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Innovation You: Stand and deliver to get ahead

Friday, April 17, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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"When you're saying the same thing as your competition, it comes down to how you say it," leadership coach Mary Civiello told more than 100 NEW members at the fourth NEW Innovation You webinar, "Executive Presence," April 15, 2015.

"For many women, executive presence — or lack of it — is a roadblock," Civiello noted. The career expert urged listeners to examine three core factors of executive presence: gravitas, communication and appearance.

Gravitas, "the feeling that you deliver," is bolstered by credibility and confidence. Even a simple posture of 'leaning in' when delivering a message shows that you're engaged.

Be aware of "your look, the lean-in, firmer gestures and firmer eye contact," Civiello advised, noting factors that convey gravitas.

"The biggest piece of gravitas is confidence," Civiello said. "Think about what 'confidence' looks like — and fake it until you make it."

To enhance communication, deliver your message as three slices of pizza to three sections of your audience. "Deliver with your eye contact. Finish your first sentence on one part of the audience. Finish your second on that second part of the audience. Finish on the third."

PowerPoint is a valuable tool, which brings with it unique considerations for executive presence. "Interpret," Civiello advises, "because they can read." Otherwise, by reading every word one can fall into what some call "corporate karaoke."

It takes an audience nine seconds to get distracted, says a recent study. "That does not mean a complete tune-out," Civiello explained, "that just means people start thinking about other things. That makes it incumbent on us to re-engage, such as asking questions, to stay interactive."

Women can train their vocal impact to executive levels, without resorting to "mimicking" men. "In general, we want to lower our range. The good news is that we women have a big vocal range, the bad news [is] we can get squeaky when we get nervous." Using a lower vocal range while remaining natural is ideal.

Don't use "up-speak," bring your voice down with conviction, Civiello said, adding that "vocal fry," the low, popping vocalization trend considered by some a disorder, is a sure way to irritate your listeners.

When it comes to appearance, you are your own best visual. "That can be a challenge—because we have so many choices!" Civiello remarked She offered three criteria to best present yourself visually: Anything that distracts detracts, dress for the job you want and look among the best in the room.

What about when things go wrong? "Women get less input from their bosses," Civiello observed. "They just do. In part, because many have male bosses and they are afraid of women getting angry, defensive [and] emotional."

"Don't say the first thing you think," Civiello advised, adding that it's important to calmly ask what someone's criticism means, "while pulling executive presence together. Your face should say 'I hear you/I'm considering.' Speak slowly, lower your tone."

The NEW Innovation You learning series of eight webinars led by popular career experts continues with "Courageous Leadership" on May 20, 2015. The series is free to NEW members. Non-members may view webinars for $99 each. Join NEW.

Mary Civiello of Civiello Communications Group

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