From the September 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

There are those who can make people stand at attention just by entering a room. When they speak, people listen. That kind of executive presence may be innate for some, but don't worry if it's not your forte--it can be learned, too. We asked Dianna Booher, author of Speak With Confidence (McGraw-Hill), how new entrepreneurs can learn to have the presence of a seasoned pro:

  • Talk slowly. If you speak too fast, you are, in effect, telling the audience you're not worthy of taking up their time. "The person who's nervous tends to talk faster," says Booher. "By [speaking] slowly, that shows you're confident-that you have a right to be there."
  • Stand up. Whenever you speak, whether from a podium or in a conference room, standing up gives people the impression that you are confident. Even if you stand up only to introduce yourself, then sit down, it's still an effective way to take the stage. Says Booher, "Visually, you have authority."
  • Watch your movement. Even small gestures can convey meaning. "When you gesture from your shoulder, you take up more space," says Booher. "The bigger your room, the bigger your gesture needs to be." But beware of moving around your stage too much-it will make you look fidgety.
  • Rehearse your lines. Go over what you plan to say--not just mentally, but also physically and orally. Practice everything, from the inflection of your voice on certain points to your gestures. Says Booher, "There's nothing like doing a live walk-through."
  • Don't nod. When you're listening to another person, don't nod your head to illustrate that you're paying attention. It gives the impression that you agree with everything that person is saying and that you don't have any unique opinions on the topic. "That detracts from [your] authority," says Booher. "Part of executive presence is remembering not to nod your head. It's those little gestures that say things."