Leadership presence is a buzzword in corporate America. It tends to come up most when evaluating candidates for a promotion.
“She is smart, creative and hard working; but she does not have leadership presence.”
What the hell does that mean?
What leadership presence, sometimes called executive presence, boils down to is confidence. If you can show your peers, your boss, your clients that you are confident in your role, you demonstrate the leadership presence needed to advance your career.
Interesting research was told through stories in the book The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Because of conditioning and gender bias, women exude less confidence than men in meetings, negotiations and conversations. There are millions of confident women in the world, but they may not be presenting themselves as such. All they need to do is mindfully add demonstrations of confidence to their presentation style… and that is what we are sharing with you today.
The tactics described below are mostly physical things you do to prepare or present. However, I would be doing remiss if I did not mention how powerful your non-verbal cues can be. Amy Cuddy’s famous TedTalk about your body language and how it shapes you and your brand can give you ways to exude leadership presence as you deliver your presentation.
Presentation Enhancement Techniques
Background information you NEED to know: Ask about your audience (who they are, how many, their level of knowledge on your topic), how the technology will be set up (your computer or another, back up your presentation) and the room (where the projector is, seating, size).
As you create your presentation, incorporate all five of these strategies to have a large impact on your audience and demonstrate your leadership presence.
- Elevate your speech.
- Command your space.
- Tell a story.
- Teach something new.
- Relentlessly practice.
Elevate your speech.
The smartest person in the world could be perceived as a nitwit because of the way she or he talks. No, your intelligence is not defined by your voice, but a few corrections to common problems will improve your presentation delivery. You only have a little time to make an impression; make it count.
- Soft speech: when giving your opinion or chiming in, do not preface your statement with “I think” or “maybe.” This makes your audience question your authority. If you do have doubts, instead say phrases like “I came up with…” or “the research says.”
- Filler words: speak at a comfortable pace and embrace pauses for effect. There is a tendency to fill space or connect thoughts with words such as “uh,” “like,” “and” “so.”
- Upspeak: Also known as Valley Girl talk, upspeak is when the inflection in your sentences makes everything sound like a question. Like soft speech, the implication of a questions makes it seem like you are unsure, not confident.
Command your space.
Show the room that you are in charge. Let your body convey your expertise on your topic.
- If there is a podium, do not stand behind. Use a clicker and walk around a bit.
- Connect with each person by making eye contact with each person and speaking to audience members if they have a tie in to your story.
- DO NOT turn to look at the screen. Nothing is worse than sitting in a lecture and having the speaker read directly from the screen. Tell the story and let the boards help your audience follow along.
Tell a story.
Take the audience on a journey with you. Are you presenting someone else’s work? Find ways to connect that content to the audience members’ lives in a way that internalizes the message and keeps them interested.
When building your own boards, do not start with the technology. Instead, sketch out the story you are going to tell. Like any good story, you need a beginning, a middle and an end. If you are in business, it may be more like a situation, the obstacles, how you overcame or solved the problem, and the results of your work. Once you have that nailed down, sketch how the boards will help you tell that story. Finally, build your boards. Make them clean, easy to follow.
What about humor? Presentations that tend to gain traction have a few laughs sprinkled in. Everyone’s humor is different, so just be yourself. If you try too hard, it will show. Find little ways to peak your audience’s interest BEFORE you present. Feed off of the energy in the room.
Teach something new.
In my previous career, I gave dozens of presentations. Some of the best advice I received while creating one of my most important ones was that people always appreciate it when you teach them something new.
Be valuable – make the audience feel like you were a good use of their time. Not only will you improve their lives; you will also improve your reputation. People will talk about what they learned and will share it with others.
Yes, there are a gifted few who can wing a presentation and sound like they speak for a living. Unfortunately, that is not me. That is not most people. So for us normal presenters? WE. MUST. PRACTICE.
Practice deliberately. Stand and deliver using your notes until you can deliver without them. Know your story by heart. Then, practice using your boards by clicking through at a comfortable pace, walking the room and finishing in your required time frame.
Once you have your story down, record yourself. I found that I connected many sentences with the word “and,” but I had no idea I did that until I watched my own presentation. Get outside perspective by practicing in front of colleagues or mentors.
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For a bonus, here are five easy ways to work on the aesthetics of your presentation. Quick fixes to elevate your professionalism!