What is executive presence and how do you get it? First impressions are important. How you present yourself can make a big difference in how others perceive you. That is why projecting confidence and authority in a way that commands respect and inspires others is essential. That is what Elizabeth Bachman shares today. Elizabeth pulls together four themes of how to show up as a leader within your organization. She gives tips and strategies to establish your executive presence, be visible, and be valued within and outside your organization. Enjoy!
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A Guide To Establishing And Developing Your Executive Presence With Elizabeth Bachman
Presentation skills are the key. Before I get started with this episode, I’d like to invite you to see how your presentation skills are doing by taking our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see you are showing up as strong, powerful, and someone to be followed, and maybe there are some areas where a little support could help you get the results you need and the recognition you deserve.
I’m doing something a little bit different. Every Wednesday, I do a live broadcast where I talk about presence and leadership. They’re tips and strategies. They’re useful things. They’re short broadcasts between 5 and 15 minutes where I give tips often as things that my clients have asked for. They’re things that will be useful. In this episode, I’m pulling four of them together on the theme of executive presence. Executive presence is one of those strange and unknown things. It exists in the heads of the people who are looking at you and evaluating you.
I’ve done four broadcasts that go around the theme of how you show up as someone to be visible and valued within your organization and outside your organization in case you want to go someplace else. The first one is about executive presence. The second one is how you create visibility, which is by using stories. You’re seeding your value with stories. The third one is one of the best ways to start speaking, to be visible, and to show how valuable you are. That is how to be speaking on panels and tips for sharing the spotlight.
Since it often happens that once you’ve done a panel or a presentation where people get in trouble is then a question and answer period. The fourth one is how to love a question-and-answer session. Question and answer sessions are a great way to show your visibility and to show your value. Let’s kick it off with the first one, which is What Is Executive Presence, and How Do I Get It?.
I want to talk about one of the questions that I get from my clients a lot, which is, “What is an executive presence? How can I get some?” Executive presence is one of those squishy, tricky phrases that you never know. As Gina Grahame says, “I know it when I see it.” I’m speaking a lot about the two guests I’ve had to discuss executive presence with me, Gina Grahame, who talks about executive presence and the new normal, and Sharon Wamble-King, who talks about executive presence in the multicultural world, which is what we’re in.
The thing about executive presence is it’s one of those things that you can talk about. Sometimes, it’s an excuse not to promote you. Maybe you’re not the kind of person they feel comfortable with. That might be the color of your skin or gender. You’re a woman and they think you’re too pushy because you’re stating your opinion.
Another thing that affects someone not having executive presence in the minds of others is performance bias. It’s one of the many biases that the Lean In organization identified in a study they did with McKinsey, where the performance bias is that men are hired or promoted because of potential and women are hired or promoted for what they’ve already done. That’s a whole other conversation. I can go into that in another conversation.
I want to talk a little bit about how you can get an executive presence. The first thing is to work with a coach like me, somebody whose job is to help people develop executive presence. The second thing is to go back to rule number one for presenting, which is to use strategic empathy to make it about them. Who do you have to convince? Who are you talking to? Who is going to decide whether you have the executive presence required to get that position that you want?
If they say you don’t have an executive presence, see if you can ask what specifically it is. This is sometimes a tricky thing because it’s scary to go to somebody who says, “You’re not good enough. You don’t have an executive presence. Give me a specific example.” If you can do it, that’s the best way to do it. If you’re in a situation like that, please contact me because I can coach you through it.
Some of the general things you could do is being grounded. Stand still when you’re presenting. Don’t fidget. Don’t fuss with your clothing. Don’t twiddle your fingers. Don’t blink a lot or look around when you’re on a video call. Remember, you were hired for what you’re good at. If you’re being considered for a promotion or you want to be considered for your promotion, it’s not because you’re cute or silly. It’s because you’re smart. You’re good at it. Sit in that authority. Be grounded in your power. Physically, it means don’t fidget. Mentally, it means to remember that you have something important to contribute. Both Gina Grahame and Sharon Wamble-King mentioned that. Remember where you come from.
Also, go back to the post I did about seeding your value with stories and tracking your accomplishments. That’s an easy way for you to remember. I, too, tend to only think about the things I haven’t done and not the things I have done. I have people around me who push me to remember what I’ve done right. It’s too easy to focus on the negative.
