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Work on your PRESENCE to improve your leadership communication skills

Updated: Feb 9

by Stephanie Bickel

leadership communication skills

“Work on your presence.” “Be a bigger force in meetings.” “Be more expressive.”

Have you heard this from a colleague or given this advice? This kind of feedback is an invitation from those around you to be a bigger force. It is a myth to believe that one is born charismatic or more interesting than another person.

Charismatic people have either consciously or unconsciously developed a set of very specific mindsets and behaviors that help their audiences react positively. Magnetism can be learned and perfected by anyone. To develop your unique authentic form of magnetism, work on beliefs, behaviors, and branding.


The best way to ignite behavioral change is to begin with the 4 beliefs.

  1. I love my audience

  2. I am the expert

  3. I am fighting to solve a serious problem

  4. I will make progress today

Most often it is mindset and thought patterns that prevent people from being their most charismatic self. Determine which thoughts are weak and begin working on shifting those thoughts. Maybe you have to take some action to strengthen that thought, or maybe you just need to reconcile it. For example, maybe you are not the subject matter expert in the room, but you are an expert listener and problem solver. Let that help you feel like an expert in the discussion.


Mannerisms, physical and verbal habits, and your reactions to pressure all play a role in making you compelling.

Charisma killers:

  1. Looking at a laptop screen in a meeting

  2. Playing with your hair, clothing, fidgeting

  3. Eagerly nodding

  4. Staring off into space or having a staring spot

  5. Saying, “got it”

  6. Upward inflection

Charisma amplifiers:

  1. Extended eye contact, even piercing eye contact

  2. Tall, open postures

  3. Emphatic gestures outside the frame of the body

  4. Sincere gratitude expression

  5. Compassion in a tense moment

  6. Goodwill

  7. A signature vocal style (e.g. assertive, motivational, or therapist-like)

  8. Stillness, delayed head nod

  9. A 2-3 second pause before a reply

  10. Short sentences with no wasted words

The best way to practice changing behaviors is with complete strangers. You can try out that entire list of charisma amplifiers with new people. Then, slowly bring them into your workplace and home. Here are some other activities that are great for practice:

  1. Start a conversation with strangers in an elevator.

  2. See if you can get into a deep conversation with a person in an airport or plane.

  3. Initiate a smile with extended eye contact to everyone you pass at the grocery store.

  4. Be the first person to initiate a handshake.

  5. Compliment the person at the register for something you notice about him or her because you are paying such close attention.

These activities also help you get better at relationship building and listening skills. Just being present improves your presence.


Are you wanting to develop magnetism like that of Oprah, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson? Then, set a vision for your personal brand and identify and practice specific behaviors that fit that brand. How do you want to be seen? Look at the wheel and choose two.

For example, I aspire to be a “Sage” and “Magician”. Behaviors that will help me be seen this way are (1) sharing sharp insights and (2) creating transformations and seeking ways to be transformative.

There are quizzes that will tell you what you should be (, but we find clients enjoy the process more of designing how they want to be seen. Then, we work on developing the mindset and behaviors to bring that personal brand to life.

The end result of working on beliefs, behaviors, and branding is feeling fully expressed and fully heard. Some say they feel more appreciated; they get more recognition. Most experience expanded responsibilities and impact. All say they feel more interesting to others. May it be the same for you.


Become a speaker who can command any room. Speak by Design University is a one-of-a-kind leadership communication program. It’s the only leadership communication program in the world that gives you access to self-paced learning, group coaching and training and, most importantly, private one-on-one coaching. Learn more and register.

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