Be a Presence in Any Room

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While being interviewed about Michael Jordan, sportscaster Bob Costas said, “He has a force personality that is not the same thing as sports talent but it elevates that talent. If you knew nothing about basketball and he walked into the room you’d say, ‘that’s somebody, that’s got to be somebody’.” What is it about some people that makes everyone take notice when they walk into a room? How can some speakers, performers, or actors control and engage their audience better than others?  

The answer is presence. Having presence is having an advantage. Being a force in a space means having an effect on what is happening around you. Those who tend to shrink in their environment and fade into the background are usually at the mercy of what’s going on around them. But the people who create a presence around them are better equipped to influence and effect their environment and ultimately, their circumstance.  

What is Presence?

The fifth definition of presence in Webster’s Dictionary is dignified conduct of manner, but I like the Random House Unabridged version which is the ability to project a sense of ease, poise, or self-assurance. You’ve seen or have meet people like that. Wherever they go people seem to notice them and they seem to have the attention of everyone they come across. In order to have success with people, presence is a huge advantage. Most people seem to confuse presence with being extroverted. That’s understandable because most extroverts have presence. But not all who have presence are extroverted. Look at the definition again. The key to having presence is the ability to project it.

The Power of Presence.

 USA Today ran an article on July 18, 2007 that looked at social dominance as a step up the ladder. The article suggested that people who are taller, louder, and borderline rude have an advantage in society over the people who tend to be invisible. Many female CEO’s wear 3 and 4 inch heals to appear taller and studies have shown that taller men tend to be more successful. Voice projection is essential if you want to be an actor or singer and run way supermodels must be at least 5’ 8”. Obviously people who make themselves seen and heard have an advantage.

But what if you are shorter and do not have a loud voice, can you still have presence? The answer is absolutely! Even though being bigger and louder can get you noticed easier, presence is about what you project. It is possible that someone who is 6’ 8” and loud can be seen from a distance, but if the way that person’s walk is slumped, their voice is unappealing and they speak incoherently, what advantages do they have? Take the example of Frank Sinatra. Jonny Carson once said that Frank was the only person he knew that could walk into any room no matter the size and every single person in that room would notice. This claim was repeated many times by those who knew Frank. One actress said that he had a presence that could be felt even when he was sitting in a room filled with people. Now let me ask you, how can someone who is sitting down and not saying anything still have presence?

The truth is no matter how tall you are or how loud your voice is you can have a strong presence. But you have to learn what kind of presence you want and you have to learn how to project it. In social situations it is just as important to have a force of presence. When you meet someone new, whether you like it or not, you are being judged. And, whether you like it or not you are judging. The way your brain takes in information is through your senses. 

So when you meet someone your senses are sending signals to your brain and dropping off information about the person you are talking to. How they look, how they smell, how their voice sounds, what words they are using, etc. From all that information they are sending, you are making a decision about them. It may be positive, it may be negative, or it may be neutral. What I will show you is how to create and image you want and projecting it thus creating a presence. Ready? 

Your Image

 Before you go about projecting an image, you have to know what image you want to project. The image you want to project may change depending on the circumstances. If you are on a job interview the image you want to portray is one of intelligence, competence, and confidence right? But if you are out with your friends you may want to project a fun, energetic, and approachability. You do not have to change who you are in order to project a different image. You can be the exact same person and integrate your intelligence and competence into your social life or fun and energy into your work life. The key is to choose which one is best for that circumstance and being able to project it so that those around you will receive the message that you are sending clearly enough so that your presence can be felt. There are three main components that make up your image.

1. Looks and presentation

2. Voice and words

3. Body language

When you are beginning to learn how to create a presence you must be aware of these three things. In order to project self-assurance however, you must not appear to be concerned with these things. Someone who is confident in the way they present themselves does not constantly adjust their clothing. I have evaluated many speakers and the one thing that is a gauge of that person’s confidence is how they are wearing their clothes and how they control their body.

I was leaving my office building one day and I saw a young man in the lobby. He was about 18 or 19 years old and wearing a nice blue suit and tie. I concluded that he was probably waiting for an interviewer to escort him to the correct department. Although he was dress very sharp I could immediately tell that he was not use to dressing up. He was standing with both hands in his pocket and trying to look calm. At first glance he did look calm but I noticed two things that gave him away. First his eyes were shifting from right to left at everyone in vicinity.

That constant looking around made him appear to be very anxious and uneasy. Secondly kept shifting his weight from the left leg to the right leg and then to the back of his heels. He also kept looking down at his suit shoes. Now, there could’ve been many reasons why he was looking down at his suit and shoes. Maybe he was checking himself to make sure that his clothes were clean. The problem is if you are standing in a lobby and nobody spilled coffee on you, chances are your clothes are as clean as they were 5 seconds ago when you checked them. To me it he didn’t seem as though he was checking his clothes. It seemed more to me that he realized that he cleans up nice. Although he was probably impressed with the way he put himself together, people passed him without acknowledging him at all. Presence is not just looks. You can look great and still shrink in room or on stage if you do not project what those looks represent.


 One day my sister and I were talking in our mother’s kitchen. She began to tell me about her manager who was striking and had a strong presence. My sister began to tell me that her voice doesn’t carry as far as her manager’s voice. I told her that you don’t need to be loud all the time but you need to project your voice when needed. I demonstrated by finishing the sentence with a louder stronger tone.

Whoa”, she said “where did that come from?”

I told her that you don’t have to strain your voice to be louder, you just have to project your voice from your diaphragm during key statements. I do not have a loud voice. But I have learned how to project it when I need to. I was asked to speak at an Adelphia Cable staff event about a year ago. Before the meeting I started to feel a slight sore throat and my voice was going. As I was presenting, I could feel my voice getting lower and lower in volume. Since I knew the impact of my speech would be affected if nobody heard me, I decided use the same technique that I told my sister about. I anticipated the key portions of my speech and projected my voice during the important points. 

You can use the same technique in everyday life if your voice is not loud or strong. When you meet someone for the first time, project your voice so that your name and your greeting are clear. When having a one on one conversation, it is not necessary to project your voice so that others can hear your conversations. Voice projection is best when talking to or with a group of people so that your presence is established.

These are some major components to acquiring presence. When you begin to understand and apply these things the difference will be felt.

Visit back soon for part2 where I’ll show you the power of presence and body language.

          Talk to Strangers: How to Easily Start Conversations With Anyone >>                                                             

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