10 Things to Do When Speaking to Have "Presence"

December 16, 2019

Want to have executive presence? Here are 10 steps to follow when communicating.

What does it mean to have “presence”?

It starts with having a clear purpose, John Ullmen said in his LinkedIn Learning course, Developing Executive Presence. And you can't fake that – either you are committed to something or you aren’t, and that’s going to show up in how you present yourself.

That’s the first step. But simply having purpose isn’t enough – you also need to learn skills to best channel that passion. Otherwise, while it’ll be clear you believe in your message, you could come across as scatterbrained or myopic.

In his course, Ullmen gave 10 rules for communicating with others, which signal presence. If you follow these 10 rules and truly believe what you speak, others will say you have “presence” or an "it" factor.

LinkedIn Learning Instructor John Ullmen explains how to communicate with presence in his course, Developing Executive Presence.

10 Rules for Communicating With Presence

According to Ullmen, the 10 principles you should follow to communicate with presence are:

    1. Speak decisively.

Many people caveat their statements. If you want to be seen as someone with presence, don’t do that.

So, avoid words like “maybe”, “kinda” or making things you believe strongly about sound like questions. Instead, when you speak, speak clearly – either state your opinion or ask a direct question.

What if you don't have a decisive view of something yet? That’s fine – ask more questions and listen more. But, when your mind is made up, speak without any qualifiers.

    2. Back it up.

It’s one thing to declare your view. Then, take the next step of explaining why you believe that way.

Here, don’t spend too much time on the negative, as in why other alternatives won’t work. Instead, focus on why you believe your solution is the best.

    3. Respond when challenged.

If someone challenges you when you make your point, don’t immediately fold or get defensive. Instead, respond to their counterarguments with your own reasoning.

That said, listen to counterarguments with an open mind. If you’ve considered them already, explain why you hold that view despite that counterargument. If you haven’t, listen intently – it’s better to change your view than to hold onto it blindly.

    4. Admit mistakes with strength.

Along those lines, you will be wrong sometimes. We all are.

When you are, apologize, but don’t over-apologize. State what you did wrong and what you learned and move on.

    5. Stay on course.

Or, put another way, don’t go on tangents. Yes, you might have a wealth of knowledge on the subject. But, to be seen as someone with real presence, keep your communications focused on moving words to action.

    6. Keep it simple.

Here’s one technical experts tend to fall into. Yes, you might know everything there is to know about coding – but your audience likely doesn't.

So, communicate at the level of your audience. If you are speaking to fellow experts in the field, obviously you can go into more detail. But, if you are speaking to people who don’t know anything about the subject, you must explain your point in a way they'll understand.

    7. Be concise.

Less is almost always more.

This means keeping your statements concise. And it also means avoiding over-speaking (even if each statement is concise), and allowing others the ability to make their point.

    8. Engage others with kudos and questions.

Yes, you want to give credit and ask questions. But you want to give the right credit and the best questions.

That means, on the credit front, to only give credit when you sincerely believe it. False gratitude is almost worse than no gratitude.

Asking the right questions is equally important. There are always a thousand questions you could ask. Do your best to ask the question or questions that really get to the heart of the matter, which provide key information needed to make a decision.

    9. Align your pitch, pace and tone.

A few notes here. On pitch, don’t end your statements with an ascending pitch, so it sounds like everything you say is a question. In fact, do the opposite when making a declarative statement, and it’ll make your point stick.

For pace, many of us have a tendency to speak too fast, particularly when we are passionate about a subject or presenting to a group. If that happens to you, consciously focus on speaking slower, as that’ll help you be more concise and better understood.

On tone, it’s all about matching it to the situation. What tone do you want to strike? Think about that before communicating.

    10. Speak with volume.

Last but certainly not least, make sure people can hear you when you speak. Generally, our voice sounds louder to ourselves than it does to others. So, don’t be afraid to project.

How to implement all of this

I know what you are probably thinking – ten items is a lot to keep track of. Ullmen’s advice – don’t try to adopt all 10 at once.

Instead, focus on adopting one at a time for two weeks, and then move on to the next one. Over time, you’ll master all ten, and consistently speak with presence.

“Stick with it,” Ullmen said. “You’ll keep making progress, and progress fuels confidence, and that’s a double-win for strengthening your presence.”

What to learn more? Watch Ullmen’s full course, Development Executive Presence.

Other lessons within that course include: