Being liked is good. Being respected, however, is a game changer, especially in today’s digital age.
For coaches, respect is the ultimate aim. Respect for their knowledge, their presence, and their mentorship.
As a coach, you need to aim for that respect in your community, among your pupils, by other coaches in your niche – top to bottom. Command respect and you’ll be fine.
But, what exactly do we mean by respect here?
No, it’s not the hollow words of praises or just some mentions here and there. It’s more than that.
People must respect your work, first of all. And then the other part, no less important than the first – your personality.
From going on a podcast to writing a blog about something in your niche, everything you do must have one thing common in all of them – exuding authority.
Alas, not everyone is Ronald Reagan.
Politics aside, that is a person with some authority and a half.
Not all of us are gifted with the aura or the oratory skills that some of the more popular homo sapiens possess.
And it’s okay. Absolutely no reason to be disheartened here.
It’s just about playing to your strengths and applying the right methods on things you’re not gifted with.
So, the imminent question persists – How to appear authoritative in front of your audience even when you’re not?
Well, do you like your answers short or detailed?
For those who like ‘em simple and short:
Appearing authoritative is all about looking sharp, talking smart, and doing things right. Simple as that.
Is it really that simple, though? Definitely not.
Wouldn’t every random guy start doing bumper sales on their courses if it were? Didn’t think so!
It’s about shaping your personality over a long period of time. These things come inherently to some. For others, it’s about working hard to acquire the right amount of everything.
Now, this depends on a whole lot of different factors. From the way you speak to the way you dress and even the otherwise ignored stuff like your posture and handshake. Yes, body language does a lot of heavy lifting here.
All of this and a lot of other countless factors about your body language contribute to your personality and the audience’s perception of you as a coach. The weight your name carries is strongly (very strongly) correlated to your body language.
Got a bit subjective there, did it? We know.
But. Well, we never said appearing more authoritative than reality is going to be sweet and simple.
Fret not! We’ll break it all down for you. Let’s dive in:
What goes into building authoritative body language?
A person’s body language has a direct impact on what others think about them.
Nice or rude, polite or shrewd. Everything. You can almost game your personality for each of these by having the right body language.
Now, do we suggest changing your whole personality?
To get this right, however, you have to look at different aspects of your body language individually.
Let’s discuss them:
1. Eye Contact
Always a yes!
Look at all the impactful people across generations. If there’s one thing common in all of them, it’s the eye contact.
Whether it’s in-person or via a camera, decent eye contact always goes a long way.
Apart from adding value in terms of the non-verbal communication aspect of a conversation, it also projects trustworthiness and sincerity.
Now, we understand the challenges around eye contact, too. It’s not easy.
Here are a few tips that’ll help you perfect your eye contact game:
- Make the eye contact before you start talking. This one’s really important. It’s about sealing the deal in the very beginning. Look attentive from the beginning and consider half the job done.
- Practice making conversations with people to avoid eye contact anxiety.
- Use the 50/70 rule. The idea behind this rule is that you need eye contact more while listening to someone than at the time of speaking. You can maintain eye contact 50% of the time while speaking and 70% of the time while listening.
- Don’t forget to make a gesture. It’s very important to break your gaze once in a while. Instead of straight up looking away from them, you can put in a nod or a gesture too.
2. Facial Expressions
Your facial nerve is responsible for technically all the expressions that you can make.
Hm, one nerve? Should be easy to get them right, don’t you think?
Well, still tricky.
Us humans have a wide range of emotions varying widely (also, wildly) on a person-to-person basis. From fear and sadness to anxiety and disgust (and if it’s a lucky day – happiness), the range is mad.
To get your feelings across with utmost brevity and clarity, it’s important to focus on your facial expressions as well.
Here’s an excellent example of how just the way you emote on screen transforms you from a dud to someone people want to hear more and more from:
The questions were impossible to answer for an average Jane. But, Priyanka Chopra ain’t no average Jane, is she? She took to these questions in an authoritative tone (showing that she’s smarter than she really is), and added a fun touch to them.
Here, her expressions evoke a truckload of the wow factor. Tell us now, would you stop listening to her, ever?
Always remember, though, your facial expressions need to somber but not creepy. And firm but not piercing.
3. The Handshake
The old schoolers can vouch for its importance. The relatively younger generation naturally isn’t very big on it. But we all know class never gets out of fashion, does it?
