Mastering Presence in Communication: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Embracing Authenticity

The Power of Presence in an Information-Overloaded World

In a world overflowing with information, the true challenge lies not in acquiring knowledge, but in mastering the art of presence in communication. Presence, the subtle yet powerful force that captures attention and inspires trust, is the key to making a lasting impact. But how can we cultivate this elusive quality and stand out in a sea of voices?

All the answers you could ever want (and many you don’t want) can be found with a simple search online. 

But despite having all the secrets published online to running a 7-figure side hustle, getting 6-pack abs, 5-year plans to becoming economically independent (etc.) very few people seem to have any of these things.

Information on its own is simply not enough to inspire change. In fact, the abundance of information is leaving people in analysis paralysis. Now sorting and sifting through all the information and trying to make a plan that would get results is often harder than carrying out the plan itself. Even if we do manage to cobble a plan together it’s often difficult to carry it out on our own without support. 

An abundance of one thing means a rarity of another. Where there is abundant information, what’s scarce now is wisdom and insight. We need someone with a plan we can trust and that can support us with both the right information and insight. 

So what conveys that wisdom? It’s not something that comes across in your resume or your business card or in any snappy elevator pitch. It’s something everyone wants, but for most, it’s difficult to define what presence is or means…

Presence is the hidden magic between your words. It’s the tone and rhythm that conveys mastery and inspires trust. It conveys the energy and passion that you have before you even start speaking. It’s the subtle ability to make your audience feel. 

This quote from Maya Angelou is more true than ever in this world of information overload. 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You can have a perfect script, but without presence, your words fall flat. You can have no script and be caught by surprise with a chance to speak, and with presence, you can move mountains. 

Presence is not something that is confined to being in-person or on stage. It’s just as essential, if not more so online and on social media.

Before we go into the key ingredients of presence, let’s look at how most experts block their presence when speaking.

The Paralysis of Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome It

Imposter syndrome impacts leaders at every level of success and is persistent and ever-evolving through our journey. 

I enjoy rock climbing as a fun way to move my body and exercise. When I’m up on a challenging climb and I start to feel insecure I over-grip. I’m holding on harder than I need to because I’m anxious which ends up wasting my energy faster. The more I over-grip, the more likely I am to fall, or quit. 

Imposter syndrome has the same effect on our marketing and sales process, especially in high-stakes environments like when we’re speaking in front of an audience. 

When we feel imposter syndrome we feel the need to overcompensate by sharing as much as possible to prove our excellence. 

But at the heart of it, it means we’re focused on ourselves and trying to prove ourselves, rather than our listeners and what they need. The cure is simple (but not always easy) refocus yourself on those who are listening to you and what they need, rather than proving yourself to them.

The Pitfalls of Winging It: Structuring Your Message for Impact

This may seem counterintuitive, to some. Many people believe that having a script or following a framework for teaching or storytelling is “inauthentic” and going without is “being themselves”. 

When you’re winging it, your brain is working hard to both find and filter out what to say next. If you’re smart (I know you are) then you’re sorting and sifting through a tremendous amount of information.

A speaker improvising a speech, with visible confusion and lack of focus.

Have you ever been driving a car with the music on and you need to make a tight parking spot or navigate traffic, so you turn the music down? You’ve got to turn down the noise to be more focused. Navigating speaking a great podcast interview or creating a YouTube video is just the same. You’re driving with the stereo blasting so loud you can’t see where you’re going.

When you understand the when, where and how to tell a story or teach with purpose. Your brain quiets down and allows you to be present, respond to the audience, and feel more than you think.

Great actors and musicians don’t think like this, they know that they need to memorize and internalize the lines, lyrics, and notes they need to play so they can be more present and evocative. Nobody sees a guitarist doing a well-practiced solo and thinks “They’re being inauthentic… gross”.

Related Podcast: 3 Silent Sales Killers and 3 Storytelling Solutions

Bridging the Understanding Gap: Connecting with Your Audience

Experts and thought leaders like you have worked hard to develop the skills and knowledge that underpins everything you do. But this creates its own set of problems. 

Our experience creates a gap of understanding between us and the listener, we often assume our listener understands and knows everything we know. We speak and teach and share oblivious to this gap which means we’re not being present to our listener but stuck in our own head, teaching what feels good and interesting for us, but not necessarily valuable to the listener.

Related Article: A Smarter Way To Create Engaging Customer Avatars (With A Template)

The Four Key Ingredients of Presence in Communication: The L.E.A.P.

While the ingredients below are simple to lay out and intellectualize, you’ll find that presence is very much a practice that needs to be fostered and integrated over a long period of time. And so in this post, I’ve included action steps and practices to help you get started with each of these and develop presence in your everyday interactions. This will naturally translate into better results when you’re speaking and selling. 

🧠 Ingredient 1: Listening – The Art of Silent Connection Listening isn’t just about hearing words – it’s about forging an unspoken connection. There’s a profound impact to active listening, decoding the language of nonverbal cues, and quieting your mind to truly absorb what’s being shared.

This most obviously translates to 1 on 1 sales conversations or networking. We’re often so caught up in what we want to say next that we do not listen.

When you begin to understand key storytelling frameworks, what great stories are built around and how to teach, you can listen precisely for the ingredients you need to craft the story or share the ideas that will move your listener to action.

