A Guide to Executive Presence

January 9, 2018


Executive presence—the ability to put people at ease, project confidence and control in a crisis, make tough calls and stand up for your beliefs—can help you run meetings, give dynamic presentations, win people over and get things accomplished.

Executive presence (sometimes called personal presence) can be developed, and it comes in many “varieties.” You can demonstrate executive presence without being the most outspoken person in the room. The guidelines below will help you take your first steps.

Body Language

  • Standing: Stand straight (both your body and your head), feet about shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other.  
  • Siting: Sit upright and lean forward slightly. Take up space—rest your arms on the table, away from your body. (Crossing your arms and/or legs signals that you’re closed off or fearful.)
  • Nod to show you’re listening, but don’t nod continuously.
  • Smile to project ease and optimism.

Voice and word choice

  • Speak in low register. This will make you seem more authoritative.
  • Say “I will,” not “I think I will” or “I hope to do___”
  • Don’t rush. Enunciate and speak up so people can hear you.
  • Don’t talk to fill a void. When you pause after an important point, people will wait to her what you’ll say next.
  • Cut out “ums,” “uhs” and “maybes”—which make anyone seem nervous or unprepared.  Don’t end sentences with a verbal “question mark.”
  • Be concise—convey a message in one to two crisp sentences.

Other vital attributes

  • No matter how you feel inside, always appear calm and collected on the outside.
  • Be open and approachable. Everyone from the CEO to the janitorial staff should enjoy interacting with you. 
  • Be present. Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking with you. Keep eye contact, lean forward and ask questions, rather than contradicting or trying to upstage the other person. 
  • Show up on time for meetings, but don’t rush in looking flustered.
  • Wear clothes appropriate to your job—or for the job you’d like to attain. Don’t show up for work wearing rumpled, too-tight, or inappropriate attire.

Follow these guidelines and your ability to command attention, gain respect and to win people to your side should skyrocket.

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