Executive Presence, Speech, and Style

I have consistently gotten feedback through my career that I need to work on executive presence. I worry that if I don't solve this, it will derail my advancement in PE and am looking for ideas from anyone who has been able to improve here.

I tend to not be concise when speaking off the cuff, I often over explain, and I often give too much detail (in person and over email). I'm not super nimble when I get curveball questions, whereas I notice others are able to talk around them in a slick way even if they don't know the answer.

My speech is sometimes monotone. I can come across as anxious or nervous in general. I sometimes fidget and often come across as lacking confidence. I think my personality makes me a target as a convenient scapegoat.

I'm very good at analytics, getting to the right answer, diving deep, etc and have received good feedback about my depth of thought, but I struggle with style. My sense is that I'm viewed as someone who can crank but not someone who has the soft skills to succeed as a senior person.

What are some actionable steps for how to improve? If I were starting fresh at a new firm, what can I do differently to create a different personal brand and perception?

Comments (7)

OverLeveredAssociate, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Have a framework to communicate, prep for conversations, and practice.

A framework will be extremely helpful for you to quickly gather your thoughts and communicate them. Im sure a bunch would work, but something like the Pyramid Principal by Minto is easy enough to pick up. You should be able to quickly communicate at a high level what is going on, offer some support for what you're saying, and have the supporting information to back something up if pressed on it. Within this, you can frame your responses so that you guide people into asking questions that you are already prepared for.

Prep is key. Knowing or having confident responses to likely questions off the cuff (or at least generally) will help build confidence and then when you are hit with something you can weasel around it and still leave the other person feeling that you have a grasp. There are some tricks you can use here (asking "what do YOU mean by [insert term]) and turn around the information asymmetry back on the other person by inferring you are generally knowledgeable, among other tricks.

Finally, record yourself talking, make adjustments and try to improve. If teenage kids can improve their smiles by endlessly taking pictures of themselves so they can post the best tiktoks or whatever kids do these days, you can make yourself sound better.

  • 4
Bschool, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I had this issue earlier in my career and spent a lot of mental energy / calories on it. I think the advice around prepping some content / frameworks is good. An underrated Associate skill is being able to simply explain what a company or why a deal "works" or doesn't in 1-3 sentences. 

In terms of how to not come across as anxious or nervous, what worked for me - and this is hard - not worrying about it too much. I found that the more I thought and stressed about it, the less confident I felt. Finding some way to care less about how you're being perceived was helpful for me (and I realize is hard!)

I also ended up going to business school. Maybe the classes helped a bit, but just having some time to "grow into myself" and become more comfortable with who I was probably the most helpful part. 

  • 2
  • Principal in PE - LBOs

I had the same journey. Much better now through a combination of hiring an "executive presence coach" (your firm may be able to pay for some 1:1 sessions for you, as part of employee training) and business school (obv more than just the communications piece, but it helped as well). 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
UBS ate CS, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Good thread, curious to see if others have additional thoughts

Most Helpful
chihayafull, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Non unde asperiores illo natus architecto modi. Corporis non molestiae dolorem consequatur quia expedita quo consequatur.

Start Discussion

Career Advancement Opportunities

March 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Warburg Pincus 98.9%
  • Blackstone Group 98.4%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

March 2023 Private Equity

  • Ardian 99.5%
  • The Riverside Company 98.9%
  • Blackstone Group 98.4%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Professional Growth Opportunities

March 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Bain Capital 98.9%
  • Warburg Pincus 98.4%
  • Blackstone Group 97.9%
  • Ardian 97.4%

Total Avg Compensation

March 2023 Private Equity

  • Principal (8) $676
  • Director/MD (22) $599
  • Vice President (85) $362
  • 3rd+ Year Associate (86) $276
  • 2nd Year Associate (192) $264
  • 1st Year Associate (372) $228
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (28) $157
  • 2nd Year Analyst (79) $133
  • 1st Year Analyst (227) $122
  • Intern/Summer Associate (30) $80
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (288) $58