Welcome to First Thursday! On the first Thursday of every month we feature an expert that has a skill or expertise that will enhance your professional skill set. Today, we’re joined by Pauline Kehm, with a blog on developing a strong professional presence. Pauline is president of Perform to Potential, a coaching and training company that helps professionals create careers they find both rewarding and meaningful. With her signature program Adventures in Waking UpSM, she helps her clients use the workplace as a master’s course to raise their self-awareness, reconnect with their purpose and inner wisdom, and live true to their values in their daily lives. Pauline has 25 years of experience in the corporate sector, serving clients throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. http://www.adventuresinwakingup.com
How to Develop Your Professional Presence, by Pauline Kehm
What kind of impression do you want to make when you walk into a room, participate in meetings, or give an important presentation? You do make an impression, every time you’re in front of other people. Within seconds, we all form an opinion of others based on what we see and feel. We often describe people who command our attention as having “presence.”
Let’s explore a few aspects of presence, and some tools to help you develop a bearing of poise and authority.
Be present. This is obvious, but easier said than done. When you’re with other people, are you fully there and aware in the moment, or are you preoccupied or worrying about what they’ll think of you? If you’re not “all there,” try this before you enter an important interaction:
- Take several slow, deep breaths. Then, tune in to your inner voice and identify what it’s telling you. Acknowledge the message. Resolve to give unfinished business your full attention later. If you’re nervous about the current situation, remind yourself that you’re not in real danger, and that you’re capable of handling whatever comes up.
- Next, focus on your body. What sensation are you feeling and where? Breathe into this, and as you exhale, imagine releasing the tension.
- Ground yourself. Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground or, if you’re sitting, your body safe and stable in the chair. Open your posture. Stand or sit tall, breathe, and feel the energy flow freely through your body.
Demonstrate self-control. Your open posture communicates trust and comfort. Don’t collapse or close in on yourself in any way. Lazy or protective posture conveys neither power nor confidence, and it impedes your breathing and energy. You convey confidence and ease when you:
- Sit or stand tall and face your audience. Unless it’s inappropriate, smile. Even a quick smile sends a welcoming message and releases a shot of dopamine and serotonin that will relax your body and mind.
- Don’t fidget! Find a comfortable, natural position to rest your hands. See Jayne’s post on the power of gestures, and aim for controlled, purposeful movements.
- Take your time. It’s common these days to rush to get our thoughts out before someone interrupts us, but speaking at a slower pace allows you to choose your words with precision and shows you’re in command of your thoughts. When you’ve made your point, stop talking! Few things undermine your authority more than needless repetition.
Make them believe and feel you. If you’ve ever met someone who made you feel like you were the only person in the room, you remember that person because you felt seen. Our greatest leaders have the ability to inspire trust and loyalty, and you can inspire it in others by practicing the following:
- Project your energy. We all have an energy field that extends beyond the borders of our body, and when we create an open and inviting space for others, they are drawn in. Imagine your own ‘force field’ surrounding you by several feet on all sides. Now imagine projecting that field outward to encompass those you’re speaking to, or to the back of the room. If you’re skeptical, just try it. Actors do this, and you do it unconsciously every time you build a real rapport with someone. Practice doing it on purpose.
- Look whomever you’re talking to in the eye. If you’re addressing a group, shift your gaze around the room, holding contact with each person (or area of the room) for at least a slow count of three before moving on. Each person you connect with will feel like you’re speaking directly to them, and they’ll be open and receptive to what you’re saying.
It’s easy to recognize presence when you see it—or more accurately, when you feel it. It’s a rare quality, a combination of self-possession and of giving to others. Being present is a gift you offer another in any interaction, however brief, and it’s a gift that yields great rewards for both the recipient and the giver.
If you think you may benefit from more direct training to improve business communication skills or improve pronunciation skills as with our accent reduction and accent modification training, give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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