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My Sunday Musing On The Importance of Presentation And Personal Presence


One of my clients asked me this week if I really write my Sunday Blog on a Sunday, as it seemed such a commitment.  The answer is yes I do, but the inspiration and ideas for my blogs occur on different days.   For this blog the theme came to me on Monday, when youngest daughter Francesca, chosen to take part in an annual debating evening, had to pit her wits against, according to her, the ‘cleverest students’, all of course ‘more clever than her’. 

The use of every time management technique I know enabled me to slide into my seat at the back, one minute before kick off time, feeling every inch the errant career mother.  Glancing around the room, I felt a pang of jealousy for a ‘mother and hot apple pie’ lifestyle, which would have ensured my seat in the front row. It was only a fleeting regret, but you can imagine my surprise when the first item on the agenda was announced: ‘A woman’s place is in the home’!

My interest in and therefore subject for today however was not the substance of the debates, but how the youngsters performed.  Faced with that many-headed monster, the audience, the debaters’ abilities to hold their nerve, embellish their notes, keep their voice under control, marshal their thoughts and arguments, talk to rather than at others and then listen acutely to the opposing side varied tremendously.  I read on their faces a range of emotions, from terror to fear to pride.  These emotions were juxtaposed in the faces of the audience, the parental figures willing success rather than failure, no doubt taking a share in the responsibility for the outcome.  Watching any of my kids perform, and being very competitive, I know I feel such emotions acutely.  I actually find it a more stressful experience than any of my own performances.

I admired those debaters.  Whilst performances varied considerably, they all saw it through to the end and no doubt went home with a sense of achievement. However, these kids will soon be competing for places at College, University and for jobs.  Their personal presence and their ability to present, formally or informally, may well be a deciding factor in where they end up.  And once there, how far they get.  That evening I found myself sitting there with my recruitment/selection hat on and could not help but gravitate to those who made their presence felt from the moment they entered the room.  They then stood up and inspired confidence in themselves and their views in those crucial initial seconds, and sustained this head start, finishing as strongly as they started, with as much impact and even more respect. 

In our corporate lives, and depending on our interests outside of work, in our personal lives too, our success often relies on our ability to do precisely this. We may be giving formal presentations, chairing meetings, participating in meetings, making an ‘elevator pitch’, negotiating, selling, managing relationships, or networking. We will be judged.  If we get the presence and the presentation wrong, this may eclipse everything else that we have to offer. 

Let us return for a moment to our parental figures. Isn’t it staggering the influence we can have consciously or otherwise on the development of our children and the young people around us? The more I develop myself, the more acutely aware I am of the legacy I leave for my children.  Not in a financial sense, but in ‘parental scripting’, the indelible marks and mental messages they carry with them through to adulthood. Sometimes I know I get it wrong;   in the area of presentation and presence though I know I have succeeded.  All three of my children perform confidently in Public, actually enjoy being on show, and rise to the challenge. Francesca gave a great performance at the debate, despite losing her notes just beforehand! I have always taught her to have a ‘parachute’ just in case, and nowhere is that more important than when presenting to others.

But of course it’s not just about parental scripting is it?  It’s about the preparation, knowing how to prepare, researching the audience, knowing our subject, understanding our physiology and the biochemical reactions when we are under pressure, anxious or filled with fear.  It’s about being aware of our body and how to make it work for not against us when we are under the spotlight.  This will keep our breathing at an optimum level, our voice able to deliver on command, and our body language becomes congruent with our verbal message.  Recognition of our own personal style is vital too – we can’t emulate others and robotic presentations do nothing for the audience.

We can boost our natural dose of ability with a range of skills, tips and techniques.  Add to this the belief in our own value and the understanding that we truly need to connect with the person or people we are presenting to and we will find ourselves in a better place.  Mentally and physically.

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