Another thing you can do in terms of executive presence is to keep eye contact. I’m mostly talking to people who work in Western cultures. In Western culture, it is important to maintain eye contact that shows that you’re serious and earnest and you believe in what you’re going to do. If you’re working in an Eastern culture where it’s not polite, then you need to work with your colleagues to find out when it’s polite and when it isn’t.
The third thing is to avoid the sorry habit. Break that habit. Don’t de-position yourself before you say something like, “Is this the right thing to say? I don’t know if this will work or not. I don’t know if this is a good idea.” Say it. This is one of the techniques we work on in the Visible & Valued mastermind. It has made an enormous difference with the members of the mastermind. They will say that they’ve learned how to hold themselves as someone who knows what they’re doing, knows what they’re talking about, and has the executive presence. It’s very individual. It’s different for every person. If you have any further questions, please reach out to me here. I’d be happy to talk to you about it.Grounding yourself means connecting yourself to the earth, connecting yourself to your power, and being aware of the core of who you are and how valuable your information is. Click To Tweet
What Is Executive Presence
I mentioned Gina Grahame and Sharon Wamble-King in that video. Another thing about grounding, when you are grounding yourself, I mean it as connecting yourself to the Earth, connecting yourself to your power, and being aware at your core of who you are and how valuable your information is. After all, you’re in this position because of your expertise.
When you are needing to ground yourself, practice before you walk into the room or on stage by putting your feet on the ground and being aware of your connection to the Earth. Open a channel so that the fire from the molten core of the Earth or the green and nourishing power from the growing things below you can flow up through your legs, into your core, and fill you with that power. Connect yourself to the Earth. Connect yourself to your breath.
One of the things that people do, especially women that sabotage them, is to stand with their feet crossed. Women, for some reason, stand with their feet crossed when they’re standing up to speak. It instantly shows that you are insecure. After all, if a wind came by, it could blow you over. Another one is to wander back and forth. This is something that beginning singers do because it shows that you’re not connected to your body.
It’s body language that is saying you’re insecure and nervous. When your feet are moving without being connected to your brain, in the opera business, we call those Happy Feet. We’ve all seen it. It dilutes you and makes you look weak. Stand grounded in your power. You can shift back and forth but truly be connected to the Earth. Connect your head to your body. That’s the most important thing.
Seeding Your Value With Stories
Our next video is about Seeding Your Value Through Stories. That’s by using small stories that are 1 minute and 90 seconds maximum to demonstrate the good things and the achievements you’ve done. Don’t give away so much power that you are giving all the credit to your team. You could say, for instance, “With the help of my team, I figured out how to solve that problem. I had an idea. I realized what we needed to do, and indeed, we have now made a breakthrough. Thanks to my team, who was so wonderful in supporting me.” It’s not bragging. It’s showing people your value instead of sitting in the corner and waiting to be noticed.
Unfortunately, we all know that if you just sit around and wait to be noticed for our good work, we will be taken for granted. It took me years to learn that, so please benefit from my experience and learn to tell these stories. There’s an art to what they look like and art to when you want to tell them. After this, if you are curious, reach out to me. I can help you with it. Let’s go to Seeding Your Value Through Stories.
I want to talk about seeding your value through stories. Seeding is a marketing tool where you drop little hints into a conversation that connects things in people’s brains. We all know that storytelling is an important tool, and yet, what about our own stories? We all learn about the world through the stories that our parents tell us, but what about the stories about things that we’ve done? Your stories and your skills are assets. They’re assets that are too often taken for granted and ignored. The key to being valued and visible is to show people the good things that you’ve done. Remind them through stories.
There’s a whole process to this, which I do with my clients, especially in the Visible & Valued masterminds. The main portion of it is to keep track of your wins and achievements, create your stories, and then practice telling them. The key to keeping track is to make sure that you have a regular list of things you have accomplished. You might already have a system that does this. Many people do. If you don’t, start it now.
