3 Tips To Boost Your Executive Presence
Growing up in the Philippines, I was taught to be humble and accommodating, rather than outspoken or bold. We were encouraged to get along, rather than rock the boat.
My first jobs were with two of the world’s top companies, Procter & Gamble and Hewlett-Packard. My global colleagues were extroverted and confident – they always knew the right thing to say. I found myself too intimidated to speak up in meetings. Not a quality that was going to fast-track me for a leadership position.
I’m petite – 5’ flat. On top of that, I’m an Asian woman, so I look much younger than I am. As a director of strategy and planning at a Fortune 50, I had to learn how to boost my presence, command the room, and engage executive audiences effectively.
So what changed that allowed me to confidently lead global teams and work with senior executives? I took control of my presence. Coming from a technical background, I had to learn that it’s not just about the facts – how I say something is just as important as what I say.
Here’s how you can strengthen your presence and instantly own the room.
1. Connect With Your Listeners
- Eye contact helps you connect with your audience and show confidence. It’s a powerful connection tool, and it’s all about balance. Too little and you seem detached. Stare them down and you seem creepy. The most effortless way to relate to your audience without detracting from what you’re saying is to follow “one person, one thought.” That is, each thought gets delivered to one set of eyes.
Tip: When seated, look for ‘power positions.’ Position yourself somewhere in the room where you can see the group and make eye contact with key stakeholders.
2. Own Your Space
- Gestures reinforce your message, and help you own your space. When standing, open your gestures and demonstrate a strong stance. Don’t be afraid to visually express what you’re saying, but keep it in the “gesture zone” – from about your chin to your waist, and just over shoulder width.
Tip: When seated, keep your hands on or above the table and remember to gesture naturally.
3. Take Your Time
- Pace and pauses tell your audience that what you’re saying matters. Power is never rushed. When you sound confident, it’s easier for your audience to have confidence in you. If you speak too fast, you risk sounding nervous or uncomfortable, and you send one of two wrong messages:
- “What I’m saying isn’t important enough to take up your time,” or,
- “I don’t care if you understand, I just want to dump my info on you.”
Tip: Slow down and use pauses to command attention and emphasize key points. There’s power in the pause.
Follow these three quick suggestions and you’ll come across as confident and credible.
Hear Ching tell her story and see her put these executive presence tips into action in this 3-minute video.