May 12 2016

Your (Executive) Presence is Required

Published by under Executive Presence,Presence

dreamstime_m_5767445How to demonstrate Executive Presence through your voice

In 2012, the Center for Talent Innovation published a now-famous study about executive presence. The study, based on interviews with thousands of people, concludes that executive presence depends on getting three things right: appearance, communication, and gravitas (itself a set of behaviors). “How you look, how you speak, and how you act turn out to be critical to your success,” the report concludes, “at every step in your career journey.”

Now, in her latest book, Presence,  Amy Cuddy takes this a step further and shows us how our bodies lead and our emotions and minds follow. Remember that leadership pose she showed us in her first TED talk? Do that and you immediately feel more gravitas, and your audience does, too! The same is true for sitting up straight and leaning in at the table in a meeting, or on the phone when no one can even see you.

The Center for Talent Innovation was clear that gravitas is partly natural and partly developed.  Yes, some people are born with an inclination to communicate more effectively, with a prettier face, and a knack for speaking up at just the right time in the right way, but much of this is studied and learned. This is true for how you use your voice–if you want more gravitas, you will have to work at it.  The muscles we use to speak now were designed  to help us swallow and breathe rather than to communicate. As natural as it seems to you to use yours to speak, it took you two years or more to learn to do that. If it doesn’t do what you need it to do for you, you can create a better, more supportive voice.  A review of vocal habits led me to create the following list of skills to develop for more EP.  Warning! Most require practice, and all require awareness.

  1. Speaking with presence means aligning your words and delivery with a sense of purpose/intention. A clear sense of intention will help you better align your delivery with your message and avoid aimless chatter.
  2. Speaking with presence means using more “mask resonance.”  Clearly, if you want others to hear you, much of your vocal presence depends on the resonance and registration of your sound. Developing the best resonance involves exercising as does developing a fit body. People with EP usually know this and work at it.
  3. Speaking with presence means breathing deeply and using your breath to project your words. Again, vocal fitness follows overall fitness. Learning to breathe involves developing and using your core more effectively, too.
  4. Speaking with presence means pausing more. Yes, I know that you want to speak up more, but gravitas can be found in the silence as well. Give people space to take in what you say. Add pauses to punctuate your ideas, too.
  5. Speaking with presence means eliminating words that diminish your gravitas such as “kind of,” “sort of,” “hopefully,” “um,” and “you know.” If you’re on gmail, there’s a plug-in called (love this!) “Just Not Sorry” that will help you sort out the chaff from the gravitas. Doing this with your mail is a good way to practice doing the same in your conversations.


For more on this topic, please see my post, Would it help if I sounded like a man? 5 Techniques for Quiet Talkers.

© Dmitriy Shironosov | – Speaking through megaphone


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Apr 13 2016

Do you tic when you talk?

Published by under Stage Fright

dreamstime_m_23634555When I was in high school, I had a French teacher who grunted between every few words; little pig-like grunts would come from her mouth even when she was not speaking. It was awkward for us, to say the least, and she was the brunt of many jokes. However, she was either completely unaware of this tic, or did not know how to stop it.

Most people have seen physical tics such as head jerks, or hands that pull at clothes over and over when speaking, but there are also phonic tics. Phonic tics are involuntary sounds produced by moving air through the nose, mouth, or throat. Some call them vocal tics, but they could be a sound made when you breathe or a click of the tongue or a throat clearing. The extreme of phonic tics is Tourette Syndrome, but most are not that severe. For most of us, tics appear when we least want them to– when we are in front of a group. Tics are associated with anxiety. (Naturally, I now have much more compassion for my French teacher because I realize that we must have scared her to death!)

People with tics report that they first feel an irresistible urge to clear the throat, or grunt, or whatever the tic is followed by the tic. Even though it feels like you can’t stop yourself, it is possible to get rid of most tics as you do other habits,  through awareness and practice; if you are aware of it you can stop it. Some tics, of course, are more deeply ingrained, more about the anxiety of being in front of others, and may take longer to conquer. Either way, if you have a vocal tic, eliminating it will increase your credibility, your comfort, and the audience’s comfort as well. Here’s how to work on it:

  1. Observe yourself, either through video, or through feedback from others. You need to know exactly when the tic appears and what it is (grunt? click? sigh?) Sometimes this is all it takes to begin to break the habit.
  2. Answer the tic urge with distraction– Tics are pent up energy. If you notice when the urge comes upon you to make the tic sound, say something before you can tic, or energize your voice consciously and you may dissolve the urge, and even replace it with a positive habit.
  3. Before going on stage, calm yourself down with several deep low breaths, and repeat.
  4. Focus on what you can do for others rather than what they are thinking about you. This is the key to conquering almost any kind of stage fright!
  5. Prepare well. The more prepared you are the less likely it is that the nerves will get to you.

Related posts:

5 Ways to Unlearn StageFright

Want to find your voice as a speaker? You may need some tough love! (Guest post by Gary Genard)

© MinervaStudio | – Oops

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