This was originally posted on LinkedIn.
My role involves a lot of travel. Whether it's client meetings or conferences, one of the highlights is that this travel gives me the opportunity to meet the community of women and men in GE's Women's Network at our sites across the world.
When I went to Kazakhstan, I had the privilege to be asked by the team to talk about executive presence.
For me, the things that you need to do to have great executive presence are all about energy. It's about the projection of that energy--just like singing is about projection, or acting is about projection.
Learning how to act can teach you a lot about how to act in business. Executive presence is important if you want people to support you, and if you want to lead them.
Before I go on, I want to make something clear. Learning how to act in business doesn’t mean you should be inauthentic. Who you are is not a secret. These tips are to help you amplify your presence, not to hide it.
So, if you want to improve your executive presence, I recommend you read about the science, learn how to use that energy to project your personality to the audience. And practice--again and again. Then keep doing it until you master it. Even rock stars rehearse.
In the meantime, here are my four tips to exercise your executive presence muscle:
1 – Get Physical
Stand up straight and tall--even when you are short (I'm 5'2"). Plant both feet firm on the ground and open up your lungs so you can use your body to amplify your voice. Even if you are having a bad day and don't feel so confident--when you fake it, it works. Take a look at Dr Amy Cuddy's TED Talk to see the science on how physical posture can help you to become more confident.
2 – Be Positive (about Yourself)
Everyone has a bad day. But when you get up in front of people, when you put it out there, people will get it. Take some time to read up on communications methodologies like NLP. If you say no, negative things--what you internalize--that's what the world feels about you. It's a retraining of yourself.
3 – Get Help
Everything in life is a muscle that you can exercise. Practicing is an important thing. That's why I have taken my leadership team (and some other great high potential colleagues) through RADA in Business training. RADA is Britain's Royal Academy of the Dramatic Art, and have a special programm for business leaders and for women in business.
Why RADA? No one cares more about their ability to engage an audience than an actor. But that's also what executives do.
4 – Practice
When I was at Google, we had presentation skills workshops. Directors shared a very private video--our former CEO and now Chairman of Alphabet (Google’s parent) had a long career in tech. The archetypical brilliant geek and businessman--and rightly proud of it.
They showed us his first workshop at around the age of 30. He stumbled, mumbled, energy inside. No presence. He was terrible.
For us--I couldn't believe it. This CEO, Eric Schmidt, was a man I knew as 'a natural'. He would stand at the front of the stage, and he knew how to engage - even command an audience. He could answer any question that was thrown at him and look totally at ease. But he wasn't necessarily born with that ability. He was trained, and he practiced. And now--he’s one of the greats.
Whether you are starting out in your career or a seasoned veteran, we can all improve how we communicate with others. But one thing’s for sure--if you want to act like a leader, you must first learn how to act