While this may not immediately make sense when considering listening while speaking on stage or on a podcast, it translates to being truly focused on the audience’s needs and desires versus your own. There are subtle cues that you can observe even from the stage or a podcast. Look for eye contact, head nods, and small nonverbal cues to see how your message is resonating.

When you record yourself speaking in front of an audience, focus your camera not on you, but on the audience so you can review when they were most and least engaged. This is possible on zoom recordings too by recording in gallery view.

Practice: The “Three-Pause Rule” – In conversations, consciously pause three times before responding. This pause allows you to absorb what’s being said fully and respond more thoughtfully, enhancing your active listening skills.

Listening is a skill that deserves its own post if not a book, A single practice or idea is just the beginning on this journey. If you want to learn more here’s a great article I found recently on Mindful Listening to be more present and have better conversations.

💖 Ingredient 2: Empathy – The key to empathy is being able to articulate your audience’s problems and desires in their language (not your expert language). If you can describe the problem better than they can, they’ll believe you’ve got the solution.

Practice: Empathy Interviews – Connect with your audience and ask open-ended questions about their challenges and aspirations. Make it a habit to understand their perspective deeply.

Spend time writing out in your clients’ language how they see and describe their problems, not to you but how they would with a friend over coffee. You can take this a step further and consider their secret fears underneath this, how do they talk about this problem in their own head but would never dare to admit it to anyone else?

If you can tap into this language you can find stories from your own life that resonate, where you can share this language and bridge the gap between you and your listener.

🌟 Ingredient 3: Authenticity – Your secret weapon in the world of storytelling. Authenticity is being comfortable enough with your own flaws, scars and shortcomings to share the valuable lessons from them in a way that serves the listener. It’s also your courage to share the unique quirks of your personality and lifestyle in a way that makes your work one of a kind.

If you’re doing your empathy interviews and know how your audience feels about the problem you’ve got a context and reason to share your vulnerable moments with purpose. This turns the moments from your past that you were once ashamed of into catalyzing times that define and make you proud of who you are. Your vulnerability in sharing them creates trust.

Practice: The Emotional Compass: Use your client’s language describing their problem by speaking the language out loud and doing your best to conjure the emotions that arise when you speak these words. Once you feel it, ask yourself: “When did I feel like this?” Identify a personal story or experience that highlights a valuable lesson, flaw, or challenge you’ve overcome. Share this story authentically with your audience, making sure it serves a purpose.

Related Podcast: Can Authenticity Be Manipulative?

🎉 Ingredient 4: Playfulness – Playfulness in content, speaking and sales is a sign of mastery. It shows you’re comfortable and you’re prepared enough to be able to improve and respond to what’s happening in the moment instead of clinging to a tired script. Playfulness is possible when you’re comfortable enough with your content and ideas to be able to focus on the moment and engage the listener instead of constantly trying to think of what to say next. It’s about being confident in your message and purpose instead of feeling the need to prove yourself through your knowledge.

Practice: Improvisation Exercises:

  • Incorporate improvisation exercises into your daily routine. Practice responding spontaneously to unexpected prompts or scenarios, whether through role-play or creative storytelling.

    Here are a few scenarios you can try with partners:
    • The Impromptu Presentation: Assign a random topic to each participant and give them a few minutes to prepare a short impromptu presentation. The more unfamiliar the better. Have fun and try to make the presentation as persuasive as possible. This exercise encourages quick thinking and adaptability.
    • The Counter Argument: Each person is given a controversial topic and has to construct a persuasive argument for or against it. The catch is, you argue for or against the opposite side that you would naturally choose. This exercise hones persuasion and debate skills and gives you the opportunity to consider different perspectives.
    • The Storytelling Relay: Collaboratively tell a story where each participant adds a sentence or two, building on the previous person’s contribution. The challenge is to keep the narrative coherent and engaging.

Honorable Mention: Posture and body language

While this does not fit into the fun acronym of LEAP, its worth mentioning that posture and body language play a twofold role in increasing your presence. How you hold yourself and present yourself will speak volumes to your listener and actually impacts how you feel about yourself. Having better posture makes your feel more confident.

Related Podcast: 8 Dynamite Non-Verbal Communication Strategies

In the quest for presence, we’ve explored the four vital ingredients: listening, empathy, authenticity, and playfulness. Hopefully by now you realize that understanding is not enough to be present; it takes practice and commitment both to mastering your content and to weaving these elements into your daily life that true mastery is achieved.

Presence isn’t a fleeting concept; it’s a skill, an art, and a way of life. Your journey towards heightened presence is a continuous process, turning each interaction into an opportunity for growth. Challenge yourself to apply these principles consistently, not just in your sales presentations but in your interactions with everyone you encounter. Embrace the discomfort of stepping outside your comfort zone playfully, for it is in those moments of growth that your presence will truly shine.

Here’s to your journey toward presence, shaping not only your sales but your entire life. Keep practicing, keep growing, and let your presence light your path to success.

If you enjoyed this article, you’re going to love my upcoming book! Join the waitlist now and get access to The Story Blueprint, a powerful 1-sheet document that allows you to map out all the key stories you need to create a high impact talk that effortlessly enrolls your ideal clients.

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