What Is Executive Presence
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Learn 6 strategies for executive presence for women. Learn how to command a room and get the respect you deserve. Don't get interrupted by your listeners. Learn how to lead like the boss you are! Learn how to speak so that people will listen!

In honor of international women’s day, I wanted to make a special video about boosting executive presence and leadership skills for women. We need executive presence in any field, any industry. It is important to assert oneself and show up with confidence. 

The idea is not to communicate like a man. We celebrate differences. Own it. Be proud of it. The goal is to communicate as you, not to fit the mold of someone else. Authenticity over conformity. You have your own special qualities, insights, and talents so let’s talk about how you can use those to your advantage all while respecting the setting you’re in i.e., startup culture, corporate environment, and so on. 

Here are 6 ways of commanding a room and emanating that executive presence.

Take up space with (a) your body and (b) your voice

When we feel good about ourselves, we inherently stand up straight, speak loudly and use sweeping hand gestures. You do this when you feel like a super star, whether or not you’re aware of it. That, my friend, projects confidence to the world. It tells people in the room, “Wow, this person is oozing with confidence. Where do they get it?” On the flip side, when we feed insecure or diffident, we speak more quietly and we make ourselves smaller with our body language. We cross our arms, hunch over, fold up in a ball if we can – all of which sends signals of “SOS – this person is down in the dumps.” Everyone experiences these ups and downs but when you are in a professional setting or a corporate environment, you want to put your best foot forward. You want to emanate that executive presence and light up a room. 

Take up space with your body

Practice make big sweeping hand gestures in an outwardly direction as though you were guiding the message out of you and hand delivering it to your interlocutors or audience. Hold a power pose (think of the famous Wonder Woman hands-on-hips boss pose) and address your listeners. If you need a quick confidence-boost take a private moment and hold your power pose for 2 minutes. You can do this with our without reciting your favorite mantra aloud or inwardly. Posture is everything because it sends a powerful signal to your brain and immediately boosts your self-worth and it also illuminates your entire face, rendering you approachable and more likable. 

Take up space with your voice 

Confident people know how to project their voice, when appropriate. Communication is contingent on the setting and participants, as well as a slew of other factors (check out Dell Hymes’ Speaking of Ethnography paradigm). If you are in a one-to-one or small-group interaction, then it would be appropriate to speak more softly. But if you are on stage, in a board room, meeting with VC investors, etc. then you want to command a room. Voice projection will help with that. If you are wondering how to speak more loudly without straining your vocal chords, then I want you to consider “yoga breathing.” In more scientific terms, this is known as diaphragmatic breathing, which is meant to help you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing. Practice filling your diaphragm to full capacity with air, holding your breath at the top, and using the force from your powerhouse (aka core muscles) to carry the sound of your voice so that it reaches a roomful of people. 

Take your time when you (a) walk and (b) talk 

Take your time walking 

When you walk into a room, walk slowly. Imagine walking into the room as though you have all the time in the world. Audrey Hepburn epitomizes this grace and executive presence in the movie My Fair Lady.

Walking slowly, like an empress emanates executive presence because you are not in a rush, you are in control of your schedule, and people are going to wait for you. 

The common misconception is that if you speed through a hallway, race into the meeting room, or walk up to the coffee machine with alacrity that you’re giving off the impression that 1. You’re busy, 2. You’re important, and 3. You’re productive. Well, unfortunately, it exudes none of those things and even gives of the opposite impression: 1. You’re unorganized, 2. You’re overwhelmed, and 3. You’re chasing your own tail. 

So the next time you find yourself racing down the hall with a pile a papers in your hands, think again. Channel Audrey Hepburn, Beyonce, JLo and any other fierce executive woman you can think of. 

Don’t move hastily or erratically. Be deliberate with your movements and gestures. 

Take your time talking 

Similarly to the previous point, there’s no need to speed when it comes to talking. The more slowly you speak the more thinking time you’ll buy yourself. It will allow you to choose your words thoughtfully and meaningfully. You can be deliberate about the message your construct. Don’t’ be afraid or silence or the use of pause. These, too, will build in some thinking time to your conversation, pitch, or public speaking engagement. 

Be calm = More Zen, Less Tweak

Try to keep still most of the time, only making gestures for effect – when you want to emphasize your point. Fidgeting is a juvenile move. If you have built up nervous energy, excuse yourself and find a quiet and private space to hold your 2-minute power poise. Or to nip it in the bud, make time for an exhilarating HIIT workout. You’ll be too tired to move frivolously after then and will restrict your movements to purposeful ones only. 

Avoid uptalk. Uptake is when your tone of voice increases, as though you were asking a question. If you want to be taken seriously and command a room, you need to show you are authoritative and knowledgeable. Lower your voice and find your power pitch. If you are using uptalk then you are in fact indexing uncertainty, which does not reveal confidence or certainty. Use rising intonation only when you have a question. Not at the beginning, mid-sentence or at your possible completion point (PCP) or the end of your sentence. Tonal overlay reveals a lot about a person’s confidence, mood, and demeanor. 

Keep the facial expressions to a minimum. If you have an expressive face, that is fine, just be mindful that too much facial movement can be distracting and detract from the message. Best to keep it to a soft smile, radiating confidence, and not give the audience your full repertoire of facial expressions. After all, we’re talking about executive presence, not acting. 

Lastly: don’t react, respond. In the heat of the moment, we can blurt out something we’d later regret. You cannot unsay something. Instead of reacting and making a brash decision, take a breath, think about how you would best respond. Try to keep it neutral if you can, but naturally it depends on the situation at hand. 

Let your creativity shine

Allow yourself to be creative. Even if you’re not in a “creative” industry you can still be creative. Anything you do can be done with a sprinkle of creativity. Sharpening your creative thinking will help you perform better because it fuels big ideas, challenges group think and previous ways of thinking and most importantly it can create new business opportunities. There is a place for creativity in business 

Don’t be afraid of taking risks

We tend to steer clear of risk taking, which is largely fueled by a fear of failure. Failure is part and parcel for success. We also tend to fear being wrong so we’re hesitant about speaking up and don’t take as many chances as we should. The reality is that we learn from our failures and they help us get to the places we’re meant to go. 

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” — Oprah Winfrey

Go with your gut feeling 

Effective communicators, successful executives, and top leaders have high emotional intelligence(EI). It is important to tap into that EI in order to communicate with empathy, care, and compassion. Doing so will help you lead a team, run a department, spearhead a project, all while exuding executive presence. 

Enjoy these strategies and add them to your Explearning Communications toolkit.

See you in the next lesson!

Happy Explearning 🐝

About the Author and the Explearning Academy:

Mary Daphne is an expert in communication, executive interpersonal skills, and personal development. She is the founder of the Explearning Academy, a platform dedicated to helping individuals enhance their social fluency, boost their careers, and elevate their social game. Through immersive group coaching programs like the Executive Communication Lab and self-guided journeys, participants gain the social superpowers and career catapults they've been searching for. If you're ready to take your negotiation skills to the next level and connect with like-minded individuals, visit academy.explearning.co and explore the various plans available. Join the Explearning Academy community and unlock your full potential.

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