Recently, while doing a one-on-one presentation coaching session with a client, I was reminded of the power of presence to connect the speaker to the audience, be it one or one hundred.

My client began his presentation in a BIG VOICE that radiated “fake” enthusiasm.  He spoke as if he were presenting to an audience of thousands, unable to actually see anybody. He paced the floor, spoke much too quickly for me to comprehend the content of his message, and slurred his words.  After listening for about two minutes, I stopped him and offered this one suggestion:

“David, let’s begin again with a different approach.  When you reach center stage, take the time to get present to your audience. Before you begin speaking, give your total eye attention  to one person. Do not take your eyes from that person until you have reached the end of the sentence. Then move to another person, and speak in the same way to that person. Complete a sentence before moving to the next person. Don’t just look through each person; truly see individuals as you speak to them, as though each were the only person in the room. Make it a conversation with one person at a time. No need to be bigger than life. Your sincerity will carry  to the back of the audience. The power will come in your presence, not performance. Let’s give it a try.”

He did. What a difference it made. He came across as sincere, his voice was more expressive, and his manner more intimate. He made it possible for me to experience and visualize each example, illustration, and poignant quote. His delivery added depth and value to his message as he built the bridge that made it possible for me to become a part of his message.

In 1995 when the Upjohn Company merged with Pharmacia, a number of people talked to me about the new CEO’s power to connect with others. When I asked them for his secret, without exception, people shared their personal experience: “His eyes. When he spoke to me, it was as though I were the only person in the room.” Clearly, he left people feeling honored and valued by his presence, putting him a position to be much more influential.

Powerful leaders are typically good communicators. They know that nothing will pay bigger dividends than making a real connection with others, whether speaking to one, ten, or 100, because connection is a requirement of trust and the power to influence. Being present is the first step to making a strong connection.

Suggestions to coach yourself:

1) Video record yourself making an actual presentation.

2) Review the video and ask yourself: Did I appear present to my audience before I opened my mouth? Did I appear to have maximum audience attention before I said the first word?

3) Check out your eyes.  Are you focusing on one person at a time?

3) Ask yourself:  Are my feet planted on the floor?  Do I begin from a solid stance so that people are focusing on my message rather than on my movement?

Now, here’s a bonus question:
*According to research done by Kurt Mortensen, author of Persuasion IQ, “top performers” spend 5% of annual income in the development of their process skills, namely their ability to influence others? What % of your income are you spending on self-development?  How many hours a week are you investing in developing yourself as a leader?