Do You Look the Part?

By Susan Battley

Recently, the chief executive officer of a Fortune 50 company had to deliver very tough news about the company’s performance and prospects. At an internationally televised event, he delivered a detailed corrective plan that included major layoffs over the next years. And I do mean detailed. He read page after page of his presentation, seldom looking at the standing-room only audience.

To be sure, his was an unenviable job. But when he said the words “I am fully confident…,” they just did not ring true. He was going through the motions of reading a scripted message. No eye contact, flat tone, hunched posture. His non-verbal behavior completely contradicted what he was saying. This leader certainly wasn’t ready for his close-up.

When it comes to important communications, do you “look the part”?

People look for congruence and consistency between what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. They want to be looked in the eye. Whether you’re on network television or speaking before a small group of clients or sponsors, you need to master a “whole person” range of communication skills to be effective.

Research confirms that people make almost instantaneous inferences about a person’s competence based on his or her looks. The good news is that you can use this information to your advantage.

Here’s What You Can Do

  • Be sure to maximize first impressions. This means dressing and projecting the appropriate image.
  • Practice your material until you know it well. You don’t need to memorize it, but you should be able to tick off your key points without notes.
  • Videotape yourself and review it with someone who will give you frank and helpful feedback.
  • Consider getting professional coaching on platform skills and media training. (Some years back I did, and found the experience a valuable investment.)

Being fully prepared nowadays means more than knowing your material. You must deliver the “whole person” communications package or risk striking out.

Copyright © Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.