CEO Body Language: How to Market Yourself As a Confident Leader

Online or on stage — learn how to master your non-verbals in just 5-minutes

“Uh, Tracy? Your camera is on,” I said quietly.

The rest of the group awkwardly averted their eyes as Tracy fumbled to disable her video. But it was too late. The pink bathrobe, giant bowl of Fruit Loops, and yesterday’s mascara smeared under her eyes seared an image in our brains forever.

Nobody looked at Tracy the same way again.

Hopefully, you’ve never committed this kind of video conference faux pas. But even subtle movements can change the way people see you. Your message is more than the words you use — it’s amplified or destroyed by your body language.

With the sky-rocketing use of zoom, remote work, and video-based platforms, non-verbal skills are a must-have for anyone looking to grow their influence.

As a leader, it’s your job to provide direction and guidance. Your vision inspires action by cultivating credibility, respect, and trust from your followers.

In my work as a certified movement analyst (CLMA) and messaging strategist, I’ve witnessed far too many bright, passionate CEOs, professional speakers, and experts get lost in a crowd because their body language missed the mark.

Unfortunately, even the experts in nonverbal communication don’t always embody their knowledge. Knowing eye contact and posture are essential components for effective communication doesn’t necessarily translate to practical advice.

Likewise, using famous leaders as gold-standard icons can move people out of their genuine physical expression. They try to mimic the legends even though most celebrated speakers are good because they never tried to be anyone but themselves.

Brené Brown is nothing like Steve Jobs. Barack Obama presents very differently than Dolly Parton. There is more than one way to lead a crowd, but you’ll never gain trust and authority by being a second-rate version of someone else.

So instead of another list of tips that keep you in your head instead of inside your body, I’m sharing a super simple movement practice to help you relax and realign with your unique movement signature.

Use this 5-minute ritual before hitting the stage, walking into a board meeting, or clicking that video button on your next zoom call. It’s a quick way to calm nerves and boost your confidence so you can make a bigger impact.

1. Ground yourself

Shallow breathing, nervous laughter, and misaligned posture result from being too in the head. What’s worse is these mistakes can ruin your credibility, trust, and power.

Try this for one minute:

  • Tune into your breath. Close your eyes and see if you can slowly deepen each breath cycle to relax the nervous system and reconnect to your core.
  • Lower your center of gravity. Spread your toes, connect the entire foot with the ground, and gently bend your knees. Imagine roots growing out from your feet and planting firmly into the earth.
  • Press against a wall. With your hands at shoulder blade height, firmly push into the surface while imaging your arms connecting through your back and down toward your tailbone.

2. Stretch it out

Speaking is a stressful situation that triggers our body’s fight or flight response. If stuck in the former, you’ll find yourself unnecessarily tense and stiff. The latter results in fidgeting, talking too fast, and feeling unsteady.

To counterbalance this natural reaction, take a minute to center yourself.

Try this for one minute:

  • Take a big morning stretch. Reach your arms and legs as far as they can go. Yawn, make weird noises. Linger in the moment. Get the blood flowing.
  • Activate your core. Bring your arms and head toward your belly button while bending your knees to make a small ball shape. Then stretch out, standing tall and wide like a giant “X.” Repeat a few times, letting the core initiate the movement — in and out, in and out.

3. Get aligned

Good alignment signals competency, confidence, and power. Unfortunately, in all the “shoulders back, chin up” nonsense that plagues most posture advice, too many experts neglect the pelvis in its contribution to your stance.

And because of this, I’ve seen a spectrum of awkward issues. The nervous Nellies retreat their hips backward and compensate by jetting the head forward. On the other side of the scale are those who push the pelvis forward — displaying a sense of aggression.

Try this for one minute:

  • Roll the spine. Release your torso over your legs with your knees slightly bent. Slowly roll up, imagining each vertebra stacking on top of the other until you are standing tall. Repeat two more times.
  • Neutralize the pelvis. Your tailbone, pubic bone, and two ischial tuberosities (the pair of rounded bones on the right and left side of the pelvis that you can feel while sitting in a chair) make a diamond-shaped pelvic floor. As you stand, aim to keep these four points level instead of letting any one of them tip forward, backward, or to one side.
  • Relax the shoulders. Gently circle the shoulders forward and backward a couple of times. Finish by lifting them toward the ears and then letting them release down.

4. Shake it out

Humans are empathetic creatures. If you’re uncomfortable on stage, we can feel it. This does more than weaken your message. It makes it harder for those listening to get on board with your vision. By getting the blood flowing and shaking out excess tension, you energize yourself and your audience.

Try this for one minute:

  • Shake the body. Start by gently shaking the fingers, hands, arms, and shoulders. Next, shake out each leg, the hips, and the torso.
  • Bobble your head. To release tension in the head and neck, gently wobble your head in all directions, thinking about the space between your top vertebrae and skull.
  • Get a little silly. If it’s appropriate, trill the lips, make funny faces, speak a little gibberish, or laugh out loud. It’s a bit unconventional, but all this shaking, breathing, and movement help relax the muscles and voice.

5. Open the heart

Many people present with a sunken chest due to nerves or as a result of our tech-heavy world. This enclosed posture cuts you off from your audience. They may view you as being arrogant, unhelpful, depressed, or distant.

Try this for one minute:

  • Open the heart. Imagine the shoulders opening and gently dripping down your back. Think of a warm beam of light radiating out from your chest.
  • Relax the arms. Avoid folding them across the chest or stuffing your hands into your pockets. Let your arms relax and gesture with ease as if talking to a best friend.
  • Practice this mantra: “Breathe. Drop the shoulders. Open the heart.” These three simple phrases can help you reconnect to your body quickly, keeping you centered and relaxed.

Above all: Be yourself

After analyzing hundreds of leaders and speakers, I can tell you this: There is no single way to lead.

Problems arise when people feel they have to act a certain way. Nerves and moving from a checklist can result in a jittery flood of gestures or a deer-in-the-headlights stiffness. Neither showcase confidence nor build trust.

Your body language may be strong, direct, and urgent. Maybe it’s more delicate, expansive, and relaxed. Both can work if it’s a true reflection of your personality and vision.

Instead of long lists of what you should or shouldn’t do, use this five-minute ritual to help you get grounded, focused, and find your inner confidence.

As you do, be prepared for people to start paying attention. In a world with so many people copying the pros, it’s the ones who step into their own skin and share their unique vision of the world who make it to the top.

Learn about your unique leadership signature by taking the free quiz.

Speaking Coach + Messaging | Helping you find the right words and nail the non-verbals. Find your idea worth sharing with my free guide:

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