Although it’s technically a customary greeting, it’s way more than that.
Essentially, it makes your first impression on a person. Obviously very important because here’s the number of chances one gets to make the right first impression – ZERO!
Apart from keeping it firm, there’s not much you need to get right here. But it’s not just the hands that do the talking here.
Your body language. The eye contact. Everything counts.
Be sure to exhibit your energy and enthusiasm with the right handshake.
This is, perhaps, the most ignored aspects of body language. At the same time, this is one of the most indicative factors too.
Not only does a poor/great posture impact your own mind and body, it has groundbreaking impact on your image in other’s minds as well.
A slouched back? People take that as a person with low self-confidence.
Head carried forward? This is normally considered as a person with something fishy going on. Or perhaps a person with too much on their mind.
Now, as a coach. You don’t want to be seen with either of these postures, do you?
You can also try leaning towards your audience. Show them you’re present at all points of time.
If you are having issues with your posture and you’re sure it’s not bad enough to see a physio just yet, consider:
- Ergonomic changes at work: Majority of posture-related issues we face today are a result of insane desk hours we need to serve in today’s world. Get the right table for yourself. Make an effort to keep that back straight a bit more. These changes will go a long way.
- Exercise: Take a few hours every week (minimum) to exercise. Or any outdoor-sy sport for that matter. It’ll not only help you with the posture, but rejuvenate your whole system as well.
- Wearable posture products: There are a lot of posture correctors available in the market. Take help from a physio or chiro before indulging in these products, however.
5. Positive Tonality
In coaching, it’s not just about what you are saying. It’s more about HOW YOU SAY IT!
By sounding just that extra positive and encouraging, you can do a lot of good for your audience. And for yourself, too!
Frequently use phrases like “of course, I can help you with that“, or, “oh, that’s a pretty simple problem that we can easy find a solution for“, or, “don’t worry about it; I’m here for you“.
At the end of the day, you are helping people acquire new skills or solve a big problem in their lives or at work. Your tonality should exude that enthusiasm at all times.
6. Hand movements and Gestures
The right levels of hand movements and gestures are very important to craft the right personality.
You don’t want to come across as a person just yapping along with no hand movements.
The open-body language theory suggests that the more open you keep the body, the more approachable you seem to others.
Take the example of crossed arms for instance. For a majority of people, if they are asked about how they feel about a person who’s sitting with crossed arms, they think of a person who is feeling anxious, resistant, tense, insecure, afraid, or responding to distress.
Hand gestures are very helpful when it comes to putting our views across. According to research, hand gestures help the listeners to form clear thoughts about what you’re speaking.
Be sure to create impactful gestures with your hands and you’ll find it much easier to appear more authoritative.
This is another important factor when it comes to crafting the ultimate body language for yourself.
It includes behavioral patterns as little and seemingly insignificant as checking your phone constantly, tapping on the desk, or playing with your keys. You might ignore them personally, even your audience might not point directly at it. But something will be off, even though you can’t really put a finger on it.
As a coach, you need to help them feel assured about having come to the right guy. You can’t do that by not looking attentive in the meeting now, can you? Whether it’s playing with your keys, checking your phone frequently, or tapping your foot constantly, it makes the audience feel that you’re not 100% there in the moment.
Be sure to get these very small things right when it comes to mannerisms. It’ll do a world of good to you and your relationship with the audience. Now, let’s get to the next part.
8. Dress code
So what if your authority is a little on the meh side, it shouldn’t stop you from dressing like one, should it? Ever heard of the phrase “dress for success” or “dress for the part”?
How about “dress like a BOSS”?
Well, that advice isn’t baloney. People who stress on dressing appropriately are truly onto something.
In the rest of our lives, the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” might hold true (tell that to the multi-billion dollar product packaging industry tho) but for public figures like yourself, first impressions are TBH a HUGE deal.
Not everyone knows you, and it takes like… three seconds for them to form an opinion about you. Guess what that’s based on? Partly your mannerisms and demeanor but mostly your appearance — all are key body language elements btw.
You know how candidates are told their interviews begin the moment they enter the room? Yup, that’s what they are referring to.
Oh and mind you, it’s nearly impossible to undo first impressions; they get carved in stone and usually set the tone for whatever follows next.
Imagine someone taking a quick glance at you and discarding you from further consideration because you didn’t look serious or professional enough. Pretty brutal, huh? And before you even had the chance to convince them how great you are. That blows!
