Three strategies to develop greater impact and presence

Three strategies to develop greater impact and presence
by David Willis, CMT, WIG facilitator

‘Breathe the space’

I first became interested in impact and presence when I worked at the theatre as a voice coach. It was fascinating to observe actors who had that magical quality of ‘presence’ and those who did not. There is a direct correlation between confidence and presence. Anxiety about our own performance makes us feel less confident and impacts our presence.

There is a simple technique that performers learn that can boost both confidence and presence – breathe the space you are in!

Actors experience stage fright when they walk onto stage (a big space) and think small space (the voice in their heads or maybe becoming hyper aware of self). Most of us have experienced this at some point; we walk into a room and feel all eyes on us (small space thinking) or stand in front of a group and notice our hands are shaking (small space thinking).

Not a pleasant experience, is it?

You can change this by noticing the size of the room and breathing that space; when we breathe a bigger space we feel more present and more relaxed.

By holding a finger in front of your face and looking at it, you will notice you are breathing – but not very much! If you look at a point in the distance that is slightly above your eyeline you will notice that you breathe a little deeper. This simple technique alone will help you feel relaxed, confident and present.

Have a clear outcome

Presence and impact are not just about a physical state. You can be calm and confident but not actually do anything. People who make a positive impact in the world have a purpose or an outcome. They know why they are there doing what they do and what they want to achieve.

Keeping your own outcome at the front of your mind helps alleviate pressure because it’s not about you, it’s about achieving this outcome. It can help, before a meeting, to think about your outcome and write it down. Therefore, you stay aware of what you are there to do, rather than thinking about how you come across.

Know you can deal with challenge and respond differently

Experience plays a big part in this. The more we speak in public, make presentations and talk in meetings, the more experienced we become. One crucial thing about experience is that it teaches us we have done this before and not died in the process. Always good to know! So, experience helps, take opportunities that come your way and practice. However, there is a shortcut to experience. It helps to be a quick learner in these situations; have a back-up plan if it goes wrong. A vital element of presence is flexibility, my colleague once said – ‘surprise is the enemy of competence’. When we are surprised, we lose impact and presence. So be flexible, think about difficult questions you might be asked and be able to change your delivery if it isn’t going well.


To explore any of these topics further, please see our Enhancing Personal Impact and Presence one-day seminar, which David delivers. The next one will be on 15 October 2019.