Own the room to drive action
Leaders ought to have a presence so that they can draw their audience’s attention repeatedly over various occasions. But it doesn’t come naturally to all. At times leaders can leave you disconnected, similar to how some film actors or stage artists can draw you in completely while others leave you disconnected. Many times a leader fails to establish their presence. In other words, they don’t own the room!
Owning the Room: What does it mean?
Owning the room means having the attention of your audience to solicit decisions, drive action and accountability. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Many leaders suffer from the lack of, what can be called, ‘Executive Presence’.
Now there isn’t any standard definition of executive presence or of owning the room but it typically refers to how a leader carries themselves and conducts their business with different stakeholders. This would be typically steeped in the local culture and social norms and therefore vary from place to place. As our workplaces continue to become more diverse and inclusive, the way we perceive leadership is also changing which means the definition of who is a leader or how they should come across is evolving constantly.
To be honest, it’s not easy to build a presence. In fact it can be quite the opposite if you are new to the organization or have recently been promoted as a leader. You can face many challenges from not knowing the organization’s cultural norms to people telling you that ‘you don’t come across like a leader’ or ‘you don’t have it in you’.
Now owning the room is critical to scaling up companies, as they are are very narrow at the top and it is critical for almost every leader to be able to drive their teams towards company goals. The good news is that you can definitely learn to own the room and to establish your executive presence.
Here are a few ways that have helped me over the years in my own attempts of building an executive presence.
Know your ‘What’, ‘Who’ and ‘Why’: You must know what you want to communicate, who your audience is and why you want to communicate. Think of the objections, feedback, and questions that your audience might have.
When you are well prepared, your confidence also soars. And you can’t own the room without it! So know your content well and then practice it well.
Recently I had to align the senior leadership of my current company to a new process. I took out time to talk to each member individually first so that I could know what matters to each of the members. Post that, I felt ready to address them all together to drive consensus towards my proposal.
Present Ideas that Stick with Your Audience: In my previous newsletter, I had written about presenting ideas that stick with your audience. Doing this can really boost your presence as a leader because you communicate in a way which the audience understands. This makes them more open to align to your ideas and asks.
Be Solution-Oriented: People always listen to those who have something to offer. If you enter a room with a solution mindset then there is a high chance that people will listen to you.
Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where you are against the entire room but being solution oriented can help you own the room.
In the same alignment exercise I mentioned above, I got some really good solutions from my colleagues, which I added to my proposal. I also acknowledged them for offering the solutions. All of this gave out a strong signal of partnership from my end during the final presentation.
Improvise On-the-Go: Improvise well if you want to own the room. Easier said than done though! Using wit and spontaneity to get the attention of your audience requires a lot of practice and the confidence and knowledge of how to be good at it.
I have always tried to rely on humor as part of leadership interactions. At the end of the presentation I mentioned above, one of my colleagues said to me that my dry sense of humor is always helpful to build trust with my audience!
Owning the room, thus, means to command the attention and action from your audience from the beginning to end. While it comes naturally to some, others can definitely learn it through some practice and training.
What are some of the traits that you have witnessed in people who confidently own the room and establish their presence?
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