After my comments about Morgan Freeman ran in the New York Post article last week, we’ve had a flurry of response. But the most intriguing call was from an interviewer yesterday morning, Kathleen Kurke, who posed this question: “How do you exude that same executive presence when you’re talking to a client on the phone or in writing?”
(If you missed my earlier blog post answering New York Post reporter Reed Tucker’s question about why Morgan Freeman is always cast in god-like, well-respected roles, I identified six primary characteristics—five of them having to do with the visual.)
So how do you pull off presence on the phone?
Recall a recent phone conversation with someone who has a deep voice, perfect diction, and a slow speaking rate—someone you’ve never met personally. Do you visualize them as tall or short? Slightly built or muscular? Do they command attention when walking into a room?
On the other hand, recall a recent phone conversation with someone who is soft spoken, who uses tentative words, whose voice cracks and quivers. Do you visualize that person with poor posture? Limp gestures? Weak eye contact? At a party, would he or she stand in the center of the room or against the wall?
Chances are that you attach a visual image to vocal qualities. Likewise, personality traits become associated with physical presence and voice. Soft-spoken people are often thought to be shy. Loud people are often assumed confident and even aggressive or obnoxious. These labels may or may not be accurate, but they develop nevertheless.
In the absence of visual clues, people judge your executive presence by your voice.
When you write, others judge executive presence by the way in which you think on the page or screen. Many people think as they write—or, at least they appear to do so. They write in a stream-of-consciousness mode: disorganized thoughts, inappropriate detail, convoluted sentences.
Those with executive presence think well on their feet or on the screen. That is, they make their bottom line their opening line. They summarize well. They select appropriate detail to make their point to the proper audience. They are precise and concise.
To sum up about your documents: Your writing is your face on the page.
Whether you’re concerned about your voice or your writing, your executive presence is prominent even when others aren’t present.