Here is an adage about Presence – one of my very own as it happens:
“We spend so many waking hours at work, we may as well bother to remember to ‘turn up’ behind our own eye sockets!”
(All my own work Ladies & Gentlemen – and here all week!)
So yes, why is it, that so often, we fail to remember to “turn up”, when the stakes are high – when it really matters – and it’s time to present?
In a nutshell it’s because we worry too much and we get distracted.
So much of modern life is fundamentally distracting and conspires to take us away from the immediate present – or the “here and the now” as psychologists often refer to it as being – and our focus and attention therefore tends to drift, taking us elsewhere.
And if we’re not there – if we’ve metaphorically “left the building” – then how can we possibly expect our audiences’ attention to stick and stay with us, as we witter and wibble on as “Captain Absent” taking them on a vague old journey to who knows where?
From a psychological point of view, we generally fail to be truly “present” because our psyche tends to take us to one of two other places instead:
We either tend to spend our time and energy worrying about the past – concentrating and focussing on “stuff that has already happened” – or, we worry about the future – concentrating and focussing on “stuff that’s yet to come”.
Thus, ironically, when it’s time to present to an audience, when it really matters and focus is required, we’ve generally forgotten to bring ourselves along.
And did you know, that interestingly, there’s also something else that you’re battling against in order to maintain focus and attention on the part of the audience – as if your own level of distraction wasn’t quite enough?
“Not a lot of people know this…” (cue best Sir Michael Caine impression) “…but did you know” (the impression’s finished now) that research shows, that at least 37% of the time that you are communicating with a fellow human being, they too are fundamentally “elsewhere” and/or away with the fairies, busy having what I like to refer to as being one of their “gone to the supermarkets of their choice” moments in their heads?
On our courses we often refer to this fundamental ‘distraction of attention’ on the parts of ourselves and of our audiences as being the “Monsters of Distraction”.
And proof of it – of this very monster’s existence – is very easy to reveal:
At the point of naming it in my facilitation, I simply ask the group that I’m presenting to a question and invite them to fess-up!
“Come on – admit it! Who here in this room has been ‘elsewhere’ since I’ve been talking to you this morning?!”
And then, after a brief pause, all hands tend to go up…
Monstrous proof (see what I did there?!) about what a flippin’ ‘attention deficit minefield’ it is that we’re all perpetually wading through, in order to communicate well and effectively.
The fact that this element of distraction exists is not anything to get offended by, it’s just a fact of human nature.
But it is how we work with it and counteract it, that is important:
To counteract the distraction you need to be present, energised and focussed whenever you present.
Remember to keep your communication engaging and interesting so that you remain the most interesting and engaging element in the room to be sure of keeping your audiences attention:
Don’t let them get distracted by the POWER of your communication.
Communicating is actually an “athletic activity”. To do it well, requires energy and commitment.
And whatever you do, remember to be in the moment, stay in the building and be truly PRESENT yourself…