ECG CEO Frank Carillo suggests ways you can strengthen your "It" Factor (aka "Presence"), a nebulous attribute that holds power in speaking and presenting effectively.

Although the "It" Factor is hard to define, you recognize when a person has it. That person exudes an indefinable appeal, some quality that draws others in. Others want to listen to and interact with that person; they are predisposed to do so and to be influenced by that person's perspective, by the words he or she utters and the positions he or she takes.

That's the "It" Factor. That's "Presence." It engages and attracts, garnering from others an increased willingness to trust, to respect, to form a bond.

The best leadership demands presence. But leadership does not require that one be a CEO or higher-level manager. Heads of teams, committees, and initiatives also fill leadership roles. So do colleagues who hold exceptional expertise in an area of specialty. So do speakers and presenters who want to persuade an audience to accept a particular message or stance. In effect, they are all attempting to lead each audience member to become a follower—their follower.

Presence feeds into ethos, the credibility with which your audience views you, and into persuasion, the means through which you can affect the positions, beliefs, and behavior of others. And, while some people seem to have been born under the lucky star that bestows presence, most must work to create and cultivate it. Below are some tips to help you do just that.

But first, one caution. Presence is not pompous. The "It" you want to strengthen is neither arrogant nor vain, pretentious nor self-important. Instead, it is unassuming and other-directed, exerting a humble confidence and poise. Proud but humble is an effective stance in ensuring presence.


Sidestep your ego.

  • Actively listen to others when they speak
  • Show interest in both your messages and your audience
  • Demonstrate empathy, a strong other-directed trait, by knowing and acknowledging listeners' dispositions, concerns, motives, and needs
  • In conversations or Q&A, fall silent to allow others to speak; doing so shows respect and reinforces your expression of concern with the attitudes and perceptions of others

Refine your body language.

  • Carry yourself as if you are enthusiastic about life; stand tall and be large—but not so looming that you take up all the space and air that pushes others out of your sphere
  • Align your facial expressions with your messages and their emotional content; beware of the nodding and look of impatience that signals "Please finish so I can talk"
  • Keep your body open—uncross your arms and legs, stay balanced and expansive

Perfect your diction.

  • Use committed language ("I'll do it") as opposed to conditional ("I'll try")
  • Avoid adverbs such as "clearly" and "obviously"; they sound condescending

Know the virtual considerations.

  • Remember that all expressions, including micro movements, are more easily picked up during video conferencing
  • Provide a space for everyone – not just the loudest participants – to speak
  • Look directly into your camera while speaking to create a more profound and engaging connection

Organize for listener-friendliness.

  • Get to the point; avoid long preambles
  • Speak from a point rather than building toward one
  • Be concise—eliminate junk words, unnecessary qualifiers, clichés, and trite phrases such as "suffice it to say" and "as it were"

Use your full voice, keeping it energized through the end of every sentence.

  • The voice of presence is never monotonous; vary pitch and pace, sound and silence, volume and stress as you speak

Developing your own natural style of energy and vitality in communication can go a long way in building and strengthening presence. Demand that development of yourself; you'll find a greater command over your audience.