One of the best solutions I’ve ever heard is what Cindy Solomon calls the boss email. The system is that on Sunday night, you send your manager a list of only three things that you’re going to work on this week. What are your top three priorities? On Friday morning, you report on what you’ve done. Keep it short by a couple of paragraphs, and report on what has happened. I’m a boss myself and I have a team. We do this within my team. I like getting it Friday morning instead of Friday night in case the priorities have shifted during the week, and I need to say, “It’s great that you’ve done this and this. Forget about item number three because I need you to finish something else.”
The important part, though, is to do this in a document and then paste it into an email. Don’t do it in a series of emails because you want to have a record of the things that you’ve done. Keep a running document of your achievements and the things that you’ve done well. Here’s the next step. Go through it about once a month and look for the highlights.
What are the things that you’ve done really well that you could talk about? Then, think about what are the top 3 or 5 achievements or successes during the year that you can create stories about. I know a lot of people say, “I don’t have time to add one more thing.” This is one of these things that are important but not urgent. The best way I’ve found to use the important but not urgent things done is to have a partner.
In the Visible & Valued masterminds, we set up partners to help you have accountability and also to reflect your stories back and forth. For instance, my clients Mei Lyn and Ingrid have been doing this for several months. At first, Ingrid would have a hard time talking about the things that she was good at and the achievements that she had at her organization, especially because they were easy for her. The things that are easy for us, we tend to take for granted. Mei Lyn and I pushed her to dig deeper and to see where there were achievements, wins, and successes that were due to her particular strengths. We then worked on creating polished stories so that she could talk about the things that she was taking for granted before that.
The next piece is to practice. Mei Lyn has an accent, so she had to practice speaking clearly. The two of them would practice with each other. One of the things you can do with your partner is to listen as if you were a stranger. How can you tell a story about what you did, what benefit it brought to the company, and what the results were? It’s so much easier to do this with a partner and then practice.
The language that you’ve written is different from a language designed to be heard. You’ve got to practice saying it out loud so that you can hear here where there might be gaps and where there are words that look fine on the page but aren’t good when you speak them. The results have been that Mei Lyn and Ingrid are both getting a lot more attention at work. They’re being asked for their opinions and invited into meetings where important decisions are made. Also, Mei Lyn has been offered a new promotion. It works. Remember, if you tell them right, your stories can be the seeds to grow your career.
Speaking On Panels
Once you have the stories that show your value, the next step to establishing your executive presence is to speak in public. Speak within your organization, speak outside your organization, and speak outside your team. When you talk about how to do this, one of the easy ways to start is to be on a panel, then you’re answering questions, but be prepared. Here’s where you can use your one-minute stories. It’s all doable and possible. This is especially important if you are a minority. You need to be visible and show the world that you are there.Speaking on panels is an art. It is a performance. Click To Tweet
If you aren’t one of the ones who gets asked to speak on panels, then ask to be included. If there’s someone who is always the person who goes out and speaks, it might be because they like to go out and speak. Ask if you could do a piece of the presentation. Practice within your team where it’s safe. If you’re presenting to the whole organization, talk about part of it. Be part of it. When you are ready to lead the presentation, that’s great. That instantly establishes you as someone with presence and authority. The person who’s speaking is automatic credibility, so be out there and speak.
Speaking on panels is also an art. It is a performance. You can’t ignore it. You can’t go and wing it. We see a lot of terrible panelists, but it’s not the pressure of doing a keynote. This is one of the first early videos that I did because one of my clients was asking about it. My client, Pamira, told me she had been on a panel. One of the other panelists hadn’t been ready. They didn’t know what to say.
They took away too much time and fumbled. It gave a terrible impression. Unfortunately, the moderator was also inexperienced and didn’t know how to handle a panelist who was rambling and didn’t know how to go on. Since Pamira had worked with me, she was prepared. She was awesome, so it annoyed her and it annoyed the audience. Here are some tips on how to be great on a panel.
I wanted to talk to you about panels and why speaking on panels is so useful. Since most of us are working from home and most of our conferences are virtual, it’s even more important to get out there and speak. You’re not going to be able to meet people at a conference. The only way people are going to know that you’re out there is if you are speaking. Being on a panel is so much easier. You don’t have to do a full keynote. You don’t have to be Oprah to be invited to be on a keynote. You have to have something clever and smart to say about the topic.
