‘The only limit to your impact is your imagination and your commitment.'
It is pretty simple to understand, but challenging to apply: to maximise your personal impact at work, you need to devise ways to maximise your stage presence.
In the business world, of course we do not think about 'stage presence' very much. There is too much to be getting on with, meetings, presentations, projects, client visits, reports, work winning, staff management, budgeting, the list is endless. Why on earth should we think in terms of the actor's world of stage presence?
You want to make a big impact at work? Then focus on your stage presence.
Sometimes a mind-set change is really healthy. This change happened to me in my thirties whilst working in the pharmaceuticals industry. I realised I was not being paid for what I did, but for what others thought about what I did. Whilst I was understandably judging my performance on how well I did my tasks, others had a more complex view. Sure, what I did was important to them, but my persona, the way they felt around me, the trust levels they felt or didn’t feel, all these were factors I had not considered. I was focused on everything in my work performance except my stage presence.
For example, in meetings I attended, I had a certain technical expertise and reputation. But I didn’t influence much, and didn’t make much of an impact. This meant that the problems and solutions I had identified were being overshadowed by others and therefore not properly considered. I was being upstaged by colleagues, and so were the issues I raised. In this sense they were smarter than me, they had developed their stage presence whilst I had neglected mine.
Stage presence is a much-misunderstood thing. It is often taken to mean a high level of power, dominating through strength of character. It does not mean fire works, high volume, high speed and high intensity. Think of Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lector. Loud? Fast? No. Quite the opposite. But Stage presence? By the bucket load.
Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance", a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.
I’ll share an example of an ex-client and friend who has the greatest stage presence of anyone I know. In a conversation, others wait for his lead. He listens and smiles when others talk. He welcomes what others say. Then at some point, others turn and say … “Dave, what do you think?”
When Dave is asked his view, he clarifies by asking questions before disclosing his opinion.. Then everyone in the group awaits his verdict. Interestingly, this is nothing to do with his seniority, I have seen this happen many times in social groups. The guy simply has stage presence, so much so that people instinctively want to know what he thinks.
So , how does he do it? Dave pauses and looks at everyone before he says anything. He uses silences. He speaks quietly. He asks permission to ask a question, then asks. He sees a person struggling, allows the struggle for a short while, and then says ‘If I may make a suggestion …’. Always polite and supportive, never destructive or critical.
Stage presence needn’t be all ‘big bang’. The most powerful people are often the quietest. If you are very competent but not naturally outgoing and want to develop stage presence, you don’t have to be the crazy life and soul. Just like Dave, if you want to make an impact, have your thoughts truly heard, and not left in the shadows remember you don't have to shout from the rooftops or create explosions.
For some tips and thoughts on how to enhance your personal impact take a look at Part 1 of our Stage Presence e-Briefs, written by actor and theatre director Nicol Cortese.
If you want to consider putting a personal impact improvement plan in place, you will find more useful practical techniques on our resources page...
|Our author is Nicol Cortese, professional actress and director, with both TV and theatre experience. Nicol has written a series of 3 eBriefs to help you focus on your personal stage presence at work.