What exactly is ‘Executive Presence’? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, defines it as “how you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication), and how you look (appearance)” (Harvard Business Review).
It’s that ineffable quality that makes people want to follow you, listen to you, and believe in your ideas.
Let’s delve into how this intangible force can be harnessed to bring palpable changes to your career.
The Gravity of Gravitas
A strong executive presence begins with gravitas. Gravitas is not about being the loudest voice in the room; it’s about being the most heard. This involves weaving a compelling narrative around your ideas and presenting them with conviction. Take a cue from storytelling techniques to make pitches memorable. Instead of going straight into the specifics, share anecdotes, set the scene, and emphasise the ‘why’ before getting to the ‘how’ and ‘what.’ This adds a layer of emotional engagement, which is proven to enhance message retention (Psychology Today).
The Art of Articulating Your Vision
It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. To articulate your vision effectively, take the time to understand your audience’s concerns, priorities, and language. Use analogies that resonate with them, ditch the jargon, and engage in active listening to address questions or objections. Moreover, your voice—its pitch, tone, and tempo—can be a powerful tool. I found using techniques from vocal coaching hugely beneficial. Power posing, for instance, expands your diaphragm and makes your voice more resonant. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, these poses can also increase your self-confidence (TED Talk).
Changing Perceptions with Body Language
In our work at TEG Corporate, we’ve observed how body language can either enhance or undermine your executive presence. Crossed arms, fidgeting, or slouching can inadvertently send signals of disengagement or insecurity. In contrast, maintaining eye contact, using open gestures, and holding a good posture conveys confidence and interest.
It might feel stupid or weird but practice your stance in front of a mirror, make a conscious effort to maintain eye contact, and employ hand gestures for emphasis. Your transformation will be astonishing; people will not only listen but engage, question, and most importantly, believed in what you’re saying.
The Moment of Truth
When faced with a room filled with corporate moguls, they will no longer be intimidating giants. They’re an audience, keen to hear what you have to say. As you conclude your presentation, a wave of applause will fill the room.
Executive presence is more than a trait; it’s an ongoing process, a journey if you will. So, take the first step today, and who knows? The next room you command could be your stepping stone to unparalleled success.