These tips are for successful women on the importance on presence, presenting and the perception others may have of you.
1. Be prepared. Most sophisticated people can tell if you are using a ‘cookie-cutter’ presentation that you’ve used over and over. Do a little homework about the audience – sense of where they are, what they expect, what the issues are, what will they be inspired by. Inspiring, motivational, charismatic – AND knowledgeable, capable, skilled, experienced is the winning combination. Most of these can be learned and you can do this in a way that matches your own personality and sense of who you are.
2. Be observant. You need only to LOOK at the non-verbal language of those you are addressing to guess what they are thinking about. An audience will give a lot of context cues particularly when you are not connecting. You will note that they aren’t listening (like answering calls, texting, sitting away or slouching from the table, looking away, etc.) This should tell you how engaged they are and if they are interested in what you have to offer. Much of what we communicate, we do through body language. If you suspect they aren’t ‘present’ – regroup and rethink what you are talking about. Ask a question to try to reengage and then follow that thread of conversation to see where it leads you. Call on someone that looks engaged or ready to say something and ask them to share their thoughts. Be ready to ‘bag’ whatever you were presenting, slides, talking points, etc. in favor of what they want to talk about.
3. Be genuine. People like it when a leader shares what they care about (including them) and admits what they know a lot about and what they don’t. Using humor is okay without being self-deprecating. Some may not know your ‘story’ – so share some of it when appropriate (where you’re from, where you’ve been, etc.) in a succinct and sincere manner. Remember, under stress you will be tempted or simply forget, to acknowledge others around you. Make it a point to connect with your staff/ leadership team regularly and with others in the organization when able.
4. Listen carefully. You may be surprised how much you learn from what you hear AND (equally important) what you didn’t hear about (or from). The ‘silent’ group can be very influential and the informal leaders for the larger group. They will be the ones that walk out of a meeting and head directly for someone else that was in the room to ‘regurgitate’ what they heard and give their opinion on the issue. You can demonstrate that you are listening in real-time by using ‘check-back’ – repeat and confirm what you think you heard. Top leadership is sometime accused of being dis-connected from the real world issues. Active listening and follow-through on key or ‘no-brainer’ issues addresses that.
- Remember, take advice gracefully. It isn’t easy to ‘take’ it from the rank and file or others that are in lower ranks of the organization. You may be surprised at the wisdom that others have/will share when they feel safe/comfortable and believe you are humble enough to accept it. When needed, circle back at a later time to check in with them/ask about something they said. People will be grateful that you cared enough to ask.