I like to think of it as the three Ps. You want to Prepare, Promote, and stand in your Power. Being on a panel brings so many benefits. It can also be a minefield if you’re not careful. Here are some ways that you can think about shining as an expert guest on a panel and being asked back. This is one of the things that I particularly love doing.
First of all, the basic rules are the same as if you’re doing a solo speech. You want to prepare. You want to know what the subject is, what they are asking for, and what your talking points are. The key is you may only get 3 or 4 minutes each time, so make sure that your talking points are short, to the point, concise, and funny. You want to be able to share you’ve got stories, and you want to make sure you’ve got facts and statistics. Dropping in an interesting statistic and a funny story makes you memorable. The idea is you want to be memorable. It’s a way of showing up.
Remember, if you’re out there speaking, you automatically get credibility. You want people around you or people who don’t know you to say, “I’ve heard of her.” The more people know about you, the more they’re likely to reach out to you, and the more they’re likely to either refer a client to you or ask you to take part in an interesting project. It makes you somebody to follow, promote, or even hire. That’s the good part.
The bad part is if you don’t prepare and you show up and wait for them to ask you questions, it’s easy to make a fool of yourself. We’ve all seen it happen. We’ve all seen the speakers who weren’t prepared, or they got a question they didn’t know they were going to get asked, so they didn’t know what they were going to say. You have to prepare for this as much as you do for doing a solo speech, but it’s that you don’t have to do the PowerPoint this time.
The other part of preparing is to make sure that you’ve contacted the moderator of the organization that’s presenting you and that you know something about the other panelists. Ask them, “Who else are going to be the other panelists?” It’s so that you know what their talking points are, what their specialties are, and how your specialty can fit in there.
I would start by contacting the organizer. If they’ve asked you via email, you could say, “Yes. Could we have a quick conversation to find out what it is you want and how I can support you best?” The organization is giving you a chance to present to their people, so you are there to support them. How can you be of service when you speak? Contact the moderator.
Not all moderators are experienced presenters. Somebody might be asked to be a moderator because they were supposed to be on the panel and there wasn’t room for them, or they might be someone who’s easily rattled. Be sure that you can talk to the moderator and find out how you can support them. Ask them, “What are you going to want? What do you know about the other panelists?”
Here’s another great tip. When you talk to the organizer, find out who the other panelists are going to be. If they don’t have panelists, make sure you have a list in your back pocket of people whose work complements yours, the people who are good to be on panels with. In that way, you can also be of service and a benefit by referring a friend to be on a panel with you. This is always a good thing. It gets you good points. There are all sorts of strategies around that about how to make the most of this opportunity.
The second P is Promote. Here’s the thing about panels and online conferences. There are so many of them that it’s hard to get people. Event organizers are always trying to get butts in seats. Butts in seats is online as well as in person. Part of your job as a presenter is to publicize the fact that you’re presenting.
Be out there and say, “Come join us. Bring your people. If you work in a company and you have a staff, invite your coworkers. Invite the people in your company. Also, invite people who might later promote you. Invite your allies. If there are people you’re trying to get to sponsor you or help you or people you want to notice, make sure that you promote to them. You’re telling them that you have this speaking opportunity.” Be sure that you are helping the organizers by being out there and promoting.
If you’re on an online summit, quite often, after you’ve spoken on an online summit, you can then follow up with the people who signed up with the list of attendees. Many online summit organizers require that you promote in order to get that list. I worked with a couple of colleagues to put together a summit in April 2020. Everybody who spoke was promoting a program that they did.
This was a summit full of people who had great, useful information for the entrepreneurs who were listening. We told them in the email, “You will be getting a list of the attendees if you promote.” The people who didn’t promote didn’t get that list. That matters. There are a lot of places where sometimes it’s polite, but there are other times where it matters whether you’re going to get a chance to promote to people.
The third one is to stand in your Power. Be ready to take part, interested, and engaged. Be able to chat back and forth if that is possible. Here’s where it’s also useful to talk to the moderator or the organizer if the moderator is not quite ready. Find out what conversation you want. Everybody wants interaction. Everybody wants to do things. If you’re doing this on an online conference like Zoom or Facebook Live, you can make comments in the chat. That’s very important.A question and answer session is a great way to show how good you are and how much you know. Click To Tweet
It’s also important to be sure that you don’t get walked over. We’ve all seen the panelist who goes on and on and doesn’t listen. We’ve all seen the panelists who take over and start pursuing their agenda without listening to the others. Make sure that you push back. If you’re the sort of person like me whose first reaction is to sit back and wait for someone to finish, you need to combat. You need to push against that.
