10 Tips to Elevate Executive & Speaking Presence to Command a Room or Conversation

Raising boys was the best preparation for public speaking and commanding attention in one-on-one and group settings.

I learned the “Mom Voice”.

It works.

My boys include not only my son, but all his buddies who were all over 6’ tall, big, beefy, rambunctious, silly and lovable.  I am Mom to one – Jake – and Momma McDonald to many.

All the boys are in their early 20’s now, but it still works.  Saying their name in the Mom Voice gets met with an immediate response of “sorry Momma McDonald”.

A couple of years ago, one of the boys shared the power of the Mom Voice with me.  To understand more clearly, you need the visual.  Jake’s dad is a 6’4”, 250 pound, commanding presence of a man.  I am 5’ tall, sometimes reach triple digits and am very petite.

During a conversation he looked at me and said, “You know momma, you would think that we would have all been afraid of Jake’s dad growing up, but we were all terrified of you.”

It works.

Teaching the Mom Voice to my clients helps them establish presence, without being overly dominant.

It is simple and effective and with a little practice, easy to master.  Here are 10 Steps to learning how to command a room or conversation:

1. Lower your octave

It is no coincidence that many of the voice response systems are created to recognize and better respond better to male voices.  The octaves are lower.  A lower octave commands more attention.

2. Slow your speech

My normal talking speed is fast or “what the heck did she just say” when I get excited.  Jake told me once, “talk slower!”  I told him to listen faster.

Make a deliberate effort to pronounce each word.  To help in practicing slowing down you can download a metronome app, set it at about 60 and have it playing in the background to give you a sense of rhythm.

Being deliberate in speed triggers your audience to tune in.

3. Pause

One of the most powerful actions you can take when speaking to an individual or group is pause.  Allow your words to sink in, allow your listener(s) to think about it and take a moment to read their responses.

4. Know when to stop

The biggest problem most people have in interviewing is talking too much.  They have an insatiable need to fill in the pauses with more words essentially having a case of verbal diarrhea and digging themselves in a hole.

When you have made your point, stop talking.  Allow your audience to think about what you have said and how it applies.  It  helps you maintain control of the conversation or talk.

5. Limit hand gestures

Hand gestures can emphasis a point; however too many and you may come across as insecure, nervous or just had way too much coffee.  Be deliberate in your gesturing.

6. Remain open

Fight the tendency to cross your arms or use any other body language that communicates shutting down or not listening.

7. Relax

Take a moment before your meeting or talk to take a deep breath.  When you exhale, imagine your breath is a wave of relaxation from the top of your head all the way to your toes.

8. Stand tall

Let your shoulders relax, back straighten and head lift slightly.  Do not lean on tables, podiums or door frames.  Good posture projects confidence.

9. Smile

During a positive moment in your conversation make sure to smile.  A genuine smile exhibits engagement, a relaxed demeanor and confidence.

10. Engage

Ask questions of your audience and listen to their answer(s).  Use the information to respond accordingly, even if this means backtracking or going off topic for a moment.  This conveys to your audience that are listening and respect their time and input.

One last tip: when practicing these tips, do so in the bathroom.  Really.  Watch yourself in the mirror to identify any “tells” that might suggest insecurity.  The acoustics are also great to determine your octave and practice at different levels.  The last bonus – you can shut the door and keep distractions out while you focus on you.


Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


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