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Best of ColoradoBiz: Got presence?

Enhancing your presence to impact sales


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DeNiro's got it. So does Streep. Keanu Reeves? Never had it. What is "it?" Presence. If you're alive and taking up space, you have presence, too. It's simply a matter of degree. Do you have enough presence to command the attention of one, 10 or 100 people? For how long? Ten seconds? Twenty minutes? Two hours? Presence is not just an important quality for actors. It is a critical component in business if your job requires you to engage, motivate or lead others. So can presence be developed?

It's helpful to know what presence is. Here's a definition:

• The state or fact of being present (don't you love it when the dictionary defines a word with the root of the word itself?)
• An impressive quality, personal appearance or bearing
• An invisible spirit felt to be nearby

When Webster's struggles to pin it down, you know it's hard to define. It can perhaps best be described as an energy, an attitude and a bearing that makes other people want to connect with us. Since it is more than just a physical quality, simply mimicking the behaviors of others will lack the authenticity and impact of real presence if we don't have our own inner spark.

Early in my acting career I rather timidly took the stage and after a few uncomfortable moments, the director yelled, "Own the stage!" Unsure what he meant, I immediately started making big, dramatic gestures. I bounced around from one side of the stage to the other at random. I practically shouted my lines and over-emphasized every other word. As you can guess, this is not what he meant. It took me months to understand that he was challenging me to create a bigger presence from the inside out - not vice versa. Luckily it doesn't have to take you that long.

Actors continuously work on developing and enhancing their presence in order to move an audience. Here are some things I learned to apply from my acting career that have proved to be equally effective in business:

The "Three "C's" of Presence

Confidence: An actor with presence exudes confidence. They know they're good at their craft because they've spent weeks, months and years honing it. They take classes and workshops, study, rehearse and train with coaches. They are ready for their moment in the spotlight. Are you? How much time do you spend training your instrument to command attention in the business spotlight? Read some tips on how to prepare your instrument in an earlier article I wrote.

Connection: When is the last time you were really moved by an actor's performance? I bet you can think of at least one recent example. Now, when was the last time you were really moved by a business presentation or a sales pitch? Not so easy, is it? Great actors make an emotional connection with their audience, drawing them in and inviting them to come along on their journey. Great salespeople and leaders do the same thing. Instead of talking at us, relying on the information to make the connection, they establish an emotional connection with their customers, their employees or their teams. And because of this, they are able to inspire them to think about something in a new way or motivate them to change their behavior.

Commitment: Actors with real presence know precisely what they want and are completely committed to its attainment. If it is evident that the actor is not truly invested in the outcome, the audience certainly isn't either. The same is true of our customers or prospects. Yet how often as business professionals are our intentions vague, our goals unclear? Keeping focused and committed to our overriding objectives like impacting our audience's thoughts, attitude or behavior, can make for a much more compelling presence.

You don't have to settle for average presence. Make this the year you embrace the Three C's and up your presence quotient to superstar status!

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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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