So, the golden rule online coaches should live by is: “Dress appropriately. You never know who you will stumble onto!”
Granted, it depends on the niche; for example, if you are a music or dance coach, the good-old pinstripe business suit is probably not a good idea. Similarly, a life or business coach better not conduct lectures/conferences in a hoodie and shorts.
In most cases, your best (and safest) bet is to stick to the formal side (as long as it’s not an I’m-going-to-a-black-tie-event kinda deal). Traditionally, we are looking at neutral-colored suits for men and perhaps a shirt/blouse and skirt/trousers for the ladies — neither too tight-fitting nor too loose.
Inspiration check: USA Network’s legal drama, Suits — the cast’s perfectly-tailored, clean-cut clothing happens to be one of the highlights of the show. At one point, the lead Harvey Specter famously remarks, “people respond to how we’re dressed.” BANG ON!
But don’t get us wrong, your clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be high-fashion and sophisticated. Even casual and traditional outfits work just as well.
For example, men can opt for plain, dark-shade t-shirts and pair them with chinos or pants. The look is quite popular among people who subscribe to the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs and their same-clothes-everyday philosophy.
Women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, can nail the business-casual look by pairing up a formal blouse with a pair of well-tailored jeans or ankle-length trousers.
Indian women can even go a step ahead and introduce rich-quality sarees and salwar-kurtas, if that’s what they prefer.
Go and take a look at Bengaluru-based Vani Murthy, @wormrani as she’s famously known, as she preaches a zero-waste lifestyle, proposing eco-friendly alternatives clad in elegant Indian wear.
It doesn’t end here; there’s tons of other fitting (pun intended) options. But we won’t get into the whole fashion catalog of business attire for men and women.
The idea is to use your dressing sense to expand your influence and create a knockout impression. Obviously, shit-stained shoes, untidy hair, ill-fitting, flashy clothes isn’t the way to go about it.
Look for sober clothes that aren’t too distracting. In a business setting, pastel and neutral colors usually do the trick.
One stand-out tactic is to study color combinations that leave a lasting impression on your audience; best avoid unnecessary color blocking, right?
Probably a good idea to lose those tattoos (unless you’re a tattoo design coach!), piercings, flashy jewelry, dreads — basically, anything that makes you appear too casual or flippant.
You might think that a fancy hairpin or a pair of crazy socks is your means to expressing your individuality or simply helps calm your jitters, but you run the risk of coming across as a not-so-serious professional. You don’t want that, do you?
So, anything over the top is usually a big NO.
If you’re still confused, mirror the attire of your favorite leaders, people you identify with.
From what we have seen, most public personalities do display common sense where authoritative dressing is concerned. Think Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Amal Clooney, etc.
Remember, looking sharp and well-groomed pays (pun intended again) and makes you all the more confident to go about your business.
Habits you can adopt to appear more authoritative
It doesn’t stop with dressing like a leader; you also need to act like one.
But, what are the habits of highly influential people? What are these distinct traits that set them apart from the mediocre majority?
Here’s the paydirt on how authoritative personalities think, behave, and operate.
1. Extreme ownership and proactivity
First things first, influential people don’t wait for directions from others; they carve their own directions.
They are the ones who ask, “What if?”, “Why not?”, “
What’s next?”, and the most important — “HOW?”
Instead of lying around in wait for external events to respond to, they go out there and take charge.
For this, you need foreknowledge and of course, creativity. For example, so proactive is Brooks Brothers’ customer support that every time someone checks into their store on social media, they immediately reach out to them to enquire about their experience.
During the Covid pandemic, the 200-year-old company responsibly decided to move its operations from stitching suits to face masks to provide much-needed support to front-line workers.
Oh yes, authority doesn’t happen by magic.
You need to take deliberate steps to get the wheels moving.
Here’s two words for you: Be proactive.
Get out and get your feet dirty. Look for inefficiencies you can fill and challenges you can solve.
Another excellent example is Anheuser-Busch, the alcohol company that shifted to manufacturing hand sanitizers from brewing beer.
Full points for proactivity!
Taking a page from their books, online coaches should upgrade your modus operandi.
Figure things out on your own, and do it before anyone expects you to.
Keep asking yourself, “How can I improve my services/courses?”
Constantly look for opportunities instead of waiting for them to find you.
