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Where does executive presence matter most at work?

Leaders have many chances to exude their executive presence, including in meetings, presentations and during a time of crisis, writes Joel Garfinkle.

5 min read


executive presence

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Early in your career, you may have, like many of my executive coaching clients, been given evaluation reports that read like a checklist — accomplish these tasks, master this skill and gain this level of efficiency. Rudimentary, but it probably felt more attainable than trying to succeed in the harder-to-categorize aspects of becoming a leader and expressing executive presence. When you’re working in or aspiring to gain a leadership position, very little is about the tasks you do. Quite a lot is about the image you project. 


In my presentation, “Executive Presence: Four Ways to Convey Confidence and Command Respect as a Leader,” I explain how to build a reputation as someone whom both employees and senior management can rely. If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, have a look below at my thoughts on where you can (and must) convey executive presence at work. Spoiler: It’s almost everywhere and in every situation.

1. Everyday meetings

Whether they are with team members, vendors or clients your every day meetings are going to be where you build others’ perceptions of you. Maybe the executive giving your performance review won’t be in the room, but the image you project will always filter back. It matters as much as anything you do or say. Use these opportunities to polish your ability to convey confidence, build your trustworthiness and practice a crisp and concise speaking style. Speak succinctly, and follow through on what you say, no matter who you’re working with. 

2. Giving presentations

Whenever you are invited to give any presentation, remember that your credibility has landed you here. Don’t act like you have to justify your presence or explain at length why you’re speaking on the topic at hand. Own your executive presence in your presentation and know you’re the best person to speak on it. If you’re rushing through your presentation, you’re diminishing your gravitas and signaling that your topic isn’t worthy of your audience’s time and attention. Know deep down that you’re giving them the information they need. People are listening, and they need to hear decisiveness in your voice. They want you to communicate your ideas clearly so they can benefit from them. 

3. All-hands meetings

Company gatherings like all-hands or town hall meetings can be tricky — on one hand it would be ideal to be noticed or recognized in such a large group setting. On the other hand, no one wants to be known as someone who always “speaks just to be seen” or whose contributions elicit eye rolling around the room. I always encourage my clients to speak up, but timing and context are key. Often your question or idea would be better heard elsewhere, especially if you’re already at a level where you have access and opportunity to discuss it with a smaller audience. Don’t forget, however, that there are still eyes on you, even if you don’t speak. If you’re looking to lead, act like it. Now is the time to set an example for those around you. 

4. Trade shows, industry events and vendor showcases

So many of my clients who have told me that they’d rather work late for a month than attend any sort of community event for even an afternoon. Often, they shine in the day-to-day business of getting the job done but loathe the unstructured nature and relationship management requirements of trade shows, industry events and vendor showcases. Whether it’s the small talk or just the lack of clear, attainable goals, many struggle with feeling comfortable in these open-ended events. I challenge them — and you — to see these occasions as opportunities to work on conveying confidence, charisma and command. Think of your goal as strengthening relationships with those around you, networking and making impressions. 

5. Crisis or high-tension situations

A mentor once pointed out to me that most of us can make good impressions under ideal circumstances, but stress and chaos will bring out our default behaviors unless we are very disciplined and careful. How you handle yourself and others when problems arise will heavily influence how others think of you and how willing they are to work with you in the future. Present the best, most poised and insightful version of yourself when crises arise. These times, as much or more than any other, will be your chance to shine and set yourself apart from the crowd. When others are falling apart, seize the opportunity to be calm and decisive.

Hopefully, the context and situations where executive presence are key in your job don’t feel too overwhelming. It can be a lot to realize that your tone, words and behavior always matter. You can also think of these situations as dozens of micro-opportunities to tweak your reputation and others’ perception of you. Don’t stress over every situation so much as remember that the big picture always offers chances to improve your executive presence.


Want to activate the executive presence of your employees? As an executive presence coach, Joel Garfinkle will up level the confidence, command, and conviction of your employees. Joel is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 11 motivational books, including Executive Presence: Step into Your Power, Convey Confidence, & Lead with ConvictionSubscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now! You can also view over 200 of Joel’s 2-minute inspirational video clips at his YouTube channel.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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