Many thanks to Alan Donegan of Enjoy Presenting for this article on Presence


When someone walks into the room at a networking meeting, or at the office sometimes you don’t notice, other times they have a presence.

You know when someone turns up and you just feel like you ought to pay attention, or you feel like this is someone I ought to know!

What is it that they have?

Why are we attracted to some people and not others?

What is the difference between someone that no one notices and someone with what we call gravitas, presence or charisma?

Simon Cowell talks about the x-factor.  We all know when we see someone with it. The way they walk, the way they hold themselves, the way they look around the room, can you put your finger on exactly what it is about them?

Do you naturally have it?

If you do, then you are one of the lucky few.  Most of us have to work at this, we have to work at getting noticed, we have to work at having an impact at meetings and we have to work at our public speaking.

A lot of the examples that we name with this presence are celebrities, people like Tom Cruise, Richard Branson or Jeremy Clarkson.  They have something about them, a confidence, energy, presence and we can feel it; even through the television!

So we can identify it when we see it, we know when someone has it, we can’t quite put our finger on what it actually is but the next question is: “are these celebrities famous because they have this presence or do they have this presence because they are famous?”

What came first?  The presence then the career success or the career and success gave them this presence?  If we didn’t know them would they have the same presence and impact in our eyes?

It is my belief that you are not born with presence it is something that you develop throughout life.  And it is something that grows with confidence.  I believe to have got to where Tom Cruise has got to that he must have developed some presence when he was younger.  However I also believe that with every success of his movies, with every year that passed his presence grew.

This is something that you can develop.

It is easier if you were brought up in an environment that breed presence, confidence and charisma but that is the not the norm.  For the rest of us we have to develop it ourselves.

Why would you want to develop presence or charisma?  What is the point?  Well I think there many reasons not least of which is free coffee!

If you can develop this presence, this ability to attract and connect with people it changes everything.  You will find:

  • interesting people being drawn to you
  • opportunities that were never open before opening for you
  • make friends easily
  • have more fun everyday
  • meet the person of your dreams
  • sell more at work and so many more

Oh and coffee.  I was in Costa Coffee in Guildford with a friend; we got to the front of the queue and ordered our drinks.  You always get that moment of “who is going to pay?” I said I would; he said he would and we had a disagreement.  It was at this stage that I smiled, stood tall and said:

“We should remember what Beyoncé taught us “It is all fifty fifty in relationships”” and I may have sung the last part of that!

The barista looked at me and said that she had never heard a man quote Beyoncé before and as such the drinks where on her!

Presence, Charisma and gravitas do come with a warning though, it is not just fun and free coffees!

In Starbucks in Winchester early one morning I went to the toilet after my coffee.  If you have ever been to the Starbucks in Winchester you will know that the toilets are very small and there is not much room!

As I washed my hands another man came out of the cubicle, I gained eye contact (mistake one) smiled (mistake two) and commented on the lack of space (mistake three)

My new friend smiled back and joked about the size as well.  He then proceeded to talk at me about his inability to find the right man in his life!  I tried to break eye contact and finish drying my hands quickly.

The conversation kept flowing from him.  He was very happy today as he had just been to the doctor and had got cream for his rash, he was having trouble finding a job and the market was tough in Winchester!

I dried vigorously and he followed me from the toilets talking to me as I walked towards the door, telling me more about his search for a man in the clubs of the surrounding area! The only way to end the conversation was to say goodbye, turn my back and disappear quickly.

Using your presence and charisma in the wrong place can get you into trouble!

That leaves us with one question “what can we do to develop our presence?”  I have three top tips for you on developing your presence

  1. One of the critical components of great presence is eye contact.  You watch Tom Cruise on a chat show, or Obama being interviewed and they have unerring, unwavering eye contact.  It is like they lock onto you with a tractor beam and suck you in with their eyes.  The first thing you need to do is to gain more eye contact with everyone you meet
  2. Presence comes from being present in the moment.  The second critical element of presence is to be totally in the moment and with however you are with.  Have you hung out with friends before and felt like they weren’t actually with you, they were off thinking about something else. This removes your connection with other people.  The best thing you can do is to work on being totally present in every interaction.
  3. Make the other person you are talking to feel like the most important person in the world right now.  Quite often we don’t take the time to appreciate the people around us or the people we meet every day, we don’t make them feel special.  Would you like to hang out with some that makes you feel special?  Make the person you are with at any given moment the centre of your attention and make them feel special

There are so many elements to presence that we can’t cover them all here.  One of the biggest is confidence and that is something we can cover in another article.  For now gain eye contact, be in the moment and make other people feel special and you will start to develop a formidable presence.

Alan Donegan



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