When President Kennedy spoke, he projected a commanding presence. Nixon didn’t. Neither did Ford or Carter. Reagan and Clinton did, big time. And Obama does.

Projecting a commanding presence (sometimes called “an executive presence”) is somehow related to charisma. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, charisma is “the rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.”

Developing that sort of presence isn’t something you can learn from a workshop or self-help book. It’s more a way of being than anything you do — although the way you act does enhance it.

You may not be the sort of speaker who will “arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.” But you can make yourself more attractive to audiences.

Here are six ways you can project a commanding presence:

1. Be yourself

Everything that makes you unique — from your appearance to your beliefs, your experience, and your sense of humor — can be used in a way that wins people’s attention and respect. Don’t imitate anyone, even dynamic leaders you admire.

2. Be unafraid

If you worry about making a fool of yourself or if you second guess your every word and gesture, you’ll crush your natural enthusiasm and attractiveness.

3. Connect

Reach out across the space — whether you’re speaking to a few people in your office or to a jammed auditorium — and touch people emotionally and intellectually. Don’t talk at them. Have a conversation with them. Show them you care.

4. Breathe

Mystics throughout the ages — eastern and western — have taught what sports psychologists and peak-performance coaches are only lately discovering. Attending to the way you breathe is the best way to be present in the moment. And being present is the best way to project a powerful presence.

5. Be grounded

Charismatic leaders are not easily swayed or pushed about. They stand their ground. The same is true for speakers. Plant your feet. Imagine that you’re rooted to the earth and that its strength flows through you. (This doesn’t mean, by the way, that you can’t move around. Just be sure you move with a purpose.)

6. Care

Don’t try to be impressive. And don’t worry about your image. Be concerned about the people in your audience and their hopes and needs. Help them solve their problems, achieve their goals, or fulfill their dreams — and your image will take care of itself.

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See also “How Leaders Speak.”

For information about how you might become a more powerful speaker, contact us.