If you’ve ever asked a senior leader or a mentor what it takes to rise to the C-suite, their answer has most likely included “executive presence,” in addition to timing, experience, networking and confidence, writes Dina Smith in Harvard Business Review’s Ascend newsletter.

Even if you’ve never received feedback like this, it’s worthwhile to consider the impression you’re making on others – through your attitude, body language and confidence (your entire being, really). The good news is that anyone can build executive presence. With a little effort, you can improve yours.

Rely on feedback
Start by actively soliciting feedback on your presence. Especially if you lead, or aspire to, understanding your impact on others is essential.

Ask your manager, direct reports, colleagues and mentors questions such as:

  • How would you (briefly) describe my style of presence?
  • What’s your general perception of me?
  • What can I do to communicate with more impact?

Tune into how you communicate
Beyond the words you choose, consider how you use your voice and your accompanying nonverbal behaviors.  Do you make good eye contact, project your voice and stand up straight? Or do you speak softly or avert your gaze? Are you dressed in a way that fits the situation and matches the image you want to project? Your voice, nonverbal behaviors and appearance are all a part of your message and contribute to your presence – so be authentic to yourself, but also to the kind of leader you aspire to be.

To increase your awareness of your communication style, request trusted colleagues to observe you in a meeting and provide feedback immediately afterwards. If they provide entirely positive feedback, thank them, then ask, “What are two things I could do differently next time to be more impactful?”

When tasked with giving a presentation, consider having a colleague take a video or record yourself on Zoom. There’s nothing like seeing yourself on camera to highlight aspects of your communication that might be distracting or diminish your message. You may also be pleasantly surprised to see that the nervousness you feel on the inside doesn’t manifest on the outside.

Experiment with new behaviors
Based on the feedback you received, choose just one or two presence-building behaviors to practice. For example, if you received feedback that you often seem flustered in meetings, you might practice behaviors that signal composure such as using more pauses in your speaking and keeping your body more still.

You might also watch a leader you admire who owns the room when speaking. Study what they do that makes them so effective and then try it on for size.

It’s also helpful to build a few minutes into your schedule before important meetings to recall and visualize how you want to show up. Because our neurons interpret imagery as equivalent to a real action, visualization helps us act in ways consistent with what we imagined.