• Amii Barnard-Bahn

The Key To Establishing Immediate Credibility

Hi friends! This is the fourth in a five-part series on the Promotability Index. (In case you missed them, prior issues focused on the first three elements: Self-Awareness, External Awareness and Strategic Thinking.) Today we are going to focus on Executive Presence – the fourth of the five key leadership elements that help you get promoted.  Executive Presence has gotten more attention as part of talent considerations over the last several years. Why is it so important? When you have executive presence, you establish immediate credibility with the people around you. This gives you the power to influence receptivity to your ideas and get the green light on projects. It’s also the basis for cultivating respect and trust. These are things that are earned over time, but that initial first impression serves either to accelerate an alliance or, possibly, to derail it. The Center for Talent Innovation has a helpful definition of executive presence. They break it down into three tangible, weighted qualities. The best part? These can be learned by anyone.  1) Presentation skills (70% - educating and engaging an audience)  2) Gravitas (20% - cool and calm under pressure) 3) Professional appearance (10% - well groomed, dress) In the Executive Presence section of the Promotability Index, I give you some clear ideas on how to improve in each of these three areas. Today, I’m going to give you a deeper dive into Presentation Skills. Some people naturally thrive at this, but it is mostly a learned behavior. It’s all about connecting with your audience in a relaxed and credible way.

 Here are some tips for developing a good presentation for executive-level audiences: 1. Start strong, with a fact, joke or something unexpected. Done well, this engages audiences immediately.  2. Get to the point. Are you requesting money, headcount, or do you have bad news to share? Respect the intelligence of your audience and don’t make them wait for your key point. Share that upfront. They are more likely to respond positively and respect your message if you aren’t trying to create a big buildup to it. Once they know the ask, then you can take the time to walk them through the basis for your request (or how the crisis happened and what you’re doing about it). Waiting for the punchline generally irritates executive audiences. For tips on presenting to your board of directors, head here. 3. Be brief and keep it simple. It’s a beginner's mistake to assume a correlation between value and the length of time and number of slides shared in a presentation – the ratio of time/slides to executive respect is an inverse relationship. You get points for being succinct and finishing early. There is no greater gift you can give than the gift of time back! Follow Albert Einstein’s example: “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” For tips on how to ace your meetings with executives, head here. 4. Create a welcome environment for questions. Expect dialogue and plan ahead for criticism. Where are the potential gaps in your reasoning? What are contrary views? Be ready and stay in a curious, learner mindset. Frequently, presenters come in with an agenda, push hard, discourage dissention, and come away disappointed. Remember that presentation is about converting the audience to your message. 5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Preparation and practice are the best way to ensure a successful outcome – and to get over any presentation jitters you may have. Rehearse until it’s natural and becomes more of a conversation. Record yourself on your iPhone (and force yourself to watch!). Check your body language, eliminate any distracting physical tics and work out any awkward turns of phrase (keep close watch for “um”, “uh”, etc.). The more you practice, the less rehearsed you will seem in front of the group. Try to re-create the actual room set up. Make sustained eye contact with one specific person in each area of the room (about 3-5 seconds each).   YOU’VE GOT THIS! Executive Presence is a quality you can begin cultivating now. It’s one of those seemingly intangible qualities that comes up regularly during talent planning sessions. When your name comes up for promotion, you want the executive team to say, "Of course – they are ready for more.” And they will say that if you have executive presence. Take the Promotability Index now and see how you score on executive presence. Which checklist items are missing? Where would you like to invest?

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