Do people listen to you with attention when you speak? Do they always consider your ideas? During meetings, conferences, and other business events, are people drawn to you? Executive presence is essential for small business owners, fifty-something entrepreneurs, or startup owners. It’s a complex skill you can work on.
Understanding Executive Presence
Three things have a major impact on executive presence — how you act, what you say, and how you look. These may seem obvious, but in fact our brains tend to focus on the work that needs to be done, on project requirement, goals, and results.
Whether we are talking about a presentation, a meeting with vendors or partners, or a quick chat on the corridor with some employees, it’s easy to focus on the work and forget all about executive presence. The result? People won’t be as open to your ideas, nor will they feel motivated to give your company their best.
Entrepreneurs who have executive presence are more confident, more likable, easier to trust. We shouldn’t confuse executive presence with being bossy or domineering. It’s a powerful leadership quality that can make any entrepreneur stand out in an inspiring way. The best part is that executive presence is a skill which you can improve.
Focus On Your Strengths, Not Weaknesses
Building on your strengths rather than trying to hide your weaknesses is one of the most effective ways to make your executive presence stronger. Fifty-something entrepreneurs can sometimes feel very conscious about their age in a workplace dominated by younger people. Or they may not feel wholly comfortable with the latest technology. If you happen to be one of them, focus instead on your strengths — your experience, both in the corporate world and in life, your passion for your work, your expertise.
Use Your Breathing to Enter Confidence Mode
Before an important meeting, a serious discussion with staff, or any other demanding situation, pause for a moment and become aware of your breathing. Research shows that breathing mindfully in and out even for a few moments can relax and prepare you for an important moment. This simple practice helps ease your mind and lower your heart rate. It has an immediate effect on your body, including on your posture.
Clarify Your Intention
Different business situations call for different intentions. While you may want to inspire or educate employees, in a meeting with partners, corporate clients, or vendors you may want instead to persuade. Know exactly what you want before every business interaction and build your whole presence around that. From what you wear to how you speak and how much you speak, all of these determine whether your executive presence will be strong or not.
Create a Strong Image
First impressions matter a great deal, and the life of an entrepreneur is filled with meetings that generate first impressions. You may meet with a major customer, sales rep, or partner only for a few minutes, but it can be enough for them to like you.
As important as how you dress is your body language. More than 70% of interpersonal communications are non-verbal. Whether you stand straight or not, cross your arms or legs, touch your nose as you speak, or rub the nape of your neck, you can send positive or negative cues. Delve more deeply into the fascinating field of body language to learn how to increase your executive presence.
Ultimately, the power and positive effect of your executive presence will be determined by the person you are, in and out of the office. Executive presence isn’t something that can be assumed or faked.
It’s a natural extension of a good character, and of a life well lived. Every choice you make in life, the way you behave toward others, and your attitude to life all help build your executive presence.