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Picture a fabulous speaker or a talented seller - someone who's brilliant in a pitch and who always seems to achieve or surpass their sales goals. What do you see?

You might have envisioned a few different things: someone who speaks with energy and enthusiasm. Or someone who can grab your attention by sending their voice all the way to the back of the room. Or someone reserved but quietly powerful, with focused intensity. What people don't realize is that a whole host of strategies are effective, but in every case: contrast is the key to making yourself memorable. 

Just as with black and white photography, contrast is necessary to make the image pop. Crisp blacks and clean whites working side by side make for a stronger image than a blurry mess of grey. You can achieve a similar impact in a presentation setting by building dynamics into your tone of voice, pace and emotional affect. The word dynamic literally means "a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process." In order to possess a dynamic executive presence, you must constantly shift from one state to another.  

When coaching presenters, we find that everyone leans into their strengths. If someone is strong and commanding, they tend to present from a commanding place, and can sometimes intimidate or seem cold to listeners. If someone is naturally bubbly, positive and energetic, they might rely too heavily on that style, and lose the interest of a listener that might not take them seriously. By using dynamics, you not only expand your appeal to a wider audience, but you also keep listeners engaged, as the human ear naturally responds to changes in tone and tempo. The key to becoming a brilliant presenter is to identify your strengths, but also find ways to create contrast.  Though it seems counter-intuitive, learning to play to the opposite of your strengths will round out your presence and surprise your listener.

While preparing for an important presentation, broaden your range by practicing extremes of being light-hearted and serious. Then try running through your presentation alternating between talking very quickly and very slowly. Do this as an exercise - go slower and faster than you think would be appropriate, to really stretch yourself and see what those dynamics naturally do to  your presentation style. Notice how the contrast makes certain key content stand out. Pick and choose which pace and tone works best for you during different sections of the presentation. But keep playing with it! This technique makes for fresh, engaging, and memorable presentations.
 

For more techniques about how to elevate Executive Presence for you or your team, contact Laura Ramadei at UP.

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