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Article No.: 2008, August 1, 2020

Article Title: Presenting Your Best Self as an HR Influencer

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC

It’s 2020.  We find ourselves as HR professionals in a surreal, unique world that is ever-changingDr. Linda Gravett photo and unpredictable.  This is our opportunity to stand up and be counted. 
By now, you would think that HR professionals around the U.S., at all levels, have credibility and influence, regardless of organizational size or industry.  We don’t.  We are not solely to blame for others’ lack of education about how HR professionals can contribute to our company.  We aren’t totally blameless, either, if we haven’t learned to speak with authority and authenticity to present our best self.
In this article, I’ll share some approaches that have helped me grow in the field and to speak with confidence and polish.  I especially want to share some power phrases to replace phrases you may be using now that don’t showcase your expertise.  While I’m on this topic, I’ll suggest how you can ensure that your nonverbal communication and tone of voice have a positive impact.
Let’s start with your language.  Is your speech peppered with “weasel words” – phrases that equivocate and discount your message?  Here are some of those phrases compared with words that exude self-assurance:

Weasel Words

Power Words

I'll try to. . . I will. . .
Do you think you could. . . I expect. . .
Would you mind. . . I'd like you to. . .
I was wondering if you could. . . I want to discuss. . .
I'm probably going to. . . Based on my experience, I have decided. . .

Sometimes we have to present our ideas formally or informally to the C-Suite or Board.  Even the most seasoned person can have a case of nerves when this happens.  I have two ways to "shake it off" when nerves get tense:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • De-stress with walking, yoga, or T'ai Chi

You don't necessarily need a long time to prepare to make your point.  Take ten minutes and complete a brief survey in your head with these questions:

  • How would I describe my audience (what are the filters/perspectives)?
  • How do I want to portray myself?
  • What are my objectives?
  • What data/evidence do I have to present?
  • How will I close the conversation?

My favorite ways to de-stress prior to tough presentations are listening to music and brief exercise (especially T’ai Chi).  Just taking five minutes for either activity calms me down and puts me in a positive frame of mind.  Positivity is a foundation for confidence.
Bring your strengths to a presentation rather than trying to mold yourself after another person’s personality or style.  If you’re not funny, don’t try to joke your way through a discussion:  bring your authentic self with conviction and enthusiasm for the topic or idea you want to share.  A sincere, straightforward approach will build rapport and generate interest.
One last point:  your nonverbal communication can engage – or disengage – your audience.  Nervous hand gestures or playing with a pen or papers signals your lack of confidence.  If you’re standing in front of a group, keep your pacing to a minimum.  My rule of thumb is three paces:  three steps forward, three steps to the left, and three steps to the right.
I encourage you to practice presenting in front of trusted family and colleagues.  And you do the same for them:  they’ll appreciate it!

For questions or comments, contact Dr. Gravett at

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