Experts’ Table – How Strong is your Executive Presence?

🕑 3 minutes read | Jan 20 2020 | By Becky Gendron

Are you customer-facing? Have lots of face-to-face meetings and phone conversations? How does your audience perceive you? Are you professional, credible, likable, and believable? If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to examine your Executive Presence.

What is Executive Presence?

As a subject matter expert in your industry, or someone aspiring to become one, every opportunity you have to interact with your customers and prospects is critical to your success. How you are perceived has a direct influence on your success. That perception, their opinion of how you present yourself, is a measure of your Executive Presence. Do you inspire confidence?

Are You a Vendor or Trusted Advisor?

Are you merely one among many vendors hoping to win business by solving a customer’s problems and/or fulfilling their needs? Do you focus upon the wonderfulness of your product and services (like many of your competitors)? Or, are you a trusted advisor by thinking with and for your customers about their business? Their perception, or even misperception of you, is your reality.

To move from the vendor, or even “preferred” vendor status, toward a trusted advisor, adjustments are necessary. It’s a given that you must be somewhat knowledgeable about the industry in which your customer operates. You also must know something about their competition, and most importantly, demonstrate a fair understanding of their business, and not just from a (insert your product/service here) standpoint. How you communicate with your customers can make or break you in their eyes.

First Impressions Matter

The differentiating element, and arguably the more important one, is your Executive Presence. You may have heard that the effectiveness of your communication is based 55% on how you look, 38% on how you sound, and only 7% on what you say.

So, how do we interpret those percentages and where did they come from? In the late 1960s, Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA first began examining communication effectiveness by asking an audience if it merely liked or disliked a speaker. After that, the process evolved into a sophisticated examination of just how a person is perceived, and how effectively they communicate.

We all know about the importance of first impressions. We’re judged, correctly or incorrectly, within moments of meeting someone. Every interaction after that either helps or hurts our image. Any distractions that can be seen or heard when we communicate detract from our effectiveness, and therefore, our perceived Executive Presence.

Kinds of Distractions

Think back to a speaker whom you thought was weak. How did this person sound? Monotone? Did he or she speak too quickly or too slowly? Did they have lots of “ums, rights, okays, you knows?” Were there no pauses between sentences so that their delivery seemed like one, long run-on thought?

Where there any other distractions, like:

  • Staring at their laptop?
  • Just reading the slides?
  • Never looking at you?
  • Standing crookedly?
  • Pacing the stage left and right?
  • Not knowing what to do with their hands?
  • Doing too much with hands (with over-the-top animation)?

Try this—watch a couple of politicians on TV and turn down the sound when they speak. Now, just watch. Are they smooth, appropriate, or distracting?

These distractions can diminish our perception and opinion of them, regardless of their message. Customers are doing the same.

Now What?

The good news is that everyone, yes, everyone can improve Executive Presence with training and exercises. There are exercises to eliminate, or drastically reduce, every distraction, whether seen or heard. Almost everyone on TV has gone through this type of training. There are many training programs that will tell you what changes to make and why you should make them, like stop saying “um” so often, use your hands more effectively, and make better eye contact.

How does one do that? Making those changes requires exercises and rehearsal. Doing so will improve your Executive Presence significantly. It’s important to understand not only what distractions you should eliminate, why you should do so, and, most importantly, how to do it.

Improving your customers’ perception of you by developing your Executive Presence will result in two key developments—growth in image and confidence. What will an improved image and better confidence do for you? The sky’s the limit and it begins with soft skills training.

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