Presence- Do You Have It?

Presence- what is it? Nicola Sturgeon, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and other leading icons have loads of it but presence is difficult to define and many people in the workplace are told they need to raise their presence.In a nutshell, I would define as confidence.

The Centre for Talent Innovation on ‘Executive Presence’ interviewed over 4,000 professionals. They concluded that executive presence accounts for 26% of what it takes to get a promotion and 28% of a woman’s success.

Here’s some advice to ensure you have the executive presence to be perceived as a successful and upwardly mobile woman:

Look After Your Physical Presence

1.Unfortunately,women are judged more on their appearance than men so ensure your grooming is immaculate as a starting point for portraying presence. Tame unruly hair, ensure eyebrows are groomed and frame the face. Apply suitable day make up for a natural and polished look. Use a light fragrance as your ‘signature’ scent but, like make up, apply sparingly. Ensure shoes are comfortable, clean and in good condition. Avoid overly high heels that will ruin your poise by making you totter around awkwardly.

2. Have a reasonably current, well laundered and appropriate wardrobe. Quality tailoring in business colours is an investment that will always pay off but don’t be afraid to add a pop of colour ( in those colours you know really suit you) even in the most formal environments. Wear fitted clothes but avoid anything tight, low cut and figure hugging for work.  While it’s a good idea to dress for the job you want, there is a fine line between dressing to portray success and ambition and being perceived as a threat to your boss.  

3.Ensure you have the hallmarks of confidence when making important presentations, attending meetings and interviews by dressing in quality tailoring with jacket fastened and necklace, brooch or scarf drawing attention to your face- your main source of communication. Ensure nails are manicured and clean to give you confidence and polish when you express yourself using your hands. Wear a comfortable heel to give you height and raise your confidence and presence. Use the ‘column of colour’ in dark, toning  colours from shoe to shoulder to make you appear taller and slimmer, highlighted with a lighter colour near the face- perhaps a scarf or necklace accessory. Remember the importance of accessories- the finishing touches to elegant dressing in any work environment.

4.It’s more than dressing that gives you an edge. Make eye contact in conversations and make sure you enter a room and sit with confidence rather than skulking into a room as though you don’t want to be noticed. Make sure your body language expresses open, interested communication rather than closed, bored, passive or  aggressive  gestures and expressions.

Check Your Verbal Presence

5.Hone your communication skills. According  to the Centre for Talent Innovation Executive Presence Report, great speaking skills account for 60% of a woman’s presence. Make eye contact in conversation. This may be difficult for shy people but you need to learn to ‘fake it till you make it!’ Ensure you can present confidently in public and that you can express your ideas clearly and in an engaging manner. This is a learnt  skill that holds many un-confident communicators back. Have the courage to ask for feedback about your skills and seek courses and lower risk opportunities to practise and hone these skills. Watch yourself on video- cringe-worthy but get over it. It is the best communicators with the strongest interpersonal skills who generally fill the top positions. Learn assertiveness and stress management skills that incorporate the principles of  time management so you appear calm and in charge of yourself and your day. Check your table manners and learn good etiquette when dining with others.

Help Others – Be a Team Player With Presence

6. Ensure you  are recognised as someone who is not only a team player but also one who genuinely respects and helps others, especially other women. There is nothing more attractive and indicative of a true leader than the ability to use your knowledge, skills and experience to help and uplift colleagues, especially other women. As Madeleine Albright, the American Politician said, ‘there is a special place in hell reserved for women who do not help other women’. Above all, be authentic and follow your true values. That way, you will be at ease with yourself and win the respect of those around you.
Catherine Bruce is a Style and Image Consultant, Life Coach and Trainer. She presents training courses and workshops on ‘Presence and Impact’ and is a specialist image and life coach consultant for women who want to invest in their personal and professional presence and development .

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