When you have the floor to speak, you have the opportunity to command the room. You can command the room and lead even when you are not speaking. Follow these six nonverbal acts to establish your executive presence:
Don’t go directly to a chair and sit down. Recognize people at the beginning and end of a meeting. Nod your head. Raise your hand in the person’s direction. Smile.
When people feel recognized, they feel important. It is a simple and impressionable act that will earn you respect. Also, by acknowledging others, it is an opportunity for them to acknowledge your presence.
If the meeting is around a table, sit at the table and not on the side. Get in the game. Don’t sit on the sidelines. If you think you have less value to offer than others present at the meeting, people will think you are unimportant. Believe you are important, and others will, too.
If chairs are set in rows, sit towards the front but not in the front row. If you sit in the front, everyone can see you. But just being seen is not what will help you command a room. You also have to be able to see others. If you are far away from people, it is difficult for them to connect with what you have to say. To connect with people, leaders know they must strike a balance between being seen and being able to see others.
During the meeting, avoid looking around the room. Don’t look at your phone, and don’t take too many notes. Lift your head up. Look at the speaker, in a relaxed manner. Don’t stare the person down. Let the speaker know you are listening and interested in what they have to say.
The more people feel heard, the more they will engage you and listen to you when you speak. Plus, by focusing on the speaker, you will have a better command of the material and be better positioned to ask insightful, smart questions that people will remember.
Nervous movements like shaking your foot or twirling your pen are distracting. Don’t run the risk of people remembering you for your fidgeting and not your executive presence.
Don’t be afraid to take up some space. Keep your arms open and unlocked. Rest your arms shoulder-length apart on the table. Don’t twist your legs into a braid. Don’t try to make yourself smaller. Allow yourself to be seen. Take up the space that your frame allows. Use your body language to communicate your confidence.
Slightly lean into the speaker. This is another nonverbal cue letting the other person know that you are listening and interested in what they have to say. When you lean in to listen to others, others will lean in to hear you.
Commanding a room is not about exerting power. Leaders behave in a way that is other-oriented and focus on developing reciprocal relationships with others. When you respect and acknowledge others, they will return the favor. Treat others how you want to be treated, and you will be treated as the leader you want to be.