This week, I’m attending the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans (read about my first day on RecruitingConferences.com) and this afternoon, I attended one of the Mega Sessions led by Author and Communications Expert Dianna Booher titled “Creating Executive Presence: Communicate with Confidence in the C-Suite”. As an Executive Coach working with leaders to improve their skills and grow in their careers, it’s not uncommon for me to work with an otherwise successful leader who just doesn’t have the charisma or “It Factor” some are blessed with that naturally compels people to follow them. Thankfully, all hope is not lost and Ms. Booher’s session provided some great tips about how changing some of the physical aspects of one’s delivery style can make an immediate and noticeable difference in communicating with confidence, style and substance.
To demonstrate her point, two members of the audience were invited up onto the stage to give a 60 second presentation about a project they were currently working on to the audience of several hundred. Following their short speech, Ms. Booher would take each person to the side of the stage and provide just 30 seconds of coaching, then they would be asked to deliver their presentation once again using the tips she provided.
The first brave volunteer walked up to the stage with confidence, but once she faced the crowd and began to speak, seemed to sink into the back of the stage and spoke very softly. When her time was up and the brief coaching was provided, she tried again. This time she looked out into the crowd, walked to the front of the stage and shared her project once again. When asked for feedback on the difference in the two presentations, audience members commented that the speaker was perceived as more confident, strong, engaging – and even “more beautiful”. (Huh? Not sure about that one.) The second volunteer shared a brief story about the need to get in better physical shape in order to begin playing tennis with his college age son, so they could spend more time together. While sharing his story, he was casual, smiled and stood right in the center of the stage looking out across the room at the entire audience. He seemed comfortable enough, but after 30 seconds of coaching, he walked strongly to the left of the stage and spoke about his challenge, moved to the right and shared his plan to succeed and also sprinkled in a few bits of humor during his delivery that engaged the audience in his story. Once again, the feedback from the audience was that his second presentation was strong, confident, funny and focused. Unfortunately for him, no comments about his physical appearance, but we definitely liked him.
So what were some of the secrets shared with the audience volunteers in 30 seconds of coaching that made such a difference? Booher’s tips included:
- Use random, sustained eye contact with several members of the audience. Focus on a few people here and there while speaking. “If you’re looking at everyone in the room – you’re looking at no one in the room”.
- Make sure that your body language is strong and confident in order to project that with your tone – because your voice always follows your body language.
- Before you start to speak, stand up and stand still for 5 seconds. Doing so will make you look very much in control.
- When addressing a large group from a stage – walk out: stand still for 5 seconds, then start speaking by making eye contact with one person in the far corner of the group to the left, and then one person in the far corner of the room to the right.
- Gesture from the shoulder rather than from the elbow or the wrist because these types of moves make you look more powerful.
- Use your space purposely. Stand still. Make a point. Move as you transition to the next point. Then stand still, make point, move, etc.
Based on the impromptu demonstrations shared in the session today, it was easy to see how implementing these tips into your speaking style can make a difference in how you’re perceived by the audience. The really good news is that you’re not out of luck if you’re not born with “executive presence”. Like most things, with intention and practice, it can be developed!