The concept of executive presence has captured the imagination of the business press. When I did a Google search on the term, it came back with more than four hundred million hits.
One of the search results was an article from Business Insider that suggests that the seven aspects of executive presence all begin with “c”: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness. This may be a tour de force of alliteration, but — like most alliteration — it seems to be straining for effect.
At Communispond, we have coached a lot of executives for television appearances, high-stakes announcements, and crisis management. Here is what we have learned about executive presence. First, it only exists when there are others there to perceive it, which means it is a human interaction. As an interaction, it consists of three channels of communication.
1. How you look.
Appearance is the least important element of presence, and it is also the simplest to master: attend to your posture, grooming, and your health. For skills on how to improve your body language, check out our recent blog post: The 4 Elements of Body Lanugage.
2. How you act.
Exemplary demeanor is a result of your confidence, composure, and sincerity. Attend to your sense of perspective. Deep down, you probably have a very good idea of what is important and what isn’t. Don’t allow yourself to be stressed by what isn’t important and keep your focus on what is. Economy in the expenditure of energy is an essential aspect of grace, and you should strive to act gracefully.
3. How you speak.
In day-to-day interactions, be clear and concise in what you say. Like it or not, much of executive activity consists of selling your vision. Know peoples’ values so you can appeal to them. Know yourself so you can be honest. This may call for serious introspection and reflection. Beyond the day-to-day, when giving a presentation, be prepared, keep your sense of humor and your humility, and practice, practice, practice. Take videos of yourself practicing and review them to find ways to come across better. Consider using our app, ProSpeak®. There are versions for iPhone™ and Android™ devices. The app offers tips for creating effective presentations, but what makes it unique is its ability to coach you in the critical areas of voice, energy, and stance.
It is true that some people seem to exude executive presence naturally. But that doesn’t mean it is either magical or ineffable. Pay attention to how you look, how you act, and how you speak, and it can be yours.