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Dianna Booher shares tips on executive presence

Executive presence may be difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. Someone walks into a room, and heads turn. Conversation opens up to include them. When they ask, people answer. When they speak, people listen. When they lead, people follow.

Wherever you want to go and whatever you want to do, personal presence can help you get there. Consider these attributes, skills, traits, habits, and attitudes with the intention to incorporate them into your life.

1. Make your body language congruent with your words to build trust and credibility. When there’s a contradictory message, remember that body language trumps.

2. Walk, move, and gesture with energy. Your passion about ideas, projects, and life in general engages others.

3. Be professional, not professorial. Strive for simplicity. Never use a long word when a short word will do. Express your core idea with strong verbs and precise nouns. Use active voice. Don’t let diction and dialect detract.

4. Heed the highlighter principle. Use your voice—inflection, tone, intensity, pacing, pausing, volume—as a powerful tool to engage others, lead a conversation, command a crowd, and create a culture.

5. Moderate your emotions. Learn to say the right thing at the right time and leave unsaid the wrong thing at the emotional moment.

6. Think strategically. Sort the significant from the trivial. Look beyond the how to the why—or why not. Move a conversation forward toward clarity, decision, or action.

7. Cut through the clutter to focus yourself and others on key ideas and goals. Summarize succinctly. Say it in a sentence.

8. Take a point of view. Few decisions are irreversible. Recommend or make a decision. Then if necessary, make it right. Commit to what you communicate, take ownership, and be accountable for results.

9. Think like Hollywood. Create memorable themes, slogans, and metaphors. Learn to tell great stories to increase mindshare for your ideas and your message.

10. Make what you say and do match who you are. Act with sincerity and intention. Engage emotionally with others by being approachable and demonstrating concern toward them. Learn to listen.

Excerpted from Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader (Berrett Koehler) by Dianna Booher

Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books.  Her work has been translated into 23 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader  and  Communicate with Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition.  National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today,  the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg,, CNN International, NPR,Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication.   Clients include 22 of the top Fortune 50 companies.  1-800-342-6621

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21 thoughts on “Executive Presence: Top 10 Tips to Create Executive Presence”

  1. It's been 30 years since I got out of B-School and I moved up to C-level ages ago. But, out of curiosity, for someone just rising through the ranks today, what are the warning signs that they're missing the mark on any of your recommendations re personal presence?

    1. Sharon, what a great question! Six tell-tale signs come mind, and those would make an excellent blog. I’ll plan to post that one for September 3! Thanks for the idea.

  2. "Moderate your emotions. Learn to say the right thing at the right time and leave unsaid the wrong thing at the emotional moment." Definitely my favorite of the 10. It's so important to stay on target and not allow ourselves to emote ineffectively just because we feel a certain way. Nice succinct post!

    1. Thanks, Mys. That’s my favorite tip, too, because I’ve seen lack of control here undermine so many otherwise star performers.

  3. Great tips… Communication and presenting always boils down to the basics, Rapport and body language add to that authenticity, pacing, timber, tonation, and fun witty banter and make sure your event has the proper NLP Platforms and Presentations along with the communication skills and you can have an amazing presentation.

  4. Point one really matters. I was once giving a presentation about something I didn't quite believe in, and was surprised to get a question from the audience by somebody who asked if I agreed with what I was saying, because he noticed my negative body language.

  5. Another superb list of points, Dianna. And yet sometimes leaders start to play a role when they can take lists like these and act them out. So I am glad several of the points are variations on the theme of “be authentic,” because otherwise it could degenerate into a performance.

    1. Agreed, Susan. That’s why the last fourth of my book (Creating Personal Presence) focuses on character traits of a leader–the habit of making your actions match your words. You captured the essence with your phrase “be authentic.”

    1. Thanks, Kate and Maria. Glad you like the reminders on executive presence. (Noticed your smiley faces. A smile always adds to the perception of openness.)

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