Three strategies to develop greater impact and presence
As you may know we run a number of courses on personal impact and presence.
Here are 3 reminders of how to increase impact and confidence:
‘Breathe the space’
I first became interested in impact and presence when I was working as a voice coach in the theatre. It was fascinating to observe actors who had that magical quality of ‘presence’ and those who did not. There is of course a direct correlation between confidence and presence. Anxiety about our own performance, in any situation, makes us feel less confident and impacts our presence.
There is one simple technique that performers learn that can greatly boosts both confidence and presence – breathe the space you are in!
An actor experiences stage fright when they walk onto a stage (a big space) and think small space (the voice in their heads or maybe becoming hyper aware of self). Most of us have experienced this at some point in our lives; we might walk into a room and feel all eyes on us (small space thinking) or stand in front of a group and notice our hands are shaking (small space thinking).
Not a pleasant experience, is it?
You can change this by noticing the size of the room and breathing that space. Because when we breathe a bigger space we feel more present and more relaxed.
If, for example, you hold up a finger just in front of your face and look just at the finger you will notice that you are breathing – but not very much! If you look at a point in the distance that is slightly above your eyeline you will now notice that you breathe a little deeper or fuller. This simple technique alone will help you feel more relaxed, confident and present.
Have a clear outcome
Presence and impact are of course not just about a physical state. You can be calm and confident but not actually do anything. People who make a positive impact in the world have a purpose or an outcome. They know why they are there and what they want to achieve.
Keeping your own outcome at the front of your mind helps to take the pressure of because it’s not about you, it’s about achieving this thing. It can help, before you go into a meeting, to think about what your outcome is and write it down. In this way you stay more aware of what you are there to do rather than thinking about how you are coming across.
Know you can deal with challenge and respond differently
Experience also plays a big part in this. The more times we stand-up and speak in public, make presentations and talk in meetings the more experienced we become. One of the crucial things about experience is that it teaches us that we have done this before and not died in the process. Always good to know! So yes, experience helps, take the opportunities that come your way and practice. However, there is a short cut to experience. After all it helps to be a quick learner in these situations. Have in mind a back-up plan if it goes wrong. A vital element of presence is flexibility, can you respond in the moment if something unexpected happens. As someone I used to work with once said – ‘surprise is the enemy or competence’. When we are surprised we lose impact and lack presence. So be ready to be flexible, have thought about the difficult questions you might be asked and also, be able to change how you deliver something if it isn’t going well.