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Executive Presence Coaching

Tips to Enhance Your Executive Presence ASAP

by Melanie Espeland, Executive Presence Coach


Everyone talks about executive presence, but not a lot of people know how to GET it. Some seem to be born with it, while others struggle with it their entire lives, effectively eliminating a plethora of opportunities. This guide will show you my proprietary formula for getting executive presence as well as FREE TIPS than you can use ASAP.

Melanie Espeland

What is Executive Presence?

Some people call it gravitas, charisma, or that Je ne sais quoi! Overall, executive presence is each leader’s unique expression of their leadership style. Stronger executive presence allows for respect, trust, and likeability amongst your seniors, peers, direct reports, and other stakeholders. It’s the ability to express compassionate authority, or said differently, confidence, warmth, and know-how.

Why do you need Executive Presence?

Strong executive presence provides access to opportunities and to “insider” discussions. If you’re not included in the senior meeting discussing next year’s strategic initiatives, your great ideas will never stand a chance.

Additionally, we want executive presence because it enables the ability to influence others, including decision makers, employees, and your direct team. Making a team feel a specific way is critical in almost any professional position as you move up the ladder.

How do I know if I have Strong Executive Presence?

Do you have good executive presence? Maybe even great executive presence? Senior leaders or those even without a leadership position wonder how they can measure their gravitas.

Key traits of executive presence naturally include other leadership skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively, in such a way as to inspire confidence easily. Typically this person has a high emotional intelligence and their clear vision is always communicated when attending meetings. Their personal journey typically is also shared, allowing for them to provide authentic stories while building connection to boost productivity.

If you seek to be a leader who can operate effectively, then you need to build effective communication and listening skills.

Lastly, developing executive presence greatly relies on not your great achievements but more so others perceptions. To have great presence, you must develop greater awareness and focus on the employees around you. What do they think of you as a leader? You should be able to read them.

Melanie Espeland

How to choose your Executive Presence Coach.

Executive coaches should have gone through at least one coaching program and have experience with high potential managers. It is an excellent sign if your coach conveys confidence; has self awareness; and understands what it takes to lead in your field.

In particular, make sure your coach has the specific background in executive presence training, and potentially public speaking.

Lastly, speak with HR professionals in your organization to see if your company culture includes stipends for learning and development that may cover your leadership training.

What You’ll Learn.

Working on executive presence training can help most people build more than just their own executive presence styles. They can develop into great leaders through additional learnings and skills, such as the following:

  • strong executive presence

  • leadership presence

  • active listening

  • emotional intelligence

  • communication skills

  • inspiring confidence

  • quiet confidence

  • body language

  • how to be aware, present, and maintain eye contact

  • how to handle high stress situations and stay calm

  • how to make difficult and important decisions

  • how to foresee future reactions of teams

To learn more about executive presence coaching (or otherwise called executive presence training), read my article here.

And, to learn more about the common misconceptions of executive coaching generally, check out my helpful article here.

How to Build Executive Presence: a Structured Approach

There is no one correct formula to develop executive presence; it is not 1+1 = 2. Consider different types of great leaders such as the late Steve Jobs and Michelle Obama. Their divergent leadership styles align to their authentic personalities.

We can use the common threads observed across different types of leaders to help you discover and define your own brand of executive presence. We can incorporate additional tools from the holistic physical, emotional, and mental realms to practice executing your newfound style. This structured executive presence training approach through the Espeland Method™ is illustrated below.

Executive Presence Graphic

Literal – Physical.

A leader must know that their literal communication of their authentic self is through voice, body, and appearance.

  • Voice: your voice or the sounds your body creates is one of the key methods of expressing ourselves and connecting to others.

  • Body: being at ease and releasing tension is the back door to broadcasting confidence. Your body is an instrument you can play to create the desired effect.

  • Appearance: cultural norms, bias, and style in our appearance will always affect how others perceive us. Perception is reality.

Figurative – Emotional & Mental.

In addition to the physical realm, a leader has the ability to harness emotional and mental tools to develop their executive presence.

  • Authenticity: you need to be in touch with yourself in order to share who you are and thus effectively connect with others. Humans are a social species and naturally curious about each other.

  • Confidence: this feeling allows even the worst laid plans to sound reasonable. Alternatively, an excellent insight said without confidence may never be seriously considered.

  • Vision: is how you view the world and your goals. This is a guiding light that should be informed by your authenticity.

    • This allows for clarity in how you communicate ideas to others, allowing for a larger chance of being understood and adopted.

    • It also allows for consistency in how you respond to “off the cuff” or unforeseen questions and circumstances, which is hugely impactful in your overall presence.

    • A point of view that you are truly bought into allows for you to communicate with more “gusto” and emotion, therefore aiding overall presence.

Tips to Enhance Your Executive Presence Skills ASAP.

This section includes specific and tactical skills that can quickly grow your ability to be a leader with strong executive presence. These are not exhaustive, but are rather a very small sampling of the skills available to build your leadership brand.

Lever: Voice.

Reduce Filler Words – Communication skills.

You improve speaking by developing control over filler words. One way to do this is to use a steady amount of air flow and close your mouth when you’re inhaling from the nose to avoid any verbal tics. Have all your words connect with uninterrupted air flow. You pause at punctuation marks, and ends of complete ideas.

To practice steady air flow, take your hand, close your fingers together, and place it about a quarter of an inch away from your lips.

Now say, “AAAHH.” I want you to feel an uninterrupted stream of air hit your fingers. Breathe deeply, letting air in and out of your belly.

When you get to a comma or period, close your mouth, and take a breath in through your nose. Stay silent, avoiding filler words by keeping your mouth closed.

Melody of Gratitude.

