Executive Presence Tips for Your Next Important Meeting
In a formal meeting with 15 senior women at a boardroom of a big multinational company, I took some mental notes executive presence ('EP') as each woman presented herself and the work of her organization.
Our host radiated executive presence. She was elegant, charming, she led the conversation with grace and effectiveness. She introduced those who joined with humor and kindness, making sure everyone was included while moving the event agenda along.
Another favorite was a prominent lawyer and member of the judiciary branch. She was warm but precise in her speech. She cited relevant stats about the challenges that women lawyers faced. She built empathy through a personal story about the discrimination she overcame and finally shared some of the challenges of her newly formed organization to support women in law.
Then there were several EP blunders:
Engaging the audience: One woman spent a lot of time listing her credentials and the people / companies she worked with but she kept talking and talking in a monotone voice, completely failing to connect with the audience.
Voice projection / dress code: a woman of small stature (but big title), had some very interesting stories to share but she sat at the end of the table and talked in a low voice, which made it really hard for anyone at the other side of the table to follow. She was also dressed very casually in an event that had mostly business professional dress code. This took away from her authority at first sight.
Pace: A very confident and extraverted former CEO of a big company, had tons of presence and passion but she spoke so fast and in such an animated way, making it a big effort to follow (especially for the introverts in the room).
Focus: A fourth woman, kind and compassionate, shared a lot of info and excitement about a project she was working on. She did a great job giving credit to several of the people in the room who had contributed to its making. Nevertheless, 10 minutes into her speech, I still couldn’t really understand the purpose of the project and expected outcomes.
TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT IMPORTANT MEETING 1. Dress appropriately to the expected dress code. If you don't know what the code is, ask the organizer and err on the conservative side. 2. Pay attention to the mood in the room. Who is talking to whom? Who might engage more or less with your message? Should you be serious or more casual? 3. Tailor your message to your audience and engage them in the conversation. What keeps them awake at night? What may they be curious to learn? How much do they know about you and how much should they know? 4. Pace yourself and project your voice, especially if you're in a big group where people may be sitting farther way. 5. Balance data and storytelling to keep your audience engaged on different levels. 6. Identify your key messages in advance and make sure to communicate them clearly and concisely throughout your speech in order to avoid oversharing.
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