Confidence and grace under fire is one of the top aspects of gravitas, according to research from The Talent Foundation. Today’s question in this series is about being heard. Timing is everything. If you can make a well researched point strongly, particularly in the tough times, you will boost your gravitas and executive presence.
Get in the Game for Gravitas
Q: I get the feeling that other senior leaders are not really listening to what I say when we’re round the table. Yet someone else will make the same point and it’s accepted. Infuriating. It’s worse when I’m with very loud people. How do I change this dynamic?
A: This is about developing your professional presence. It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening here without seeing you in action. But there are three easy things you can try out now and see what works for you. It’s good practice for when you really need to make a key point in the tough times. Do the homework below, practice out loud for 15 minutes and then use one or two of the approaches in an easy meeting and see what happens.
- Work out a clear point of view and call to action that you can deliver succinctly and with conviction. Then practice. If you ramble, repeat yourself or use words like maybe or perhaps you are undermining yourself. A point of view is a 30 second nugget of good thinking that supports the objective. The call to action is your 15 second advice on what should happen next. It’s the point you would make if you only had 45 seconds. It’s useful to start by saying “To be successful… or To achieve x we need to ….”
- Get in the game. This means that before you even speak people need to be aware of your presence. Walk in tall, sit up, lean forward to listen to someone else talking, ask a question, look involved, interested and relaxed. Sit in a power position in the room – in easy line of sight of the key players and avoid being hidden.
- Use an easy vocal strength tip. Before you speak, take an intake of breath or use the current speaker’s name to signal you are about to make a point. Then emphasise the consonant at the beginning of the first word of your sentence and the first word e.g. the W in what. Then decide which are the ‘money words’ in your point – essentially the key words you need to emphasise in the sentence. Underline them in rehearsal. This will slow down your delivery and make it more impactful.
To be coached to develop your executive presence and gravitas for your current situation do give us a ring. We develop bespoke courses for individuals or groups. Find out more here.
Gravitas, according to 62% of leaders surveyed, is what signals to the world you’re made of the right stuff and can be trusted with serious responsibility. I bet you understand it. But can you physically do it under fire in different roles and cultures? That’s what we coach.
In this six-part series, our coaches are going to answer your questions and share some of their top coaching secrets that get results – with exercises that you can practice at home.
We hope you enjoy it. Keep emailing your questions to us! And share the inspirations too.
Vision and Values are Your Core Stability
Q: I have the intellectual horsepower. I can certainly go ‘six questions deep’ in my specialist subject. But in the big senior meetings I tend to sit back and not get involved enough. Then when I do speak, I’m not sure I’m convincing.
A: A friend of mine saw an 18-year-old girl hit by a speeding lorry just outside her house. She decided to campaign to get the speed limit changed. Without any previous experience, she lobbied the local council, made multiple presentations and succeeded.
Your vision and values will give you authentic presence and gravitas in the room. Just as they did for my friend. They are your core stability together with a clear appreciation of your own strengths. Then you can work on a host of practical other elements. But this is what builds authenticity and supports you through the really tough stuff.
- Think of a situation where you are really proud of yourself. Tell a friend the story. Your friend writes down all the strengths they hear and then replays them at the end. Put them in a box to reflect upon
- Make a list of all your core values. Then start to cross the values off your list until you get to 3 which become your ‘red line’ areas. This is hard!
- Ask yourself what your purpose is at work, what is important to you, what drives you.
To learn how to develop your executive presence and gravitas. And ignite others around your purpose, do give us a ring. We develop bespoke courses for individuals or groups. Find out more here.
Remember the Faulty Towers sketch “Don’t Mention the War”. Well that’s how I feel about even mentioning the words hands and presentations in the same sentence. The more you think about them the worse it can get. But it is a question that comes up in 95% of our training sessions.
So, if you are feeling very self conscious about your hands when you present, there are some techniques which will help you look confident and open.
- Do what comes naturally to you when you’re at your relaxed best. Presentations are just a conversation.
- Remember it is all about generosity – sharing your enthusiasm and energy with the audience.
- Ignore people who talk about ‘windmill arms’. We rarely see anyone who gesticulates too much.
- Use your hands to match the story you are telling and to make it really interesting. Start to be aware of how you naturally do this when you are talking with friends.
- If you feel uncomfortable, just concentrate on keeping your hands up in front of you and open. Even if you make small gestures it will be better than locking your arms by your sides or closing your arms across your body.
- Find a holding position for when you start or are waiting for questions. Place your hands with a few fingers lightly touching together in front of your tummy button – this works as long as they are not tense. Hands dropped by your side are good or even put your hands behind your back if you are desperate. Just stay open and relaxed.
Our presentation courses are evidence based and 80% physical practice. We blend brain science, positive psychology and advanced communications skills to help leaders become exceptional communicators. You can work with us one to one or in groups.
Call us today to find out how we can help your leaders become exceptional communicators.
Remember the baddie in Casino Royale playing poker with James Bond? Bond thought that his blood tears were his ‘tell’ – the giveaway sign that he had a bad hand and was uncomfortable.
When you present, it’s valuable to know what you do when you are uncomfortable. We call this ‘managing your tell’.
Some people smile too much, others close up their body language or step backwards, a few get aggressive. What’s your own tell? We all do something different and weird.
Humans are excellent at knowing when something isn’t quite right and can interpret your ‘tell’ as insecurity, lack of conviction or simply that they’ve hit a raw nerve in the negotiations.
When we coach groups, we help you find your own ‘tell’ by simulating your personal high pressure situation. You’ll be surprised by what you find. You describe your own scenario, walk through the door into the meeting, start to speak and take tough questions from colleagues. I can guarantee your ‘tell’ will emerge in just two minutes.
Once you have this valuable knowledge you can manage it and stay relaxed under pressure.
You can try this yourself but do practice with colleagues you know and trust and don’t get too personal!
Come on one of our Presence courses to learn to ‘manage your tell’ and maintain your presence and authority during Q&A, meetings and presentations. We’d love to hear from you. Contact us to find out more.
In her new book ‘Presence’ Harvard psychologist and TED star Amy Cuddy reveals how to unleash your boldest self to heighten your confidence, influence others, and perform at your peak.
Amy Cuddy has galvanized tens of millions of viewers around the world with her TED talk about “power poses.”
Now she presents the enthralling science underlying these and many other fascinating body-mind effects, and teaches us how to use simple techniques to liberate ourselves from fear in high-pressure moments, perform at our best, and connect with and empower others to do the same.
Brilliantly researched, impassioned, and accessible, Presence is filled with stories of individuals who learned how to flourish during the stressful moments that once terrified them. Every reader will learn how to approach their biggest challenges with confidence instead of dread, and to leave them with satisfaction instead of regret.
KineticFuture courses incorporate the latest science with practical tools. We coach leaders to be exceptional communicators for presentations, video and select committees. Do call us if you’d like to know more.
Buy Amy’s book ‘Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges’ on Amazon.