What Exactly Is Executive Presence?


Narrowing It Down to 6 Factors

Studies show that our brains first pay attention to how things are said and then secondly to whatever the words might mean. And if the words being said are at odds with how they are said, the listener will pay more attention to the WAY they are said; in other words, what our bodies, faces, and voices are conveying. Not that the words aren't important-they are.

We make conscious and unconscious judgments and decisions about people and the messages they're conveying, based on vocal delivery, and the way they make us feel.

That means that two people can deliver the same words, yet cast entirely different impressions in the hearts and minds of their listeners.

Is it any wonder this is such a valued and sought after trait in employees and new hires?

You hear the term "executive presence" bandied about a lot (Or maybe it's on its way out, already)

... But what exactly contributes to "executive presence?"

Another way to ask it may be "What is necessary for communication to be effective and 'professional?' " It's basically performing your job with poise-a good old-fashioned and timeless word.

Over my years of working with individuals and groups, I've narrowed down what goes into "executive presence" to these 6 factors:

1. Your message needs to be clear.

Your job, typically, is to distill a large amount of information on your topic of expertise, filter it through your perspective, and communicate it in a concise and digestible form. The clarity of your message is the way you can show your diligence, understanding, and commitment. That also means that you must be able to think clearly enough in the moment so that you can effectively find the language needed to convey your message in a succinct manner.

2. Perspective. Your perspective should be delivered strongly. You are the expert. What a customer or audience wants is excellent information filtered through a knowledgable, experienced, confident professional who they feel they can trust. People choose to work with YOU because of your unique perspective on the subject.

3. Presence. Your presence convinces Walt Whitman. Your words are only half of your message, especially when there are others, maybe your competitors, who are saying nearly the same thing. Communication isn't just about sharing information; it's about connecting, and connecting in the moment. Information sharing, even in business, can be meaningful communication, even profound in the way that it can connect people and establish relationships.

4. You may have heard it many times, BUT Staying receptive and listening well go a LONG way in establishing a trusting relationship. Show that you're listening to your client. If the ideas and comments in your message have been so carefully thought out or practiced that there is no room for tailoring and fine-tuning, you need to re-assess...

5. Your messages need to be tailored to the particular listener(s).

We are never communicating in a vacuum; the information being presented is always directed to meet the needs of a particular person or group. What does this specific audience need and want to know? The key points of the message probably remain the same, but the supporting details may need to change depending on the listener's position. The vocabulary and wording you use is dependent upon the background of the listener; how familiar are they with the terms being used and the ideas being discussed? Would analogies, metaphors, or stories help the person understand the information better ?

6. Preparation. You may be 100% clear on your knowledge and what you think you want to say, but in the moment, lose your way, become distracted, etc.

It's critical that you have practiced expressing certain ideas or complex concepts several times, so that you know how the message sounds, how it feels, how it flows. You will feel much more confident if you don't have to worry about formulating the sentences for the first time and can focus more on the present moment. This work takes time but is so important to your professional image, especially when stepping into a new role or embarking into new territory.

If you feel you could benefit from some help in developing your "executive presence," reach out. I'd be more than happy to work with you or your group!

And, tell me what YOUR biggest challenges are with regards to communication and your job. What do you struggle with? I guarantee you're not alone. Share it with me, and I'll talk about it in another blog, or with you, directly.