Personally, I grew up in a family where we took turns speaking. My mother hated it if people talked over each other, so we took turns. We waited. It was one voice at a time. I then went off to college on the other side of the country, and I spent many weekends with a friend who lived on the New York campus. I was 3,000 miles away, so I couldn’t go. That family loved to argue. They loved to debate.
The person who yelled the loudest was the person who won. I came to that out of my quiet, polite family. It took me weeks to figure out that they weren’t mad at each other because this was just the way they spoke, and secondly, how to hold my own in that conversation. That lesson has served me for the rest of my life because I know that my tendency is to sit back and be quiet.
If you’re with people whose greatest joy is having a good argument, you will be lost. The key is to be available. Watch what’s going out. Be ready to chime in with something appropriate. If somebody says something that you think is absolute nonsense or maybe they’re blowhards, and they’re talking to hear themselves talk, a good way to cope with that is to say, “That’s a very interesting point.”
Always acknowledge the boasters and the blowhards. In my experience, I’ve seen this. Don’t tell them they’re wrong because that’ll make them push more. Be ready to say, “Here’s what I’ve seen. The statistics I have seen are this, this, and this.” Always be polite, but a good-spirited argument is important.
Here’s another tip. You want to make sure that you are there to support the moderator or the facilitator. If there’s a facilitator who’s not familiar with this or a facilitator who’s not very experienced because everybody has to do it the first time or so, be ready to support them. Hopefully, if you have a lot of people talking or people who forgot to turn their mic off, the video host will be able to mute people and then unmute people.
It doesn’t always happen, so make sure that you can support the moderator. Make sure that you can be there to help the moderator out that way. If you realize that you are there in service of the organizer, the company, the moderator, and to get your message out, you’ll have a good time. You will be asked back. Speaking on panels can be a great way to get more visibility and get yourself out there.
How To Love A Q&A Session
The last short video in this series is How to Love a Q&A Session. Haven’t we all seen people who gave a great presentation and then when it came time to answering questions, they fell apart? Maybe you felt the dread that you don’t want to do a presentation because you don’t want the unstructured part of the question and answer session. Remember, people are there with questions because they want to know your expertise. They want you to clarify something.
Having a question and answer session is a great way to show how good you are and how much you know. They’re not judging you. They want you to give them information. Sometimes, the best parts are in the questions and the answers. You can be real and smart and show everybody how brilliant you are. Here’s How to Love a Q&A Session.
I want to talk about how to stay calm, focused, and happy during a question-and-answer period. I’ve had a lot of people speak to me. They say, “I get nervous during the question and answer period. If somebody asks me a question, I can go on and on and blather,” whereas a question and answer period is a gift to you. Let’s say you’re presenting to upper management, which is where people mostly get nervous around questions and answers.
That’s what tends to wake up the voices in our heads that say, “You’re not good enough. They’re going to think you’re stupid. They don’t know.” The truth is if you’re the presenter, you know more about this particular subject than your listeners do. If they already knew, they wouldn’t be asking you. You know more. You are the expert.
What you can do as the expert is to prepare your talking points, you know you have a limited amount of time, so you always want to make sure that your strongest point is the one that finishes. For each of the talking points, as you go through them, think about what I call the yeah, but moments. Where are the places where your listeners would be thinking, “Yes, but what about the other thing? What about this other piece of it?”
Yeah, buts are the little objections or little problems that people will automatically push back, especially when you declare something. You can answer them immediately by saying, “You may be thinking Elizabeth says to be calm, cool, and happy in the question and answer periods.” They may be like, “Yeah, but I still get nervous. I still forget what I’m going to say.” That’s the thing. If they’re thinking about the yeah, but moments, they’re not listening to what you have to say. Prepare for those, and then prepare for questions.
You probably know who’s going to be listening to you. When you’re putting yourself at the very beginning into the shoes or the brain of your listener, what do they want to know? When you do your presentation, always be ready with a couple of extra points. I like to think that the presentation is the headline of an article. Do you know how you’re reading a magazine article and you skip through the headlines?
