Projection: The Final Ingredient for Gravitas


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Have you noticed that there are some people who command attention just by being in a room? People, who hold an audience spellbound whenever they speak? Who confidently seem to bring people round to their point of view? The likelihood is that they have learnt the secrets of projection.

Throughout this year, we have explored each segment of the Gravitas Wheel as a route to turning this essential leadership quality into a skill that can be learnt.

Building ‘self-awareness’ has allowed you to acknowledge and reveal your ‘expertise’. Getting to know and accept your ‘authenticity’ has allowed you to have a confident and clear ‘presence’. Being able to ‘connect’ and build rapport has further emphasized your impact and influence as a leader.

The final segment of the Wheel is ‘projection’, an essential skill for any leader who wants to express themselves fully to the largest audiences. Think about any presentation you have ever given. Maybe it was over the phone as a sales-pitch, or maybe it was to a larger audience where you had to stand up and take them through an idea. In each of those situations, you needed to project and present an image of yourself that people could see, hear and feel.

Although people often find themselves in positions where they have to project, many will find all kinds of excuses to avoid being exposed. And when people do muster up the courage, many don’t get it quite right. Either they mumble, speak too slowly or gabble too fast. With all eyes on them, they may fidget, fling their arms around wildly, stare at the floor or blush. You may see them gaze at the ceiling or eyeball one person on the front row for inspiration…

You may have accomplished every other stage of the Gravitas Wheel, but if you are unable to project, it will be harder to persuade those around you that what you are saying is credible and authentic. People will tune out, take you less seriously, stop listening altogether.

There are going to be times where you must actively draw attention to yourself to increase your personal impact. You need to be able to own the room and grab the attention where necessary. You need to be able to increase the impact you have on others.

So what is projection and how can I develop it for myself?

The ability to project is the quickest and most direct route to self-expression. It is revealed through the way you look, talk and act. You need to not only say the right thing but also ‘switch on’ your best self and amplify your delivery. The aim is to capture and maintain attention and then be remembered after you’ve left the room. You will need it when:

  • Presenting to a large audience
  • Stating your case in a meeting
  • Holding your own in a challenging conversation and
  • Making your voice heard above others in a busy networking meeting.

In this blog, we will discuss what you can do to project better by considering how you would like to come across and managing your mindset. In my next blog, I’ll explore how to use your body language and voice to make the best impression.

Dial it up or dial it down

Once you’ve decided to project, it is important to decide how much by. Project too much and you’ll appear self-centred and overbearing. Project too little and you may be perceived as boring, unassertive or even go unnoticed. Finding the balance can be difficult, but it is necessary if you want to make an impact while giving people space to share their own opinions and be noticed themselves.

To help you decide what’s appropriate, you can think of projection in terms of levels on a dial, with three being the highest, and one being the lowest. To start, you need to be able to decipher what type of audience you are going to be in front of. You need to then decide what level of projection you want to apply.

Managing your Mindset

Although we may take it for granted, the mind is a powerful tool that we can manage to achieve the results we want. To project fully, you need to be able to see yourself in a certain way, before you expect others to do so. As well as harnessing positive thoughts, be aware of your internal dialogue and its impact on your confidence. What happens to your emotional state when you tell yourself you’re stupid or nervous, as opposed to clever and confident? How does your perception of your audience alter when you imagine them as engaged versus hostile?

Another technique used by many actors and sportspeople is anchoring, with Usain Bolt’s bow and arrow a classic example. These anchors will be there to ground you, overcome your nerves and get your mind into whatever state you want it to be in, whether serious, confident or entertaining.

Your Image

No matter where you are, people will judge you on your image in the first few seconds of meeting you. Your ability to project as a leader will be greatly enhanced through the image you present to the world. Dressing with gravitas means dressing authentically and not as an imitation of someone else. However, if you want to appeal to a diverse group of people, it’s important to consider the culture and style of the environment you’re in. Choose quality and look current and well-groomed. You will receive a lot more respect and positive attention.

Having an impact and influence on others is something that a leader needs to have. I have emphasized this through every segment we have gone through this year. You need people to listen to you. And projection is the part that may make or break if you will leave a lasting impression. It is the final ingredient to the Gravitas recipe.

Although the ability to project is an essential ingredient for gravitas, ironically, it is often the people who say the least that have the most gravitas of all. In a noisy and frenetic world where everyone is clamouring to be heard, sometimes the most important thing is knowing when to keep still and calm and allow others to be heard.

For more information about Projection, check out my book Leading with Gravitas, and find the direction you need. Become the best leader you can possibly be and grow your connections and networks. If you are more interested in a hands-on approach, join me for a Gravitas Masterclass and let’s build up your leadership potential.



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