I was honored to be quoted in the Washington Business Journal (Thank you, Jeff Porro!) in his article below:
Build up your ‘presence’ to back up your speeches
Publication Date: Friday, November 9, 2012
Ask successful executive coaches what it takes for talented businesspeople to rise to the C-suite, and almost all will mention “executive presence.”
There is no standard definition of that term, but many of the coaches generally agree with John Beeson, principal of Beeson Consulting Inc. He says executive presence “ultimately boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.”
How you prepare your speeches, talks and presentations definitely helps project that kind of confidence. Here are some tips on ways to do that.
1. All your actions count.
The first step you need to take sounds obvious, but it is one I’ve found too many executives overlook. As Suzi Pomerantz, a master executive coach, CEO and author of “Seal the Deal,” points out, “As an executive, you have to recognize that all your actions and behaviors contribute to your presence.” That means you have to remember the goal of any talk is not just to convey information but also to communicate mature self-confidence
Steve Gladis — whose firm, Steve Gladis Leadership Partners, provides executive coaching, leadership development and motivational speaking — puts it this way: “Any executive who’s planning a speech must think about, ‘What are the feelings about me and my company I want to create in the audience.’ ”
2. Your presentations should be closely aligned with your executive presence.
It’s not necessary for every executive to have the same kind of presence. Some can convey self-confidence by being formal. Others — Steve Jobs being the prime example — can do the same thing with a very relaxed personal style.
The key, Pomerantz says, is to create an “impeccable alignment.” Make sure that every way you show up conveys your particular presence. That includes, of course, speeches and talks. If you’re casual, speak casually with an off-the-cuff style. If you’re formal, make it a more traditional speech.
However, coaches add, no matter what style works for you, make sure you don’t ramble. That conveys uncertainty and lack of organization, which is not the impression any executive wants to leave with any audience.
3. Little things do matter.
When you’re preparing a presentation, be sure you have someone watch or videotape your rehearsals and offer suggestions. Every executive coach I know has a story about a leader who wasn’t aware of a small habit that either distracted an audience or made it nervous — fiddling with a tie, perhaps, or staring down at the podium or rattling pocket change.
4. The first speech a new CEO makes to the company is critically important — for establishing not only executive presence but also success.
Gladis points out that the average turnover rate for all incoming CEOs is 40 to 50 percent. “And the average cost is staggering: $2.7 million,” he says.
At the first all-hands meeting, the current employees will form their judgments about the new CEO’s executive presence, judgments that will be hard to change. Gladis says that instead of making a speech that comes across as thoughtful and trustworthy, too many executives alienate employees with a “take names and kick [behinds]” approach.
The result can be that the CEO loses the people he needs to succeed and soon becomes part of that 40 to 50 percent failure rate.
Speechwriter Jeff Porro helps executives prepare effective speeches and presentations. He can be reached at email@example.com.