The Power of Presence

In the acting field from where I come, all our training leads up to the moment you step on stage, put all technique aside and “become” your character, fully, in the moment, with energy, your stage “presence.”

Your presence makes impact.  It is memorable.  It is the ability to connect to yourself and others with authenticity and believability.  Each person’s presence is unique in all its richness and variety, and one important component of presence is your energy.

Energy, on the basic level, is power and force, the capacity for doing work.  Emotional intelligence authors Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf write that energy is the capacity to create excitement. A performer’s energy is readily identifiable, not only as muscular and nervous power, but something more, a surplus of energy that is called upon to be present:  an “extra-daily” or “enhanced” use of self, raising the performance to a higher level, creating that excitement.

The energy of an actor has been described through a long tradition and a wide range of cultures.  Sometimes this presence is an intangible, indescribable and unmeasurable quality. In India (Sanskrit) it is called “prana.”  In Japanese theatre it is called “ki-hai” (hai is spirit and ki is breath) and in Indonesian performance it is called “bayu” (wind, or breath) and  “taksu” (a divine inspiration which takes possession of the performer and which is not under his or her control).

A performer’s energy goes beyond simple strength and force – it is more intimate as it pulses between stillness (pause) and movement (action), a personal intensity which the performer can create, awaken and shape into form through exploration.

For many readers here, the business world is your stage for exploration.  You appear before others and inform, motivate, negotiate, influence, listen - you communicate.  Your presence may be a key factor that will determine your credibility and believability by your clients, colleagues, customers or the public.

Here is an exercise to become aware of and increase your presence:  Rub your hands together briskly for about 30 seconds.  Hold your hands apart, palms facing each other, bend your knees.  Let your hands drift apart a bit, then bring them slowly towards each other.  Can you feel the tingling, the energy, the chi?  Play with this, seeing how far apart you can move your palms without losing the energy, moving your arms and hands around, palms always facing each other, holding this energy ball.

Now imagine this ball all around you.  We walk around in an energy field.  How do you project this?  Imagine you are standing before an audience, be it a small group in a meeting room or a large group in an auditorium.  “Expand” your breath.  Take a big inhale and imagine your breath expanding 50 cm in front of you.  Exhale into that space.  Increase the next inhale to 1.5 meters forward, and continue this expansion a few more times until you have enveloped the entire space you will be speaking in.  You now own the room.  Feel the excitement of your presence.

I used to do a variation of these exercises just before going on stage.  It gave me a powerful feeling of energy and confidence which, when combined with good preparation, rehearsal and an open heart of connecting, allowed me to shine. 

Bring your radiance to your audience.  They are waiting to receive it.


The Power of Presence | Asia Professional Speakers Singapore


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