What makes great speakers so rare?
The world is full of intelligent, personable, articulate people with something of value to share, yet few of them have the ability to seize and hold the absolute attention and imagination of an audience.
Almost anyone can learn to be a good speaker. You can learn to create a sound presentation structure, deliver it in a clear and comfortable manner and present yourself with confidence and authority, but great speakers go beyond that. They bring a presence to the stage or the boardroom that makes them mesmerizing.
Naming it “Presence”, however, does us no good, any more than calling what Michael Jordan had, “Talent” or naming Einstein’s gift, “Genius”. Both are true, but that’s hardly illuminating or useful.
The seed of understanding, however, is in the word itself. To have presence is to be present, to be in the present, to be fully engaged in the present moment.
When we speak, our minds are often so busy frantically multitasking to process past events, future fears and the six other things we need to get done today, that we fail to pay full attention to what we are doing right now.
This is especially true if we are working from a script or presentation slide bullet points. When we let the script or the slides drive the speech, it frees our minds for those other important tasks, such wallowing in our nervousness, searching for an escape route or speculating on lunch options. It can reduce us to a meat robots, spewing empty words at the audience. After all, the words are already set. There’s no need to think about them.
To be fully present when we speak is to be completely focused on the meaning of the words coming out of our mouths, on the implications and intentions behind the words and on the people before us and their reactions to our words. It is the literal presence of mind to engage interactively with our audience, while retaining complete control of our message and purpose. It is the purest distillation of the true communication of meaning between people.
In that moment, when your absolute focus draws their absolute attention, you can teach, motivate, inspire and influence at the deepest and most profound level. You too can achieve greatness as a speaker.