Earlier this month, MPBF’s Association of Professional Women hosted a packed house for its quarterly event- an evening with renowned author and public speaker, Cara Hale Alter. Relying on 20 years of research, Alter has a deep understanding of how nonverbal communication shapes the perception of leadership presence. Particularly for women in the male dominated legal field, certain skills are critical in order to develop leadership presence, or as Alter refers to it, visible credibility.
According to Alter, there are three pillars that hold up the appearance of credibility and confidence: strong posture, strong voice, and strong eye contact. These skills cannot be underestimated. Eye contact, the skill that takes longest to cultivate, is the number one indicator of trustworthiness. The most effective communicators know how to use all three pillars simultaneously. Misstep on one and the entire trajectory of the conversation can change.
Body language resonates with an audience. Alter highlighted that everything from the position of one’s hands and feet, to voice inflections, to the alignment of one’s eyes and nose toward the listener matter in communication. Speakers often unknowingly send signals of nervousness to listeners, which translates to a lack of confidence. Alter engaged her female audience in exercises to activate the diaphragm, call and response vocal drills, and demonstrated how modifying seemingly minor stances and positions can establish authority in an interaction.
Ebony Koger, a senior litigation associate who co-leads the firm’s Association of Professional Women shared: “Personally, creating women run groups within male-dominated professions is essential to foster balance in the workplace. Women and men are different. It is a good thing. However, this transition calls for a supportive space for women to collaborate and thrive without the worries of fitting into a male-dominated social structure.”
The Association will run its next event after the new year and aims to continue helping advance business and leadership opportunities for women professionals.