Presence is an area of social and interpersonal skills that comes up fairly frequently in my role as a high-performance coach. A current, longstanding client may ask what it is, and a new client may come to me because they already know they need it.
While anyone, from school-age children to adults can possess Presence and hold space using that power, the three main areas of concentration for this discipline tends to be Professional Presence, Personal Presence, and Executive Presence.
Presence is NOT your image or first impression, nor is it your body language. It is largely your nonverbal persona.
I know there’ll be a reader who’ll call me out for being redundant because I said Presence is not body language but it is nonverbal.
To be clear, body language and nonverbals are not one and the same. They’re more fraternal twins than identical.
Where body language is related to physical movement and what you're doing with your body to convey a silent message, either consciously or subconsciously, non-verbals on the other hand are your actions.
A nonverbal can be something as simple as stepping ahead of a person to open the door for them, or maintaining steady eye contact. It is understandable why that example may appear ambiguous at first glance.
Consider this; the nonverbal message of steady eye contact conveys alertness and interest, and if that same person were to roll their eyes in disgust or look up and to their left as they seek to recall information, the latter would be examples of body language.
In short, nonverbals have nothing at all to do with what it may mean that your arms are crossed in front of you, if you rub your forehead, or if you’re smiling. Also, nonverbals speak to your character, and body language speaks to your thoughts.
Everyone has Presence. That’s a fact. The question is whether Your Presence is telegraphing what you want people to see and feel about you?
Your Presence is your persona, and it’s how people see you and feel you, and how you hold space based on the vibration or frequency you’re emitting.
Presence cannot be fully discussed without accounting for one’s physical space. Space is an important element because it is never empty, and it is always occupied with energy and matter.
Space relates to how we use our physicality to make ourselves known or to let others know that we exist and the extent to which they should make space for that existence.
We have all been in the Presence of a person who “sucks the air out of the room”, so to speak. Similarly, we have witnessed how a person can “light up a room” and bring lots of joy, by their mere Presence.
Space is used whether you’re standing or sitting, and how you choose to stand, for example with your shoulders back and chin raised, vs making yourself appear smaller, something far too many women practice without even thinking about it.
Space also relates to Presence in terms of which seat you choose or your designated seat at a conference table or even a dining table.
Are you at the head of the table, or are you assigned or relegated to a filler seat on the side? Perhaps you are seated to the right of the main speaker, thus making you the second most important person in the room because you’re literally their “Right Hand Person”.
The actor, Carey Grant famously said, “I acted like Carey Grant for so long, I became Carey Grant.” Now that’s a great example of holding space to act the way you want to be seen and treated, and for Carey Grant that meant being the person whom his fans expected him to be.
I hope you too see yourself as a complex human being, and not one dimensional. We’re all multi-dimensional, and the more we experience the many facets of life, the more we have to be aware of our Presence and what we’re conveying.
We have so much to offer every person we happen upon. Let’s consciously seek to rock every room we enter with a polished and powerful Presence.
You can listen to an audio version of this post right HERE on The Soft Power Podcast