One tool you can use to sound more warm and less aloof is the common melody of gratitude (per the United States in English). This will allow you to maintain a sound that is professional and grounded while adding that special nuance to engage your audience.

To sound Grateful: slow down; use the lower part of your natural pitch range; speak using a smaller or limited pitch range; stretch out some words and syllables; and your lower volume slightly.

Lever: Body.

Physical Warm-ups.

Use physical warm-ups to reduce tension and elevate your body language.

  • Roll Down: Drop chin to chest. Start dropping forward, rolling down through the spine with bent knees until your hands touch the floor. Roll back up through the spine with your chin tucked until the last moment. Let the neck and head stay loose and relaxed.

  • Yawn/stretch: wide open jaw, body shaped like an ‘x’.

  • Relax your body by moving and swaying like seaweed in water.

  • Use poses that help to affect your body chemistry and your emotional state:

    • Superhero pose: arms create a triangle shape with hands on hips; legs are at a wide stance.

    • Victory pose: arms are above your head as if you’re celebrating a victory; legs are at a wide stance.

    • Giving pose: cup your hands and place your arms outward as if you’re carefully handing something precious to someone.

Lever: Appearance.

Signature Item.

You can start to work on differentiating your appearance by developing a signature item. For example, the late Steve Jobs was known for his black turtleneck and silver rimmed glasses. A signature item can help take the guesswork out of getting dressed, and also help you to be memorable by those you’re seeking to connect with, influence, or impress. Remember that we’re solving for executive presence – your presence must be remembered, and you can use your costume accordingly.

Perhaps start with an accessory, such as a pair of glasses, necklace, or watch. You can also try wearing a bold or unexpected color in a business meeting, or wearing something different from the crowd, just because you can.

Lever: Authenticity.

Release Fear.

Authenticity is one of my cornerstone levers of Executive Presence. You need to be in touch with yourself in order to share who you are and thus effectively connect with others.

What keeps us from being ourselves typically is fear. In order to address your fears, start by asking yourself “Why”? Drill down asking why, and why again to get to the core of the issue. Utilize a coach or trusted friend to help move through any blind spots. Additionally, you can play Devil’s Advocate to find the logic (or lack thereof) in your emotional, fear-driven thoughts.

Likeability through Commonality.

Both respect + likeability are needed for next level executive presence. You can start to build likeability through commonality; this can be a helpful tool to allow your team or audience to feel heard and understood. (All humans are programmed to want be be understood, heard, included.) Universal topics are safest and most effective, such as:

  • Family

  • Food

  • Travel

  • Music

  • The Weekend (or The Weeknd, a great singer)

Lever: Confidence.

Thought Models.

  • There’s an opportunity to improve your confidence using NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). We can consider what thoughts are serving and not serving you. What would have to be true to feel confident in your specific situation?

  • The method Thought Models is helpful in intentionally changing your thoughts and building self-awareness.

  • Instructions:

    • Review the Template and Illustrative example below.

    • Consider how you want to feel in your re-imagined circumstance. What feeling(s) would lead to the desired behavior and therefore result?

    • Use the enclosed “Emotion Chart” to come up with specific emotions in your Thought Model. Instead of “happy”, be more specific such as “curious, excited, etc.”

    • The circumstance will remain the same in both the original and re-imagined thought models, and should always be factual.

      • Do not write: “I am sitting in a sales meeting looking nervous and dumb.”

      • Instead try: “I am sitting in a sales meeting.”

    • Use this process multiple times per week. The more often you train your brain to challenge your automatic thoughts and narrative, the sooner you can arrive at a new automatic narrative that positively serves you.

    • Consider looking at your Thought Model notes to remind yourself of how you want to feel throughout your day or when you’re in a similar situation.

  • Illustrative Example

    • Situation as it occurred:

      • CIRCUMSTANCE – Walking into a meeting with C-suite.

      • THOUGHT – I don’t know if they like me or if they will agree with what I have to say.

      • EMOTION – Frustration, anxiety, shame.

      • BEHAVIOR – Proceed with presentation.

      • RESULT – Sub-par performance in presentation, unhappy with the outcome.

    • Re-imagined:

      • CIRCUMSTANCE – Walking into a meeting with C-suite.

      • NEW THOUGHT – I know the C-suite likes me because they invited me to this meeting, and I’ve been promoted twice.

      • NEW EMOTION – Confidence, acceptance.

      • NEW BEHAVIOR – Proceed with presentation.

      • NEW RESULT – Strong performance in presentation, happy with the outcome.

  • Template

    • Situation as it occurred:


      • THOUGHT –

      • EMOTION –

      • BEHAVIOR –

      • RESULT –

    • Re-imagined:


      • NEW THOUGHT –

      • NEW EMOTION –

      • NEW BEHAVIOR –

      • NEW RESULT –

Emotion Chart

Lever: Vision.

Curate Your Brand.

Your unique perspective allows for you to immediately and consistently react and communicate regarding any situation at work. First consider curating your brand.

  • How do you want to be seen at work? What adjectives would you use?

  • What characteristics and skills are considered important for leaders at your job or the level above?

  • What adjectives or traits will matter 1 month, 1 year, 10 years from now?

  • What would have to be true for you to be seen in your preferred manner? How can you get there?

  • What situations that occur at least 2x per month may require additional effort to execute this brand?

How to get Executive Presence Training with Coach Melanie Espeland.

You or your organization can work with me, the Executive Coach of Espeland Enterprises, by scheduling a consultation to learn more about my packages. Alternatively, if you have an urgent issue, or don’t want to wait for a consultation, you can schedule a Power Hour.

Have questions?

If you have any questions about executive presence training, interpersonal skills, or leadership qualities in general, email us at

Melanie Espeland

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