8 Tips for Executives
Being in the boardroom is an executive’s time to shine. Apart from potentially shaping the future of the company, these meetings give people a chance to impress others and advance their careers. As such, increasing boardroom presence should be a goal of any executive.
While everyone wants to make a lasting impression in the boardroom, how to do so isn’t always clear. To help, here are eight tips for how executives can increase their boardroom presence.
1. Prepare Thoughts and Responses Beforehand
Many people understand the importance of being confident, but how does someone build and display confidence? Being prepared is one of the most crucial factors. An unprepared executive may stumble over their words, have little to contribute or struggle to understand questions. Preparing beforehand can have the opposite effect.
In one study, self-confidence had a significant positive impact on 33 out of 49 qualities that others perceived in leaders. When executives prepare for any questions and discussions they’ll face ahead of time, they can speak more confidently. They’ll then come across as more knowledgeable, professional and trustworthy.
Before a board meeting, go over the agenda and write out a few discussion points to touch on. It also helps to write out answers to questions other board members may have. Executives will then have more to contribute and appear more confident when answering questions.
2. Speak Through Your Actions
Answering questions and guiding discussions aren’t the only ways that executives communicate in the boardroom. As much as 55% of human communication is nonverbal, so a board member’s body language can say more than their words themselves. When executives are aware of what their actions say, they can use this to their advantage.
Boardroom body language should be open, active and confident. Things like slouching and crossing your arms can appear disinterested or unprofessional, while sitting tall with an open posture communicates the opposite. Body language matters while talking, too. Making eye contact and using hand gestures can help make a point and remain engaging.
3. Listen Actively
Making an impression in the boardroom is about more than just what someone says and how they say it. It’s also about listening, and this aspect is easy to overlook. Even if an executive has many good things to say, if they don’t actively listen to others, they won’t leave a positive impression.
By contrast, when board members show that they care about what others are saying, others will notice and appreciate it. To listen actively, look at people when they’re speaking, leaning forward to communicate interest. Nodding, asking questions and taking notes will also demonstrate attentiveness and a collaborative spirit.
4. Dress for the Occasion
Much like a job interview, people’s choice of attire impacts how people see them, for better or worse. Boardroom attire shouldn’t be flashy, and it should communicate cleanliness and professionalism. Clean, well-kept clothes that lean more towards the formal than the casual are ideal, but remember not to overdress either.
Color choices matter, too. While people have various skin tones, there are only three skin undertones — warm, cool and neutral — that matter when matching clothes. Executives should wear clothes that match their skin’s undertone to create attractive contrast. Seemingly small choices like this can help come across as more put-together and professional.
Similarly, executives should groom appropriately. Beards, which can help people appear more trustworthy, should be well-maintained, hair should be neat and skin should be clean.
5. Involve Others
When trying to impress in the boardroom, it’s easy to dominate the conversation. While it is important to be actively involved in the meeting, executives should leave space for others to take part, too. Good leaders are team players, and other board members won’t appreciate being cut off or not having a chance to speak.
This tip ties in to active listening, but it goes beyond that, too. Executives can make other board members feel important by giving them chances to participate, not just leaving space open. When presenting new ideas, ask others their opinion on the matter, possibly singling some people out according to their expertise.
Looking for others’ input and valuing their time communicates respect and cooperation. Other board members will appreciate this and return the favor.
6. Don’t Be Defensive or Aggressive
Even with careful forethought, not every idea executives present in the boardroom will be a massive success. Board members must expect to encounter some amount of resistance now and then, and this is an opportunity to impress others. While it’s easy to become defensive or aggressive about one’s own ideas, it’s rarely helpful.
Aggressively responding to criticism can come across as immature or overly self-interested. By contrast, vulnerability fuels stronger relationships and demonstrates maturity. Instead of becoming hostile when encountering critique, executives should be communicative and express gratitude for the feedback.
Ask questions about how an idea could be better or possible alternatives. This both involves others and shows a concern for the good of the company over bragging rights.
7. Avoid Fluff in Your Language
Another thing to avoid in the boardroom is filler. If executives want to impress as a leader, they won’t get very far by issuing vague promises or relying on buzzwords. Alternatively, providing actionable ideas and using direct, specific language can help board members communicate more effectively.
Cutting the fluff out of language will also help executives be more concise. Concision leaves more room for others to talk while providing the same amount of information, maximizing the meeting’s productivity.
8. Pay Attention to Your Body
Finally, executives should be in tune with how their body is reacting to combat nerves. Getting anxious is a natural human feeling, but letting that anxiety go unchecked can lead to negative body language and appearing ill-prepared. Thankfully, there are ways to counteract these feelings and reactions.
The first and most important step is to notice when signs of nervousness start arising. The sooner executives notice it, the sooner they can react, calming down before they need to speak. In response to signs like a rising pulse or quick breathing, sit up straight, open your shoulders and take deep, slow breaths.
When executives can fight nerves, they can appear more confident and prepared. This will leave a lasting impression on other board members.
Make an Impression in the Boardroom
Board meetings are a regular but crucial part of being an executive. By following these steps, business leaders can make the most of this time and push their careers forward. Increasing boardroom presence will lead to long-term success at the company.