Presence is the ability to project composure, grace, confidence, poise, and self assurance, especially in high-pressure situations. People with presence tend to be open and appear to assume everyone is their friend. They are good listeners (click here to check out my blog post on upping your listening skills), and they connect with people and engage with them in an authentic manner that leaves people feeling included and equal.
If we consider a spectrum of demeanor, on one end we have someone who slouches or folds their body inwards, speaks quietly or mumbles, and generally does not reach others with their energy. On the other end we have someone who appears overly assertive, talks too loudly for the room, takes up more than their share of energetic space, and overpowers others. In the middle, we have presence.
Presence is not something you were either born with or you weren’t, it can be cultivated. So how do we develop more presence?
The most obvious starting point is actually being “present” in the here and now. Being present refers to being fully in the moment, without our thoughts drifting to the past or the future.
Tuning in to your body is a great way to do that, as the body is always in the present (if you’re cold you’re cold NOW). Notice your feet on the ground, your butt on the chair, your breathing, the temperature of the air on your skin, your facial expression.
Other elements of presence have to do with appearing relaxed and confident. Common ways to accomplish this include solid eye contact, open and relaxed body language, and a strong, free voice.
In addition to being in the moment, composed, calm, and genuine there is an element of being kindly and non-judgmentally self-aware. Meditation, mindfulness, the relaxation response, easy deep breathing, anything that calms the nervous system is helpful for that.
Being aware of cues or signals that you’re sending out with your voice and body, either consciously or unconsciously, is a great way to start working on presence. Do whatever helps you to feel grounded, relaxed, and as fearless as possible. Trust in your own abilities, and know that you have a right to be there, wherever that may be.