It was January 2009.
I was in Doha for an international conference, invited to speak about women’s rights and empowerment.
The moment came.
I was on the stage with 3 other panelists.
Hundreds of pairs of eyes were on me.
Suddenly, my heart was racing twice as fast, and my forehead got covered in sweat. I began talking… Only with my voice sounding quiet and hesitant.
It was not a complete disaster.
No tomatoes or eggs were thrown at me.There were even a few polite claps, I recall.
Yet I knew that my talk was not impactful. It left no impression.
Most people probably missed the point I tried to make.
The words I prepared were fine but they did not land.
I felt deeply embarrassed.
“How could a seasoned ex-BBC journalist who interviewed politicians and celebrities as part of her job fail this way?” I kept asking myself. “What happened to me? Why didn’t I speak with impact? Why was my talk not memorable?”
Two years later, I got invited to speak at another event, this time in NYC.
I stepped onto the stage.
Hundreds of pairs of eyes were on me again.
Only this time everything was different.
I took a deep breath, straightened my shoulders, and started talking.
The people in the audience were laughing at the funny parts of my story. Their faces turned sad when I shared a touching moment. I felt connected deeply with the audience, and they listened to every word I spoke.
There was even a standing ovation at the end of my talk.
That experience and what happened in Doha were like night and day.
What had changed in those 2 years?
You see, dear friend, as a former journalist I was good at interviewing people and reporting on a breaking news story from a studio, but I was not prepared to speak to large audiences LIVE from the stage, and to do it with impact and composure.
So after the fiasco in Qatar, I went on the mission to improve my public speaking skills.
(Note: I could have concluded that I sulk at public speaking and kept away from being on stage for the rest of my life. A lot of people give up after only one negative experience.)
As I studied everything related to speaking in public, one skill stood out in particular. It is called “executive presence” and you might have heard about it.
“Executive presence” is basically “leadership presence.”
In other words, it is your ability to communicate, act and be leader-like in any interaction with other people.
There are many advantages to staying calm, centered and fully present in every meeting — whether it’s a presentation or a one-on-one with a senior leader, or your performance review. It allows you to think on your feet, communicate with confidence, be assertive, set boundaries, respond and not react, and even make an occasional joke.
Because you can have the most incredible speech or presentation prepared but if your presence and delivery do not match the words, ie you lack executive presence, you will not be heard.
As you go along your day, you need executive presence in all your daily interactions, in every meeting at work, as well as when writing your emails — if you want great results.
Executive presence is the most powerful way to influence, convince and guide people, and to promote yourself and your work.
In fact, it is the secret weapon used by successful people over and over to reach their goals.
It has transformed my life and the lives of hundreds of women I have worked with — both on a personal level and professionally.
The good news is that you can master it too, my friend, – and see your career transform.