Portfolio workers more than most have to sell themselves and more often. We hear and read a great deal about developing your personal brand but almost certainly part of your brand will revolve around whether or not you have ‘presence’. But what is it? We all know it when we experience it. My good friend, Jennifer Holloway of Spark, says: “Presence has been defined as someone who moves the air when they enter the room.” Well normally I just have to move the chairs to get in so can I develop presence? Especially as Kristi Hedges, author of The Power of Presence, says, “Companies have started asking for presence as a professional quality. It’s going up the chain of importance.”
Can I improve mine?
Some people have natural presence, but most people learn it. Ms Hedges says: “Everyone has the ability to have a stronger presence. Remember that you want to connect with and inspire people, so when you talk to them don’t just think about what you say but also how you want them to feel.” She adds that the language you use is important. “People who have great presence are very declarative. They say ‘I will do this’ or ‘I believe in that’. Most of us use hedging language.”
Nick Smallman, chief executive of presentation and interpersonal skills consultancy Working Voices, says: “Psychologically, the most important thing is to be ‘completely in the moment’ in the way people who are in love are when you see them speaking in a bar. Obviously, it’s not love, but it’s a massive desire to do your best. This is why, when you meet someone with great presence, you often feel like you’re the only person in the room.”
“You want to emulate the person you’ve never heard of who walks into a room and commands it,” says Nick.
Ms Hedges says people often confuse presence with assertiveness and speaking skills: “There are overlaps, but you need to show presence in all sorts of settings – and you do meet introverts with great presence.”
Attention to detail is important. “You shouldn’t let stupid little mistakes undermine your presence before you start,” says Jennifer. “Things like unpolished shoes or bad breath or dirty fingernails make a real difference.”
Are you already feeling challenged! Well maybe its easier to project presence on-line – a virtual presence?
“Virtual communications have made the ability to influence people – which is part of presence – more important,” says Ms Hedges. “But at the same time you don’t have a lot of the more traditional aspects of presence, such as visual clues.” Possibly because of this, on social media, “people tend to be personal and real”.
Jennifer says virtual presence presents real opportunities: “A David can be a Goliath online.”
So there you are – make sure you give yourself some presence for Christmas!