way I've found to be confident is to be prepared. And I mean really prepared.
My best approach for being prepared is to prep for the meeting ahead of time. Hopefully, at least a day or two before I join the meeting. That way I can do the prep without psyching myself out.
If you're a salesperson whom I've ever yelled at for not giving me notes or guidance on what a meeting was about before I jump on, this is why. How am I supposed to rock it when I'm playing it fast and loose?
Okay, so I'm pretty good off the cuff, but only if it's a topic I know inside and out. I'm bad at BS-ing, if you don't believe me ask my wife. This is probably why I am known to obsess over the technical details.
#2 - looking engaged is being engaged
The people with the most presence I've ever met made me feel like I was the most important thing in their world when I was talking to them.
While I haven't quite mastered this skill, I can tell you what I do to try to simulate it.
First off, posture commands - so square your shoulders, and physically lean into the conversation. If you're on video, tilt towards the camera. This subtle cue will point out that you're engaged to the audience.
In person, try to keep looking at the person you're talking to, but don't lock eyes. Look at their face, but don't stare. This is harder for me now after COVID, but I'm getting better at this. I guess I've gotten too used to staring at a screen.
The last bit is about your costume. While I'm far from a snazzy dresser, when I need people to listen to me I try to show up properly attired. That said, as a technical seller, I'm more impactful when I'm slightly under-dressed. This is because there's a subtle assumption that "if he can get away being dressed like that, he must be the smart one". I use this to my advantage.
#3 - tone takes all
When you're talking, the tone you use is more impactful than the words. The right tone can have people questioning their own beliefs, simply because you sound so sure of yourself that it causes doubt in your audience.
How do you do this? Well, it helps to actually believe what you're saying - unless you're a sociopath, it's really hard to manipulate the tone of your voice consciously. But, if you knew something that could save a loved-ones life, if only they'd listen to you, how'd you say it? Say what you're trying to get across that way.
What does that look (or sound) like? Your voice will have a cadence, and your pronunciation with be harder than conversational. You'll be speaking at the lower end of your natural vocal range. And that tone will drop further at the end of any sentence where you're trying to make a point.
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