74 Be yourself
The presence highway code
This works particularly well just before interacting with people
and especially in formal presenting situations. The code requires
you to:
Stop
Breathe
Look
Listen
Feel.
These actions make you more alert, raise your awareness of your
environment, and boost your presence. (See the box below.)
The presence highway code
Stop: Slow down and do not rush to start speaking. The
pause gives precious moments ‘to arrive’ both mentally
and emotionally. If you’re anxious, it allows your body time
to adjust and for those butterflies in your stomach to start
flying in formation.
Breathe: Gently take a few deep breaths, without heaving
your chest or raising your shoulders. At the top of your
intake of breath hold it, and count slowly to five. Doing this
several times will slow your heart beat, reducing the discharge of adrenaline
into your system which causes feelings of anxiety or excitement.
Look: In a small group make eye contact with each person, just briefly,
before starting to talk. The effect of silence and demanding visual connec-
tion can be amazing and convey unmistakeable presence. In a large group,
look for a familiar or friendly face. Continue making eye contact with a few
chosen individuals across the entire audience.
Presence 75
Mark Twain, the US humorist and author, once started a lecture
by silently contemplating his waiting audience for an extended
period. He studied the auditorium as if wanting to look every single
person in the eye. After nearly 10 minutes of extraordinary silence,
the entire audience spontaneously broke into applause.
Twain was using an extreme version of the speaker’s presence
highway code. He was getting in touch with his audience, making
contact at a deep level and being utterly present.
Use two kinds of energy
Watch someone with an obvious presence and even when sitting
entirely still they appear energised. They are drawing upon two
separate sources of power. The first stems from physicality, the
alertness of the entire body for whatever will happen next, draw-
ing energy from the outside world. The other energy used comes
from within. You can tap this source of power through bringing
your whole person to the situation – who you are, your values and
knowing yourself. Though this sounds mystical or metaphysical,
in fact you are permitting the mask to drop, so people see the
individual behind it.
While looking, ask yourself, ‘What do I observe right now?’ and hear the
answers in your head as you continue without speaking.
For example you may notice people smiling, frowning, looking distracted,
fiddling with phones or shuffling papers. What is this telling you about the
state of readiness of your audience?
Listen: For sounds that convey something useful about the people with
whom you are about to communicate. Are they restless; is there a stillness
yet, suggesting they are ready for you to begin?
Feel: Use all your senses, including your natural intuition to detect what is
happening around you. Give all senses full rein to uncover subtle signs that
might suggest how best to communicate at this moment.
76 Be yourself
Here are some practical ways to draw on the energy within you.
Give yourself permission to feel and be vulnerable. Rather
than fighting tension or anxiety, tell yourself it is safe to open
yourself to this person or these people.
Think of being in a castle, lowering the drawbridge and
stepping out with a gesture of welcome.
Consciously slow down your rate of breathing (see the
presence highway code earlier).
Rather than just glancing at people, put definite energy into
making eye contact, and into your facial expressions and body
language. In making connections you do not do anything
violent or jerky, merely act more deliberately.
Remind yourself of your personal values and their relationship
to the particular moment. If you are unsure what your
personal values are, try the Values work out below.
Becoming clear about what your personal values are can help to raise your
self-awareness, feed your inner expression of energy and strengthen your
presence.
1 List what you value or what matters most in your life. What do you feel
really passionate about? Take time to think about this.
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2 Think about how you put values into action in your life.
Values work out

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