Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What the Heck is Presence?

When I do one on one sessions, I sometimes go to my clients. I recently did a session at a client's apartment and when I walked in, she exclaimed that my presence was so large it was strange having me in her space. No, she was not calling me fat! That made me wonder what presence actually is and where it comes from. So I went to the dictionary. Presence(n): Impressive appearance, quality or bearing. Why do I have presence? Is it what I do? or what I am? How I dress? Or how I feel?

Having a powerful presence does NOT mean strutting into a room making a grand entrance, striking a pose and speaking at the top of your voice. Doing that is sure to get you remembered but not necessarily for the right reasons. A powerful presence can be the afore mentioned scenario providing that grand entrance, pose and voice are consistent with who you are and what you represent, but a powerful presence can also be a quiet presence. 

To me, people with presence exude confidence. They  seem rooted, secure; aware of and in control of their external appearance and at ease with who they are. Presence, therefore, is communicated both from the inside and the outside. And you can develop a more powerful presence by working on it from the inside out AND from the outside in. When I work with people, I work on both at the same time.
Many people could have (and probably did) talk to me till they were blue in the face about being more confident during my "Shy" period (see previous post), but by my high school drama teacher forcing me to act confident while speaking powerful words was much more effective.

So… is it about faking it till you make it?

Yes, and No. Something about that phrase makes me cringe. The language we use to describe our learning process is very important. One of the most pervasive feelings successful professionals struggle with is the feeling of being found out to be a fraud. It’s a very common and self-sabotaging feeling. So using the word “fake” to describe a way of working on your presence, does not feel helpful. I prefer a phrase that I coined: 

“Own it while you hone it”

So for all of you who want to develop more presence... pick out a "role" or "character" you'd like to play in certain parts of your life and then Own it! Let me know how it goes!