How to find that ‘presence’ that gives great speakers the edge

What is it about a speaker that truly holds us? I mean really hooks us and holds us so tightly that we are on tenterhooks for the next thought.

What gives a speaker that spark, that WOW! quality, that holds us engrossed and sends us out of the room at the end of the speech happily marching to a different drum?

In truth it may be a mix of several qualities; but at Podium Coaching we believe a large part of what gives a speaker WOW! appeal is authenticity.

So we were intrigued to read a new book by Washington DC-based leadership coach Kristi Hedges, The Power of Presence.

Hedges argues that technical knowledge, a strong work ethic and excellent presentation skills, are great leadership tools. But, she says, nothing puts people on the fast track to success as much as one quality… presence.

She describes presence as ‘a little-understood but potentially game-changing tool’.

And at its heart, says Hedges, is authenticity. That means knowing who you are, and being comfortable in your own skin. Or, as we sometimes tell people in our presentation skills workshops, using a Judy Garland quote: ‘Always be a first rate version of yourself rather than a second rate version of someone else.’

We believe finding authenticity comes in part by changing the way you prepare a speech or presentation; speak the words out loud BEFORE you even think about writing them down.

Hedges adds a couple of question to help you prepare an authentic presentation:

1 – How do I want my audience to feel about this exchange?

2 – What emotion do I want to embody?

You can have technically excellent presentation skills – but still lack presence. Unleash your authenticity and you are well on your way to finding that game-changing quality that we recognise but find hard to define – presence.

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