Key Practices of Presence

By Dr Diana Theodores


Presence is about being present

Academy Awards season and the papers are filled with images of stars on red carpets looking poised under a barrage of flashing cameras and adoring fans reaching out for autographs. Ever image conscious, these stars of the screen seem to have unerring instincts about how to show their most flattering angles, profiles and smiles. In those immortal words of Gloria Swanson, they’re always ‘ready for [their] close-up’.

''The kind of presence I want to talk about, though, isn’t the red carpet and cameras. It’s about being completely present in the moment.''

The actress Julianne Moore once said in an interview that ‘your presence can bring out their presence, you elevate everything’. She was talking about presence as the quality of engagement with others you create. Your presence allows you to see and hear other people, and allows them to feel seen and heard. When you are fully present, creating real engagement, you are giving and attracting attention. When you leave the room, your presence lingers and inspires confidence and commitment in those around you because they have had a meaningful and positive experience.

Stand up straight

I’m constantly surprised to see so many incredibly smart, talented people in the corporate workplace present poor posture: sitting hunched over in their chairs with crossed arms and legs, looking as if they’re tied up in knots; or standing in a ‘pretzel’ with their feet criss-crossed, looking tentative at best or perilously off balance; or slumping over to one side in their chairs, looking practically comatose; or standing and rocking back and forth, looking as if they’d rather be anywhere but where they are.

If you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions, or any variation of them, listen up: When you sit up straight and stand up straight, you have instant gravitas. You are mighty. End of story.

Your name is your title so let’s hear it the first time!

Why do we mumble our names or rush past them as if to get it over with as quickly as possible? Your name is the first utterance of your identity, as powerful as the first words in a play or movie, the first sentence in a novel, the first note in a symphony, the first mark on a canvas, and the first gesture in a dance – a beginning that leads to a bigger story.

Your name is the gateway to your life story, and that story is the DNA of your unique, authentic presence. Your name matters, so get interested in its sound and let’s hear it the first time around!

The Power of the Pause

When we speak more slowly, take more time, don’t rush, and take pauses, we feel much more powerful – because we’re more grounded. We are literally standing our ground. From here, we step into our fullest presence.

There’s a reason why pictures are framed. Frames create a unique platform for our attention, a distinctive space in which we are invited to dwell awhile and engage our senses – a space to process our experience.

Think of a pause when you’re speaking like a frame around a picture. When you pause, you frame your words. Pausing gives you a chance to breathe and gives your audience a chance to hear and process your words. Pausing, like framing, allows you the opportunity to highlight moments and emphasise key words and points. You are giving your audience the gift of understanding and maximising their engagement. More critically, pausing bestows on the speaker physical presence and presence of mind.

Read more:

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