Presenting With Impact — Presence is the key to success

Presenting with impact doesn’t seem to be something that comes naturally or easily to many professionals. It is, however, within everyones reach and the key to success is presence.

At Mindful Presenter we believe that presence is having a sense of poise and self-assurance along with the ability to make others feel like they are the most important person in the room. It is that feeling of credibility a person conveys together with the air of authority even though in terms of position or status they may not actually have any.

It’s a charisma in the form of a likability that immediately tells you that you’re in good hands.

Many presenters believe that presence is something you either have or you don’t. Those who subscribe to that theory generally focus on impressing their audience with content in the conviction that the information alone will be sufficient to win them over.

If you have a speech or presentation to give soon I’d like you to challenge that assertion and consider the possibility that presence is learned and it’s within your reach. I believe that there are 3 core elements to presence and each of them are readily obtainable:

1. Nobility

I don’t mean nobility in the aristocratic sense of the word. I mean a speaker who is magnanimous, honest and moral; noble to their cause.

The route to nobility when presenting is through giving yourself to your audience; that means making it all about them and not you. It means being generous with your energy, insights and intent to make a genuine difference to their lives.

The starting point is taking yourself off of ‘auto-pilot’. This means that you stop presenting the way you’ve always done; unless of course the way you present today serves your audience well. The only way to truly know the answer to that question is to ask your audience to be completely honest with you.

There is plenty you can do to help switch off your ‘auto-pilot’ and it’s worth starting by focusing on:

How you see your audience

– Remember, some are mothers or fathers, all are sons and daughters. They are all creative, responsible and intelligent people who hope you have something to share which will help them in some way.

– They are all busy professionals who have taken time out to listen to you. They are interested in what you have to say and they care. There are a great number of other things they could be doing instead.

– You are speaking to a room full of people who have fears, anxieties, hopes and aspirations just like you do. Like you, they live in hope that you understand them and will share some of your feelings too.

– You are connecting with emotional beings. They don’t want to be lectured at. They want you to help them to feel something emotional, as well as become a little wiser.

How you act

– Smile.

– Stand and move with purpose and confidence.

– Use strong and meaningful hand gestures.

– Give them the gift of connecting with them through active eye contact.

– Make sure that your voice, gestures and facial expressions mirror your words.

How you speak

– Animate your voice buy varying your pitch, tone, volume and pace.

– Pause every now and then to help your message land with your audience.

– Tell them stories.

– Lose the corporate speak and let them hear the real you.

– Speak to them like you would speak to a good friend. That means you have to see them as such and not simply a colleague or client.

How you look

– Dress for your audience; if they wear suits then you should too.

– Pay attention to detail — polished shoes, well-groomed hair, avoid distracting jewelry.

– Look rested and healthy.

– Smile and look confident.

– Check in with your posture, stance and breath.

Your first priority is to act, sound and look like your audience are the most important people in your life in that moment.

Go out of your way to embrace and practice using these suggestions at every opportunity to let your audience see just how much you care.

2. Awareness

Did you have a shower this morning?

That may sound like a strange question for an article on presentation skills but it’s relevant and important nevertheless.

It’s a question we ask our delegates in our workshops.

Most people answer yes of course, so we then ask a follow up question; did you really have a shower or were you just in the shower?

There really is a significant difference.

Having a shower mindfully means noticing the feeling, temperature and touch of the water on your skin at each moment. It means feeling the texture and breathing in the scent of the shower gel and shampoo you use. It’s notciing the steam on the shower door or mirror; the feel of the water running through your toes.

That’s the level of awareness I’m referring to; try it next time you shower.

It’s the same with presenting.

It’s my belief that many presenters aren’t really in the room when they are speaking. Their body might be there and their mouths are moving but sometimes there is just a lack of awareness.

The best presenters know how to really be in the room with their audience.

– They arrive as early as they can, long before their audience. Once they done the usual AV check they just get to know the room. They spend a few minutes just standing in the area and familiarise themselves with the space. They notice the temperature of the room, the lighting, the space. They notice any sounds or distractions inside or outside of the room.

– They take a few moments to see things from their audience’s perspective and sit in as many of their seats as they can well before they arrive.

– Once everything is set and they are just waiting for their audience to arrive they sit quietly and meditate or simply breathe.

– Connect with your mind, and body long before you begin to speak. Pay attention to any sensations or feelings in your body; acknowledge them with judgment. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is natural because you are human and you care. Thank the feelings and sesnations for reminding you that you are alive and remind them that everything is OK. Focus entirely on connecting with your audience rather than presenting to them.

3. Purpose

A prerequisite to presence is purpose.

The most important element of a mindful presentation is clarity.

Clarity on why you are speaking in the first place.

Clarity of your objective; what you want your audience to do when you’ve finished speaking.

Clarity of your intention; how you want your audience to feel emotionally.

A presenter’s presence can only really be felt once they have acknowledged with certainty what it is they want their audience to:

Remember — Understanding isn’t the same as remembering. An audience can understand completely what it is you’ve just presented yet forget 90% of the information within 2 hours. When you are mindful of what you want your audience to remember you can begin to craft and deliver your message to ensure they do.

Feel — Whether you’re presenting at a team meeting, conference, board meeting or sales pitch your job is to help your audience feel something. Unless you feel it yourself it’s highly unlikely that your audience will.

Your presence will be felt by your intention.

“If your presence doesn’t make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference.” Trey Smith

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of iStock.com

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Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.

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Maurice DeCastro

Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.

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