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How to speak with Gravitas:
Part 2

A while ago, I wrote an article about How to speak with gravitas. I’ve also written about How to present with gravitas to small, medium and large groups, online and offline. It’s such a popular topic, and there’s a lot more to say about it. So, here’s yet more advice to help you speak with gravitas and get taken more seriously.
The bad news first…

“Sorry, I know how much you wanted this, but you don’t have the gravitas.”

Lacking gravitas will undoubtedly hold you back. If you want to be taken seriously – without coming across as pushy, fake or arrogant – you need to stand out from your peers. Exhibiting gravitas is one of the key ways you can do this.

  • Have you experienced the challenge of being unable to express yourself effectively?
  • That annoying feeling when a group ignores your suggestion but accepts it when it’s suggested by someone else?
  • That heart-sinking moment when you realise you didn’t do yourself justice?

It happened to Paul when he went for his first job interview in 20 years. He wasn’t feeling his best anyway, it was during ‘social distancing’ so he struggled to create rapport, and the tech failed so he had to present from memory without using his slides. He didn’t make it to the second round of interviews and the feedback provided was because he “lacked gravitas”. 

It happened to Melissa, who was told she needed to increase her gravitas and personal profile if she wanted to be promoted to the next level. But she didn’t know what gravitas is, whether she could learn it, or how.

Now for the good news!

In my work as a leadership coach, I’ve met many incredibly talented people who are ‘stuck’ because of their lack of gravitas. This saddens me: I hate seeing people failing to meet their potential because of a real or perceived blocker. It also makes me frustrated that people who get that feedback get a confidence knock without getting constructive help to improve.

The good news is that you CAN develop gravitas.

 I can absolutely assure you that gravitas can be learned, practiced and improved upon, just like any other business skill. I know, because I’ve worked with thousands of leaders to develop a commanding presence, even in a short period of time.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, what your starting point may be, or even if you’re “the world’s biggest introvert” – you can radiate your own form of gravitas when you immerse yourself in my six-step programme and put the work in.

So what is gravitas and how can you improve it for yourself?

Gravitas is variously translated as weight, seriousness, solemnity, dignity and importance. It inspires respect and trust in others. It was one of the virtues that ancient Romans were expected to possess, along with pietas (piety), dignitas (dignity), and virtus (virtue).

Analysing gravitas

Before writing my Leading with Gravitas book, I delved deeply into analysing gravitas by examining the characteristics shared by leaders with gravitas in the 21st century.

Here are some of my key findings:

Gravitas is defined by people around you. Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Gravitas comes from both nature and nurture. Some people develop gravitas over time, while others have it naturally.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ style of gravitas. It covers a multitude of qualities and everyone expresses it in their own way.

Benefits of gravitas 

You may be a ‘leader’, but you can’t rely on your job title alone. Gravitas will help you:

  • Increase your visibility
  • Command respect
  • Inspire people to follow you
  • Lead better
  • Pitch for new business
  • Negotiate a better salary
  • Get promoted more quickly
  • Win at job interviews
  • Build stronger relationships
  • Present better
  • Communicate better
  • Deliver better results

Developing gravitas

To develop your gravitas, you need to explore who you are and your unique purpose in life. Having such certainty enables you to ‘walk your talk’ and inspire others.

Whether you’re a corporate or community leader, entrepreneur or business owner, you should look beyond your immediate surroundings to the wider world, so you can make a contribution that goes beyond personal gain.

You’ll also need the ability to listen, the skills to communicate with conviction, and the power to earn admiration through your actions.

I developed the Gravitas Wheel® which comprises three internal qualities and three external qualities. You can learn to develop all of them when you follow my methodology and conduct your own communication skills assessment with my online Gravitas test.

Yes, but how?

Here are just a few of my techniques.

  1. Don’t be afraid to display your expertise.

In a competitive work environment, expertise is one of the tangible measures that people use to rate you. Passion and flare aren’t enough. Start by having something meaningful and valuable to share. To build your credibility, share your expertise widely and generously – but don’t overplay it in case it’s perceived as arrogance.

Jennifer says:

“When pitching for business, the temptation is to try to become an expert overnight. This is never going to happen. Although our clients will certainly have more knowledge of their products than us, they are coming to us for our recommendations on how to market those products, and we are the experts on that.”

Acknowledge the value your expertise brings, and find ways it can be appreciated by others.

On a CV, include your qualifications and career history, of course, but also the unique qualities you bring to the role.


Working on a laptop

1. Speak so that people listen

The ability to capture and hold attention is critical. You need to be able to ‘dial up’ your presence when you need to, so you generate the recognition you deserve, get noticed as soon as you enter a room, and get respected by clients, customers, shareholders, board members, colleagues and team members.

Jessica was a self-proclaimed introvert who preferred to keep a low profile. On the other hand, she hated being ignored. Then, in the run-up to a merger, she was advised to increase her executive presence.

Through coaching with me, Jessica realised she spent 95% of her time wrapped up in her thoughts. She determined to concentrate on ‘being present’ during team meetings, noticing her colleagues, and monitoring the response she got.

She found the more energy and interest she directed outwards, the more energy and warmth she received in turn, also that she could increase and decrease the energy she radiated at will.

She appreciated the increased rapport she experienced, and found her profile increased as a result.

2. Practical tips

Get yourself into the most conducive mindset. Recognise that you’re more likely to receive people’s attention and respect when you feel, confident, strong and worthy. You can shift yourself into this mindset by remembering a time when you felt this way.

Be aware of your internal dialogue. Tell yourself you are smart and engaging, and you will be.

‘Set the dial’ and learn how to increase your visibility and impact, at will. Depending on the circumstances, decide if you want to come across as a subtle glow, a strong flame, a bright light or a shining beacon. This will be determined through your body language and voice – the bigger the body language, the stronger the voice, the more you will dial up your presence.

Concentrate on your breathing. Take some slow deep breaths, holding each one for a few seconds before breathing out. This will help control any nerves and boost your energy and focus.

Adopt strong and powerful postures. You may have heard about Amy Cuddy’s ‘Power Pose’. Standing like Wonder Woman or Superman for just two minutes has a fundamental effect on your confidence levels. Use a confident stance when you walk into a room and through all your interactions.

Walking to a meeting

Maximise your presence online. Turn on your camera during video calls. Ensure your background is uncluttered and conveys the image you’re after. Maybe invest in a professional camera, lighting and microphone. For one-to-ones, try matching the position of the person you’re talking to. For small groups, be aware of your micro-expressions as they’ll be amplified on screen. For big groups, incorporate gestures. Vary the pace, pitch and volume of your voice to maintain engagement

What next?

There’s a lot more to it than this, so here are various ways you can find out more.

To develop your own gravitas, sign up for a gravitas masterclass.

To read more, buy the book: Leading with gravitas

For more on ‘speaking with’ gravitas, please see part 1 of this series. Here’s the link: How to speak with gravitas.

For more on ‘presenting with’ gravitas, please see my article that focuses on formal presentations. Here’s the link again: How to present with gravitas.


Antoinette Dale Henderson

The Gravitas Coach

Antoinette is an executive coach, keynote speaker and two-time author with over 25 years’ experience in leadership communications, including 16 years holding senior positions in some of the world’s top PR agencies.

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Have you noticed that there are some people who capture the attention of everyone in a room, through their magnetism and energy?

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Ever wondered how some people are capable of commanding an entire room and others are not noticed, even as they step up to a podium?

To discuss how Antoinette and her team can accelerate your success, book a call now!

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