Whether it's preparing to meet a new business contact in person or getting ready to chair a virtual meeting, the idea of having presence is something many of us want.

It's easy to compare our own behaviours with others. But, as RADA Business tutor Matt Bannister says, when we interact with someone that 'has presence,' it helps to think that we can achieve it too.

Matt shares some techniques on how to achieve this quality.

The price of presence

Not being present can keep us from accessing our own power, and create a feeling of uncertainty. We can always shrug, and tell ourselves “Well, I tried…” and return to our comfortably unfulfilled potential. The courage required to allow yourself to be present certainly can be considerable, especially at first. We have to stand alone, outside of our comfort zone and just be, potentially without any of the habits that make us feel safe. If the price of presence is discomfort, then the only question really worth considering is this: Am I willing to be uncomfortable?

I’ve yet to meet a client sidles up at the beginning and says, “I think my problem is just too much presence. People pay attention when I speak. I don’t know what to do.” Let me take a liberty, and assume that presence is something that you want to have more of.

Fair enough? We see other people who seem to have something that we feel we don’t, and that we value, and we want to have a little bit more of what they’ve got. However, that arresting quality that you’re perceiving can only be a collection of behaviours. In other words, you can’t have more presence, because presence is not something that you have, but something that you do.

When you see good acting, you see people who are really good at doing presence. Some actors can even perform the heroic backflip of being incredibly present whilst playing a character who is not.

The skills and behaviours that make someone a good actor are the same ones that give effective individuals their powerful presence in the workplace. In essence, the art of presence is the art of being yourself – right here, right now – and being deeply comfortable with that.

Techniques for achieving presence

Breathe - slow and low
When we see someone breathing slow and low, we instinctively feel that they are constantly renewing their perception of, and response to, the information offered to them in the moment. Let go of the gripping in your tummy muscles and remind yourself to breathe into the diaphragm.

Slow down a little
Allow yourself the luxury of time to respond, rather than react. You know those people with presence, who make you feel like it’s important that you’re there with them? It’s because they allow themselves to be changed by your presence. Change takes a moment. About the length of a breath.

Listen and receive as much as you transmit
Even when someone with powerful presence is talking, they’re almost certainly still listening as much as they’re speaking. That’s how it feels that they’re right there with you, having a conversation, even when you’re not saying anything. This can be a tricky balance – being present with ourselves, as well as with our audience and environment. It’s easy to favour our own thought process and find ourselves lost in our own heads. Rather than thought, a much more suitable anchor can be the physical sensations in the body. The feeling of your feet on the floor or the energy in your gut can help. That’s going to make it easier for you to be bold, and really be with people as you talk and listen.

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