How to Have Remarkable Presence

The word itself is like a vacuum: presence. When people say someone has it, they whisper the word, and wince, almost as if the mere thought of the person on stage brings them to submission. We all know someone who has it, and we have mixed feelings about them. Half the time, they’re the ones that walk into a room right as we’re telling a story, drawing everyone’s attention away. The other half of the time—the half of the time that we have their attention—they make us feel like kings and queens.

So what is presence? What could it possibly mean to have this intangible, immeasurable quality? More importantly, can anyone have presence? If so, who do we have to pay and how much?

Presence is to presenting what the royal flush is to poker. It’s running the table on all the great qualities of great presenting: intuition, depth of knowledge, confidence, posture (dare we say swagger?), passion, and foresight. It’s knowing the audience like a yokel knows the backwoods, and telling them exactly what they need to know in exactly the way they need to hear it to get exactly the result you want.

Easy, right?

Presence, for the occasional presenter, is a fantasy. Presence is a skill, and like all skills, it is honed. It is attained through practice and experience—there is no genome responsible for it. Most who disagree, who think some people “just got it”, are usually referencing a particular individual or group of individuals from high school or college who seemingly had presence too early to have practiced significantly. But one need only see Honey Boo Boo in action once to know the extreme side of early childhood conditioning. Ol’ Honey may not have presence, but anything and everything can be taught and encouraged from birth.

For the rest of us, who endured insecurities and period of doubt and uncertainty, we have to intentionally develop our presence. As we mentioned before, presence is a suite of characteristics, so the pursuit of presence is really a lifestyle, not a study. It’s embracing discomfort, chasing knowledge, craving opportunity, hugging people—the whole nine yards.

To put it another way: presence is excellence. The question isn’t whether you’ve got it; it’s will you get it?

Question: How balanced and ambitious is your plan to develop presence?

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