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What is Powerful Presence?

Hello and welcome to the Business of Powerful Presence. Thank you for being here, I know your time is your most valuable asset. I am your host and guide, Karen Bannister, and I aim to bring highest quality and value to your listening experience to enhance your life and help you achieve your goals.

In this episode, we are going to discuss and clarify exactly what “presence” is. Because we can’t have the discussion on how to improve it, or build it, unless you understand what it is.

When you venture off into the world to find a definition of presence, you’ll find a good mix. What I find interesting, and something I agree with, is that most people equate having presence with having confidence. And that makes sense, right?

Psychology Today defines confidence as “a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly. Being confident requires a realistic sense of one’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge.

Projecting confidence helps people gain credibility, make a strong first impression, deal with pressure, and tackle personal and professional challenges. It’s also an attractive trait, as confidence helps put others at ease."

It's not a fixed characteristic, and it can be acquired and developed. It can be taken away if you’re not careful (remember that anxiety and fear based on self-doubt). It can fluctuate based on environment, setting, and circumstance.

So it makes complete sense that presence is so closely associated with and tied to confidence.

Having confidence means you’re comfortable in your own skin, with who you are, and what you bring to the table. When someone has presence, they have what some people refer to as having “it,” and it’s thought of as something that is innate within them and, although sometimes difficult to define and articulate, you know it when you see it.

So to start off, although I do agree that it can be somewhat difficult to define, it’s only because it can mean something different to each one of you. There is also sometimes a fear, a doubt, that you’ll never be at the same level as someone with “it,” with presence. I know this because I have had many a conversation with clients, friends, peers…that “some people just have it, and man, it would be so great to have ‘it’ too…”

Well, guess what. That presence you feel…that confidence that can be felt from across the room - it was learned. And if it’s learned…that means you can have it, too.

With that, I’d like to share with you MY definition, and what I use to create, enhance, and build a presence.

Let’s start with what it’s NOT.

Your presence is NOT a result from any sort of business performance or your potential, or of any outside influence, really.

It IS a reflection - COMPLETELY - of your personal energy. It starts internally, is reflected in your external messaging - including your appearance and behaviors.

Your presence is the energy that you convey to and share with others, both non-verbally and verbally.

This energy comes from within, and I like to use the 80/20 rule with it - 80% of your presence comes from what you are inside (the cake), and 20% from what others see on the outside (the frosting - and yes, I'll be using that analogy in the future).

If we start with confidence as the base, or the platform, upon which your presence is developed, we start adding layers.

This confidence is based on having self-awareness, and is rooted in knowing your strengths, weaknesses, talents, biases. I’ll warn you, if and when you search for self-awareness, you will again find multiple definitions, although they all kinda say the same thing.

Personally, the best clarification I have ever read is this - and forgive me, I can’t remember where I found it or first read it, but this exact wording is not mine, but I’ve had it saved for quite some time:

Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.”

And to make it more entertaining…while a majority of people do actually think of themselves as very self-aware, multiple research studies have shown that only 10-15% of people truly are self-aware.

Yes, that’s right. Only 10-15%. In a room of 10 people, chances are, only 1 of you is truly self-aware. Is it you?

Are you sure?

Can you see how the idea of presence can be overwhelming?

And yet, there’s still more to it. Being self-aware is paramount to your presence and proper messaging, but you also have practice something called “cognitive awareness,” which is being aware of how others react or are reacting to you. In other words, you know how to read the room and adapt appropriately.

Then - yes, we are still going - you also should have a strong “sensory awareness,” which is keeping your own emotions and physical reactions under control.

From there, we can move into things like your appearance, behavior, communication, and poise.

But the reassuring bottom line is, presence - as a result of having confidence and self-awareness - can be learned.

But how, do you ask?

It’s simple, really - practice. What I always find interesting, is that if you want to have a powerful positive presence, the most important step is to make a decision, or a conscious choice, that you’re going to have one. Then you need to take action.

There are qualities that people recognize in someone having a strong presence, as well as tips, that can help guide you to finding your presence.

Let’s look at seven qualities that people recognize in those with powerful presence:

  1. Be confident. We've briefly covered that here, but I'll dive deeper into this important quality in a future episode.

  2. Be prepared. Show up to meetings, presentations, events, wherever you are, prepared. Research the topic, practice your presentation, and be open and receptive to people.

  3. Be interested. Show interest in others and they will respond in turn.

  4. Be positive. This doesn't mean walking around with a big smile, but rather to even find learning opportunities in failures, remain calm in times of uncertainty, stay focused if things go wrong, and focus on resolution rather than blame.

  5. Be vulnerable. Share yourself with others, be open and forthright with your opinions and thoughts.

  6. Be empathetic. Be and offer the support that others need.

  7. Be adaptable. Things can change rapidly, so be ready to pivot or change direction. Be open to suggestion and ready to learn new things and hear new viewpoints.

To be seen and regarded as someone with a powerful presence, and to develop these qualities, you should focus on:

  • Being authentic. It is painstakingly obvious when you try to be someone you’re not. It’s a waste of time and energy for you to try to be like someone else, or how you think others expect you to be.

  • Visualization. See how you want things to be. Practice moving like you want to move. Picture events unfolding as you want them to happen.

  • Finding mentors. And you don’t necessarily have to have a personal relationship or connection with them. They could be someone you can watch from afar and emulate. This would include someone you admire, someone you feel has presence, celebrities, authority figures, anyone in the spotlight.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Join Toastmasters. Take an acting class. Get a coach. Record yourself and review. Have friends watch and review with honest feedback. Go to networking events and talk to strangers. Make mistakes. Feel uncomfortable. That’s how you know you’re entering a new level of growth. The behaviors you desire will become natural to you.

  • Be aware of the company you keep. I'm not referring to the “you’re the average of the people you spend time with” mantra…because that's too simple. What you need to watch out for is the possibility of soaking up energy from the wrong people if you’re not careful - and it could be happening from more than just a few people. Others, who have not yet found their purpose in or joy for life, can and will try to project their energy onto you - remember that misery does love company. Have you ever felt that nagging feeling of someone staring at you? That’s their energy. That’s your sixth sense responding to it.

  • Listen. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand. Engage. Ask questions. Be open to new ideas and thoughts. Suspend judgement.

  • Be where you are. Be mindful. Focus on the present. Give your attention to those around you in the current moment.

  • Control the information (or message) you are sending. One strong way to do that is with your external image, which includes your appearance, behaviors, communications, digital presence and your environment, including your office, your home, and your even your car.

  • Maintain warm, inclusive body language. Let others know that you are open to them, to receive them just as they are.

In the words of the late, great, Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That wraps it up for this episode of the Business of Powerful Presence. In upcoming episodes, I’ll dive deeper into confidence, and the six qualities of presence, and the ABCDE’s of personal powerful image.

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