515 words, 2:34 minutes
Even if you’re not the smartest person in the room - and I’m speaking from experience here - there are a few simple things you can do to improve your “presence IQ” to look smart. These suggestions come from observation, I see people at work every day that fail to get the most out of their presence. Many times I see opportunities for improvement when I view my reflection in projector screens and glass walls.
Close your mouth. Literally, close your mouth. This isn’t sage advice about listening such as “You have two ears and one mouth. Use accordingly.” This is much simpler to do. Don’t be that person staring at the PowerPoint slide (no matter how boring) or the computer screen or – heaven forbid – your boss with your fly-trap open. You don’t want to look like this guy at work, do you?
Push your lower back against the back of your chair. Do it now at your desk. See what you did there? Sitting up straight not only makes you look smarter, it increases your sitting height which gives you a more authoritative presence. It also looks like you’re paying attention even if you aren’t. Try doing this combined with closing your mouth. Wow!
Put both feet flat on the ground. Yes, crossing your legs is absolutely socially acceptable but it pushes your upper body back, thus decreasing your sitting height. Or you try to compensate by moving your head and neck forward which creates a weird, mildly hunchback appearance. Putting both feet flat on the ground allows you to easily tilt left and right to address others and listen attentively. Plus, having both feet on the ground – sitting or standing – provides a solid foundation mentally and physically for delivering your thoughts, opinions or even a good joke.
Lean, temporarily. Lean forward to engage or make a point. Lean backward to ponder a response. This helps remove the feeling of being an automaton if you concentrate too hard on sitting up straight and keeping your feet flat on the floor. But never, ever do one right after the other and don’t overdo it. That’s theater and people see right through it. At least 80 percent of the time you should be in the neutral position.
Smart questions trump smart answers. Smart questions make you look smart and are 100 times more effective than smart answers (Unscientific poll. Ok, no poll at all, just strict opinion.). And, if you’re actively listening during the conversation, it’s actually easier to deliver a smart question. I’m more pleased when someone responds “Good question” rather than “Good idea.” This doesn’t mean playing a game of Jeopardy. You’re not trying to stump someone. A good question carries with it a reasonable expectation that the recipient possesses the knowledge to answer it or – better yet – causes that person to think differently, which makes you look smarter.
If you have any other simple reminders to increase your presence IQ please share them here.