Knowledge, experience, and results are all good and necessary – but not enough. In today’s business world, leaders need gravitas to be successful.
Gravitas and the word gravity are connected. Having gravitas is having “weight” as a speaker, both literally and in the words that you say. Followers are looking for the weight, dignity, and solid appearance of somebody who can’t be pushed over.
How do you find that sort of gravitas for yourself? Here are some clues:
1. Focus your attention – stop the leakage
Having gravitas is being 100% focused on your audience and what to say, mentally and physically. Look them in the eyes and direct your body and movements towards them. Keep your language clear and concise. Remember that a shifting gaze, nervous gestures and filler words are distractions to the audience – it’s gravitas is leaking out of your body and your mouth.
2. Lower your center of gravity – don’t be a push-over
Many of the executives I coach tend to be very aware of what’s going on in their heads, but out of touch with anything below that. Gravitas is finding ground, as in connecting yourself to the floor. Feel your weight. Gain awareness of your limbs and trunk and how solid your feet feel against the floor. Stomp your feet a few times and feel the firm ground beneath you. Relax your belly and take a few deep breaths.
3. Put your hands to work for you – be visual
Words are good, (illustrative) gestures are better. Our capacity to remember gestures and pictures is much stronger than that of remembering words or sounds. Instead of waving your hands in the same pattern during 20 minutes, take time to “choreograph” your presentation in advance. Find ways to use your hands to create a visual image of the concept you’re trying to communicate.
Bonus: When you use gestures, your voice also becomes more animated and interesting!
4. Show them you’ve got rhythm – make it interesting
You have to change pace from time to time to keep your audience interested. One great way to improve is by incorporating rhythmic builds into your presentation. A rhythmic build is when you repeat the same words, in the same place, in three different sentences. For instance: “We have to strive for excellence in execution. We have to strive for excellence in service. We have to strive for excellence in profitability.” Think of it as a crescendo: Rhythmic builds create sound patterns that rise in intensity and make your presentation sound natural and passionate. In addition, they’re great for highlighting the significance of a key point that you want to stress to your audience.
5. Put a stake in the ground – speak your mind
Your audience is not looking for corporate polished information and complicated language. They want to know what you think and to hear compelling reasons for moving in a certain direction. The direct line from your heart and mind to the ears and eyes of the audience is a key to the honesty and authenticity of gravitas.
“Finding a voice means that you can get your feeling into your own words, and that your words have the feel of you about them.”