2. Continuously educate yourself
Don’t we all instantly associate intelligence and authority with people who read? Unconsciously so, we place them a tad above in terms of knowledge than the… muggles, so to speak.
Well, it’s not without cause.
Reading does in fact expand the mind; it gives you a greater perspective and makes way for creative thinking.
The most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs happen to be voracious readers. They attend conferences, listen to podcasts, take relevant courses, participate in debates and discussions, and stay updated on current affairs.
If you hope to be anything close to authority, these are habits you MUST inculcate in your daily life.
Watch Naval Ravikant, one of the most innovative minds in entrepreneurship and investment talk about reading books in the age of social media:
See, how deftly he shares his wisdom using experiences?
If you are consistently educating yourself, you simply have more stories to tell. And it’s no secret that people dig stories and storytellers.
Whether it is personal experiences, case-based examples, or historical references — they add the much-needed flavor to your coaching methodology which makes people instantly connect with you.
Not to mention, only with profound knowledge can you produce raw, independent thoughts and uncover ground-breaking ideas.
So, always be reading a book, listening to a podcast, or taking a course. This way, you’re always one step ahead of the audience you’re set out to impress.
3. Remember people’s names
When you meet a person for the second time, no matter how casually, and they remember your name, don’t you feel a tad impressed?
Remember how during school days your life goal was for that one distinguished, whip-smart teacher to know your name? What was awe-inspiring was that they always did! They could recall every student’s name effortlessly as if they’d known it for years. Boy, that was admirable!
It gave us insight into their sharp-as-a-tac brain and made us respect them even more.
What we are saying is, if a teacher or instructor can manage to remember your name alongside that boatload of information they carry on their minds and despite the scores of people they meet on a day-to-day basis, frankly there’s little else they can’t do. Right?
Food for thought!
Try and make a mental note of people who attend your meet-ups, workshops, webinars, etc so you can recall them the next time you see them. They’ll be glad to know they aren’t just another number in your list of attendees.
4. Monitor but not at the expense of fun
Okay so field trips from school days — we remember those pretty fondly, don’t we?
On any other day, we dreaded those long, seemingly never-ending double history-geography periods (a.k.a sleep fests). But every once in a while, teachers (god bless them) would join hands and plan fascinating outdoor trips for us students where we made memories for a lifetime.
Those action-packed live plays, mesmerizing exhibitions, visits to historical lessons — Man! Those darned double periods didn’t feel so shitty then, huh? Actually made us look forward to them!
Kinda like The Office’s Stanley Hudson and that once-in-a-year Pretzel Day.
You’ve got to add that necessary fun element to your training.
Authority =! Fun police.
For example, if you are a fitness coach, your training sessions can’t be limited to repetitive exercises and rigorous diet regimes. Sooner or later, your dog-tired clients will wake up and smell your courses for what they really are — BORING!
Include outdoor sessions and rest days. If you offer 1:1 consultations, consider group activities of some kind, retreats, workshops, or meet-ups.
Strike a balance in your teaching methodology both for you as well as your customers.
5. Have high standards – for yourself as well as for the people around you
Look around you, the majority of people stink of mediocrity.
With no life-changing ambitions, courage, or discipline, and a fear of failure ruling their decision-making, people willingly settle for second-class prizes and thus, remain average-at-best for the rest of their lives.
No, really, take your gym: How many people do you see training to failure? How many in your opinion are slaves to their routine? How many have strict fitness goals and make sure they stick to them, come what may?
Chances are, your answer is “not many.”
On the other hand, how many seem to be content with doing the bare minimum?
Almost everyone, right?
Yep, mediocrity rules, and the pull towards it is punishing.
The only way to break away from it is to have high standards for yourself. By pushing yourself and those around you to achieve the impossible.
This starts with getting your priorities straight, setting standards for yourself, and being a disciplinarian.
- For every week you complete reading a book, there will be millions of others who choose entertainment and distraction.
- For every morning you sacrifice your sleep to be productive, the majority will sleep in.
- For every day you fail and get back on your feet, there will be a million others who quit.
So, remember to keep going.
Constantly educate yourself to recognize the opportunities around you.
Be the high-achiever you envisioned yourself to be.
Be the best.
On that note…
Already feeling a wee bit authoritative, aren’t we? Dig into the afore-mentioned tactics and get started immediately. Here’s to appearing (and eventually becoming) authoritative in front of your audience!