Developing presence is one of the most important traits for a leader and crucial if you’re looking to increase your gravitas. Neuroscientific research indicates that in a world full of stimulation and distraction, our brains notice what’s unusual and remember what’s different. Although it may sometimes feel easier to keep a low profile, actively cultivating a presence and knowing how and when to ‘dial it up’ is key to getting the attention you deserve at work.
So, what can you do to increase your presence?
I’ve talked about how presence is inextricably linked to being present. In this article, I’m going to focus on three key areas which will increase your impact on others: your mindset, body language and voice.
As a starting point, let’s examine how presence comes across. As you reflect on the table below, consider in which ways you naturally ‘shine your light’ and how you may inadvertently compromise your presence when communicating with others.
Three tips for increasing your presence:
While it may seem like some people have `it’ and others don’t, we all have the ability to develop presence.
1. Your Mindset
When you meet someone, who has a strong presence, you will usually find that their state of mind is calm, focused and uncluttered. This creates an energy or aura which radiates outwards and, because emotional states are infectious, positively affects everyone around. Achieving this can be challenging as, like a computer, we often have multiple programmes running through our head at the same time and are easily distracted. The secret to achieving an uncluttered mind is the decision to bring as much energy and attention to the present moment as you can.
Once you have achieved a state of presence, you can decide to increase or decrease your impact depending on the situation. Reflect on whether you’d like your presence to be a subtle glow or a beacon of light, based on the attention you’d like to receive and what is appropriate. Consider what your purpose is, what you want people to remember about you after you’ve left the room, your key message and how will you communicate it with conviction.
2. Your Body Language
We live in a snap judgement world. Your physical image is the first thing that an individual sees before they decide on what they think of you. If you already have presence, you will be comfortable in your surroundings. You will be energised and at ease with whatever situation you are handed. Your overall image will be someone’s who’s comfortable in their own skin and happy to take and receive attention from people in the room.
The way you position your body is directly linked to your ability to radiate a strong and confident presence. When you’re standing, plant your feet on the ground, stand tall with your weight evenly distributed rather than slouching or folding yourself in. Feel the solidity of the ground beneath you, the gravity of the earth drawing you down. Breathe deeply and evenly into your diaphragm. If you’re walking into a room, walk with purpose and intent. Before you cross the threshold, put your shoulders down and back, open your chest, look up at the ceiling, smile and stride into the room, imagining the air parting before you as you enter.
3. Your Tone of Voice
Your voice is the instrument you use to communicate your message. So often, people mumble, waffle, speak too slowly or gabble too quickly, thereby minimising their presence and impact.
Take the time to plan in advance, not only what you are going to say but how you’re going to say it. The energy you convey through your voice will become a deciding factor in whether people want to listen to you or not. Choose the amount of energy and volume depending on the context: ‘bright and breezy’ won’t work when conveying bad news.
Presence can also be enhanced through your breathing patterns, with free, deep and steady breathing that will start to exude calmness, confidence and ease.
Your presence will truly start to develop once you pay attention to how you think and what you sound and look like. In doing so, you will develop the confidence and gravitas to fulfil your role as a leader and attract the attention you and your message deserve.
My book Leading with Gravitas is a good way to find the direction you need and become the best leader you can possibly be. If you are more interested in a hands-on approach, join me for a Gravitas Masterclass and let’s build up your leadership potential.