When we say someone has a strong “presence,” what does that actually mean? I mean, specifically, what does it mean? Ask 100 different people (and we have), you might get 50 different answers. A strong presence means different things to different people. And when you push people to define what it actually is, you tend to get stuck in high level, intangible things like “confidence.” And then when you offer to let someone off the hook from their attempted description and simply suggest “we know it when we see it,” they smile and agree enthusiastically.
We do know it when we see it, right? But what is it… specifically? It CAN mean different things. And people of all different shapes, styles, ages and attitudes can have “it.”
At LatimerNext, we describe presence as the sum total of lots of seemingly small things. All aspects, while each small on their own, eventually add up to something noticeable. Things like posture, the way we look people in the eye, our rate of speech, the polish in our words, the way we dress, the way we collaborate, the way we treat others, the questions we ask, the things we show an interest in, the things we speak about… we could go on and on. Each of these things contributes towards our presence.
When we stand (or sit) up straight and face the people we are speaking to; when we look people in the eye; when we dress for the job we want, not necessarily the job we have; when we speak with enough polish that we sound intelligent and well-informed; when we pause occasionally and don’t seem to be in a huge rush and frantic all the time; when we ask questions and listen to people’s answers; when we speak about “executive issues” and don’t get stuck in the muck; when we demonstrate confidence in what we are saying, yet somehow can still be open minded… when we can do all of these things, people tend to notice. They tend to remember who we are and what we have said.
So, spend time and think about it. What makes you notice people? What makes you remember their names and what they said? What creates a presence that impresses you?
And as you are thinking about the presence of others, spend some time thinking about your presence. Is it what you really want or need it to be?