Presence has many interpretations and has been described in an article in Forbes as “the ability to project gravitas – confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness. It is a persons speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read an audience or situation – and appearance.”
For me I feel it’s more than this. Someone has presence when they don’t have to say anything and you get a positive vibe or feeling from them. It emanates from their being. They are comfortable in their own skin, there is no pretence or exaggeration. That’s presence.
People who try to copy the physical traits of someone who has presence get caught out very quickly, the harder they try the worse it gets. They are perceived as a fake. They may have the knowledge and the skill but they don’t have that something that emanates from inside.
But where does it come from? The place that it comes from is the most powerful signal generator in the human body, it has its own neural network and generates hormones, it generates an electromagnetic field 60 times greater than the brain which radiates several feet outside the human body. It is of course the heart.
This electromagnetic field that radiates outside the body is the presence we feel – the vibe – and is a significant component of presence. The field can be coded either positively or negatively. We’ve all felt a bad vibe from someone – which doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person, it just means the coding of the electromagnetic field has emanated from the negative emotional state they are in. Alternatively, a positive emotional state will contribute to a positive electromagnetic field and a positive vibe.
If we want to develop presence, the types of positive states we may want to achieve include being passionate, enthusiastic, motivated, content, receptive or interested. The types of negative states we want to avoid are being angry, frustrated, anxious, apathetic, inattentive and detached.
So how do we do it? For most of us it can take a lot of work, but the work isn’t hard, it’s just constant. We need to work on three areas, namely our:
- Physiological skills,
- Personal skills (EQ) and
- Interpersonal skills.
There are entire books written on each of these topics so I’m not even going to start discussing them here. But I want to share one technique developed by the team at Complete Coherence called MAP. This works particularly well with one on one conversations or small groups.
- Move your attention away from your own thinking and drop into the body and breathe.
- Appreciate the other person or your audience and have an ‘unconditional positive regard’ for them.
- Playback the underlying meaning of what you have heard, for example you might say “I got the sense that this is about…” Not “so what you are saying is…”
Executive presence is a personal journey that involves many intrinsic and extrinsic facets. So here’s a plan to get you started.
- Speak to your coach – if you haven’t got one get one. From one of the three areas listed above, identify with them one small and easy to do thing that you need to develop.
- Practise it everyday, don’t stop until it becomes part of you.
- Like most things worth doing they are not easy to do at the beginning, but they become easy later on. So be patient.
It doesn’t matter what your personality type is, your title or your physical stature, these things do not mean you automatically have presence. Our presence is ultimately determined by how well we grow and mature as a human beings.