If there’s something that catches your attention, you’ll read the paragraph. Most people do that. You, as the presenter, are giving them the headlines or the basics because you don’t have time to give them all the context or all the information. Make sure you have a couple of subheadings or extra points that you can throw in if somebody wants to know more.
Assume that they’re going to want to know more. That’s always a good thing. Be ready for that. This is in the planning as you’re preparing your presentation. You always want to be sure that you know what you’re going to say. You know where you will elaborate concisely and briefly if somebody wants to know. If it’s something that’s going to be a long answer, then you can always say, “That’s a much longer conversation. Can I send you something about that? Could we have a separate conversation about this?”Executive presence is you. It's how you show up as a leader, how you are visible, and show your value to your organization, your industry, and the world. Click To Tweet
Quite often, in a question and answer period, there will be someone who has a completely different agenda from the one that you’re trying to propose. They may need to ask something that’s going to give them a chance to talk. It’s your time to get to say, “That’s a much larger conversation. Please contact me. We’ll talk about it.” Especially if you’re presenting to the public, they don’t know you.
The place where we tend to psych ourselves out is when we’re presenting to a boss or somebody in upper management. There’s something about that hierarchy that makes people think, “He is important. I need to make a good impression on her so that she will approve of what I do. Maybe I can get that next promotion.” If you are psyching yourself out about what they might be thinking about you, then you’ll be stuck in your own head. You won’t have a chance to focus on what they are asking truly. The truth is, most of the time, if they’re asking a question, it’s because they’re interested and you’re the expert. Be prepared.
Remember that you are giving them a gift of knowledge. This presentation is a gift. Maybe it’s a progress report or a report about a problem you found and you have to be able to deal with it. It might be bad news. If it’s bad news, it’s not just you. It’s the whole company or the whole group that has to deal with it. You might be the person who has to deliver the bad news, but there’s always going to be a solution somewhere. If they have a question or a concern, it’s because they want to know and you are the expert. That’s where pre-planning will help you out. If you have in advance some possible answers, you can do that.
Truly, worrying about question and answer periods is something that happens beforehand. It can sabotage you when you’re in the question-and-answer period. Remind yourself that it’s a gift. It’s okay not to have the answer at your fingertips. You may be an expert, but if you have a lot of information in your head, it’s okay to say, “I don’t have the response. I don’t have it at my fingertips. Can I get back to you on that?” That should be fine. Be prepared as you can. If they ask you something that you haven’t thought of, say, “That’s a good question.”
Here’s the other part. The best answer always is, “That’s a good question. That’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked that.” It acknowledges the person who’s asking the question. It also gives them an extra couple of seconds to think, so that’s always good. When you are talking about a good question or a bad question, answer them that way, and then give them what you can.
There’s one more piece of this if you are doing a public presentation. Let’s say you’re doing an informational webinar to a group, and you don’t know who is listening. There might not be anybody who asks a question and then you have dead air, which is horrible. That’s one of the worst things. If nobody asks the question, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like you. It just means that they’re thinking or thinking about something else, or they don’t have a question at the moment.
Here’s where preparation can help you. Be prepared with one of your extra points where if they asked the question, you could answer. One of the questions I get a lot is, “How do I cope when nobody has a question?” You can then opt for a little extra piece of information that will help people. Quite often, that is the tidbit that stays in their minds, so make sure it is memorable and hooked. Remember, question and answer periods are a gift. You are giving them a gift of extra knowledge. Embrace it, enjoy it, and have fun.
These are some of the many tips that I give out every Wednesday. Check my LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube for more tips like these. Remember, executive presence is you. It’s how you show up as a leader, how you are visible, and how you show your value to your organization, your industry, and the world. If you’re curious after reading this about how your presentation skills are doing, you can take our free quiz at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve. I’ll see you at the next one.
- What Is Executive Presence, and How Do I Get It? – YouTube
- Seeding Your Value Through Stories – YouTube
- How to Love a Q&A Session – YouTube
- LinkedIn – Elizabeth Bachman, CPS
- Facebook – Strategic Speaking for Results
- YouTube – Elizabeth Bachman, Strategic Speaking for Results