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What Is Executive Presence?

Often our clients refer someone to us for Executive Coaching with a glowing description such as "This is one of our most valued and brilliant employees ?. But ?. he or she needs "Executive Presence", or as one client said "He's so low-key he's invisible. Give him "Executive Swagger".

Yet when asked to explain what they mean, their responses remind me of the Supreme Court's comments on pornography - - that it's difficult to define, but you'll know it when you see it.

From our successful interviews and coaching of hundreds of executives, here are some common traits of those who do project Executive Presence: They radiate confidence, poise and authority; they know how to connect with others; and, most important, they build on their own strengths and are genuine.

Following is a 5-point plan to help you build on YOUR strengths so that you project an impression of Executive Presence that matches your abilities:

1. Use your body language and visual image to convey confidence

· Stand and walk tall
· Use steady eye contact, not eye-darting
· Give a crisp handshake, not a dead fish
· Lean forward and be engaged in meetings. Don't fidget or play with your palm pilot
· Keep gestures subdued
· Be perfectly groomed and crisp

2. Develop an authoritative voice

· Use a low-pitched voice
· Place your voice down at the end of a sentence
· Speak with energy
· Eliminate a monotone and verbal distractions such as "um" and "basically"
· Slow down your speaking rate. Have the confidence to pause.

3. Avoid tentative language such as

· "I think ... "; "I guess ... "; "kind of ... "; "maybe ... "
· "I'm not sure if you'll like this, but ... "

4. Keep your message simple and clear

· Cut to the chase
· Think first, then talk. Don't share your internal debate with others
· Talk big picture, not details

5. Connect with others

· Become aware of your effect on others by observing and responding to their body language
· Listen more than you talk. Let others know that you value their opinion
· Take advantage of "hallway conversations" to connect informally

© Roberta Prescott

Roberta Prescott heads The Prescott Group, a communication firm specializing in Executive Development. Visit our web site (http://www.theprescottgroup.com) for more information about our Communication Programs and Executive Coaching Service.

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