The way we speak and carry ourselves says so much about us and can have a profound influence on our success in business and virtually all other facets of our lives. While speaking confidently in front of a crowd may come naturally to some people, others struggle with this crucial part of a leadership role.
To help you improve your executive presence and brush up on your communication skills, see what Knight Funded Women in Technology Executive Forum members Lillian Dominkovics, Francia Guzman, and Ianna Raim shared during this month’s “Just Ask TCI” virtual program.
1. Watch Videos of People Whom You Admire
There is a reason you are drawn to certain people, whether you realize it or not. Watch videos of people whom you admire and pay attention to the tone of their voice, their body language, and how they come off to and interact with their audience. Critique these videos to find out what it is about this person that draws you to them, and then make note of ways that you can improve your own skills to emulate those qualities.
2. Balance Verbal Communication with Non-Verbal Cues
Commanding a strong executive presence isn’t just about what you say, but also how you say it and what cues your body language communicates to your audience. You want your non-verbal cues to exude confidence, while still coming off as comfortable and approachable to your audience. Achieving this balance can take practice. If you know you use a high-pitched voice or fidget in your seat when you’re nervous, for instance, recognize those habits and work on changing them.
It’s also important to note that non-verbal language can be a very powerful tool to show that you are in control of a situation. Although women’s empowerment efforts like the recent #MeToo movement have taken great strides, many women still find themselves in potentially harmful situations in the workplace. Use direct verbal and non-verbal cues to demonstrate that you are in control.
3. Be Memorable
Understanding how others experience you is a key element of creating a positive executive presence. If you know you tend to become loud or overbearing when you’re stressed, for example, work on toning your behavior down in those situations. It’s not always about being the loudest person in the room.
Ultimately, your goal is to make yourself memorable in a positive way. Exude confidence, be consistent in your words and actions, and be a team player.
Always try to be a positive influence, not a distraction. While some people find that humor and sarcasm can, in some cases, “break the ice” and help their audience connect, these tactics can be tricky and may be more alienating than connecting. A good rule of thumb is to only use jokes or sarcasm when they come naturally—don’t force them.
4. Get Feedback
Your aura—or presence about you—is on display during every interaction you have, but especially during meetings, speeches, and in other professional settings. Try to get as much feedback as you can from coworkers, bosses, peers, and friends. Ask questions like:
- How did I communicate?
- Did I appear confident?
- Did I look professional and put-together?
- What soft skills can I improve?
5. Always Self-Evaluate
Even the most seasoned professionals can still improve in certain areas and should always be willing to change their behaviors and speaking style to accommodate cultural changes and various audiences. Regularly evaluate yourself to find areas that need improvement or even small adjustments.
One way to self-evaluate is to record yourself and play it back. Do you sound nervous? Do you giggle or laugh when you’re not sure what to say? Is your voice too high or too fast? Learn to recognize these qualities in yourself, then practice improving those skills.
If you use Zoom or other video technology, record the meeting so you can play it back later and hear your tone and cadence. Some women tend to finish sentences with an upward inflection, as if they are asking a question. Look for nuances like this in your own speech so you can take command of the messages you are sending to your audience—whether intentional or not.
Exuding a strong executive presence is a key part of stepping into a leadership role, and studies have found that it can even help you get that big promotion you’ve been vying for. How we present ourselves and show up every day plays an integral role in the ways in which others view and interact with us. Use the suggestions outlined above to improve your own communication skills and open up innumerable doors along your journey.
Please join us next month on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 12pm ET for our next “Just Ask TCI” on the topic of “managing conflict in the workplace.” Remember, these virtual programs are free and open to the public, so invite your friends!