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How to Improve Your Executive Presence During Meetings.

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Demonstrating executive presence during business presentations can help you to accelerate your career. Grabbing people's attention, communicating clearly, displaying confidence, and winning support for ideas can make a lasting impression on those you work with. The stakes are high, and you will increase your effectiveness by being authoritative and approachable. How you present yourself and package your ideas can influence the promotions you earn, the projects you are assigned, and the resources you are given. Building executive presence requires you to be confident, knowledgeable, well-groomed, articulate, self-aware, and empathic. Business professionals can build these traits by implementing these best practices.

four business men, and one business women sitting at a desk during a business meeting


Start with building confidence.

Being confident is an essential part of demonstrating executive presence. When a person is confident, it impacts the way they stand, speak, and presents themselves. Your confidence can affect body language, tone, speed of speech, and volume during a presentation. When you believe in the logic and importance of your words, those who listen are likelier to hear and consider your message. Speakers that are calm, direct, purposeful, and concise in their communication put audiences at ease.


Build confidence through writing.

Mastering information related to the topic you will be speaking to will help you confidently deliver your message. One way to improve your mastery of a subject is to write down what you currently know about a topic and reflect on what additional information you need to know before speaking. The process of writing allows you to organize your thoughts. It also gives you the material you can later review to strengthen your recall of a topic and refine your thinking.

A great way to start this process is to get out a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you know about the topic you are speaking about. When you begin this process, don't focus on form or structure.

Jot down whatever is on your mind. It can be helpful to use brainstorming tools like mindmaps to help you complete a brain dump. You will discover how much you know on the subject by putting your thoughts on paper while also allowing yourself to build new connections between thoughts and ideas.

Once you have sufficient information, you can organize the information into an outline, prioritize what is most important, and begin writing. As you put your thoughts on paper, you will likely discover that you know more about the topic than you want to write about. Having an excess of information is a good thing. As you

the transition from writing to preparing your presentation, you can confidently know you have a reservoir of knowledge to tap into as questions on your subject arise.


Plan your presentation to be brief and brilliant.

Now that you have written down what you know, it is time to plan how to communicate the information. As you develop your plan, it is good to remember that less is more. The more slides, words, props, and time you use, the more complexities you create. Complexity creates risk when you are presenting. When communicating, you want to keep things as simple as possible. Being an effective communicator is all about connecting with your audience. The fewer words, props, and slides you use, the better you can connect with your audience, read the room, and adjust your approach to match the feel of people in the room. Executive presence is all about impacting the people you are communicating with. Executive Coach and author Carmine Gallo, in his book Talk Like Ted, states that 18 minutes is the ideal amount of time for covering a topic. You can maximize your impact on the audience by delivering a solid yet short message demonstrating your knowledge and expertise on a topic.


Practice delivering your message.

Practice is the best way to ensure you can deliver a clear and confident message. Much like stage performers rehearse their lines so they can say them without notes, you want to practice your speech to the point that you can speak naturally without using many written aids. Communicating without having to use notes signals to listeners that you know what you are talking about.

One of the best ways to practice your presentation is to video record yourself. You can observe your posture, the pace of speech, and tone by video recording yourself. After watching the video, you can focus on addressing the observed opportunities. Then you can practice different rates and tones of speech and

gestures to see how your verbal and non-verbal communication can impact how you deliver your message.

After practicing your message on your own, you should solicit friends, family, or co-workers to listen to your presentation and give you feedback. The more the person mirrors the audience you will be speaking to, the better. If you are presenting to high-level senior executives, it is best to seek out a mentor or sponsor with a similar role or responsibility to practice with. Practicing with someone who knows or understands your audience will ensure that you get appropriate feedback.

Visualize how you want the presentation to go.

Most anxiety around speaking in front of others is rooted in fear of the unknown. As you prepare for your presentation, it is helpful to picture how you envision it going.

  • How do you want to be perceived?

  • What questions do you anticipate?

  • How will you respond to those questions?

  • What will you do if your anxiety is getting the best of you?

Visualizing how you want to present and what you will do if things go wrong will help you prepare for the moment. Knowing how you will handle anxiety or unanticipated questions will help you to stay calm.


Develop a successful routine.

In the moments building up to your presentation, develop a successful routine.

  1. Wear clothing that makes you comfortable and gives you confidence.

  2. Check on your grooming to ensure you present the best version of yourself.

  3. Listen to motivational music that can give you positive energy.

  4. Practice your posture to be mindful of sitting or standing straight with an open stance.

  5. Warm up your voice so that you can project with clarity.

Taking these steps before you walk into the room can help you to be confident and prepared.

Once you are in the room, there are a few things you should be mindful of. First, it is always best to have a glass of water when speaking in front of people. Drinking water can give you a moment to compose yourself if you are anxious or have difficulty answering a question. It is also helpful to keep your mouth moist when speaking. Second, having a pen and a piece of paper is helpful. While you are waiting to speak, there will be new ideas that will pop into your head. Writing them down will allow you to process the thought. If they can help your presentation, use them. If not, writing them down should help you refocus. During your presentation, having a piece of paper will allow you to take notes of questions you cannot answer. Taking good notes will allow you to follow up with the questions asked later.

It can also be helpful to have some techniques for grounding yourself. Practicing grounding techniques is a way to stop the brain from focusing on the future and being in the present moment. One technique Shirzad Chamine, executive coach and founder of the Positive Intelligence program, encourages clients to practice is rubbing their fingers together with so much attention that they can feel the ridges of their fingers. This practice can divert your focus from worrying about what could go wrong. Focusing on your breathing is another way of grounding. The key is to help your mind decrease negative thoughts. Negative thoughts create anxiety that can lower your confidence.


Summary

Building your executive presence will help you to advance your career. Everyone has great ideas, but few people are given the opportunity and resources to bring their ideas to life. By improving your ability to be approachable and authoritative you with both invite more people to work with you, and influence them to trust your judgment. Executive presence is a skill that is built over time. The more that you put yourself in a position to interact with Senior Leaders of your organization, the better able you will be to learn the cultural norms of your company. Having an executive presence is all about being your authentic self while respecting the communication norms of the organizational or group culture that you are working with.


 

Thank you for reading this blog

Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with Your Path Coaching and Consulting. He is a former retail executive with over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. He is a Co-Active coach who focuses on helping professionals and small business owners overcome insecurities, knowledge gaps, and lack of direction. He does this by helping clients tap into their values, recognize their strengths, and develop actionable strategies for growth.

Picture of Dorian Cunion Executive Coach

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