To Be Present or Not to Be Present? And How To Know the Difference…

What do we expect most from  pre­sen­ters? To grasp our atten­tion, to catch us by the qual­ity of their pres­ence and to make us remem­ber them. To make a last­ing impres­sion and to feel con­nected with them. (Like this frog. Hmm, or maybe not…, any­way, it’s mem­o­rable!) To be fully present. Here and now. What does it mean for each of us? How does it look, sound and feel like when we are present and when we are NOT present? How to develop this “Pres­ence”? This is going to be a  short new series of posts. Today,  I will focus on iden­ti­fy­ing “pres­ence” and intro­duce you to the woman who inspires me most in my work, every sin­gle day, Patsy Roden­burg.

The most pre­cious gift we can offer oth­ers is our presence.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Try­ing to grasp pres­ence is like catch­ing but­ter­flies…I have been research­ing this theme of pres­ence for years and observ­ing what makes one per­son stand out from another when speak­ing in pub­lic. Yes­ter­day, I was attend­ing a pas­sion­ate con­fer­ence and debate on the con­tro­ver­sial theme of men-women equal­ity in Lyon. Guest speak­ers were among the best in their field, all sea­sonned experts and strongly com­mit­ted to engage with the large and eager audi­ence. Yet, as I observed them one after the other, I couldn’t help notic­ing the huge gaps between them, in terms of qual­ity of pres­ence. It was imme­di­ately reflected by the inten­sity of the applause and the level of inter­ac­tion with the audience.

What’s the secret? It’s the quest of the Graal for every­one embark­ing on a jour­ney of devel­op­ing excel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion skills. Some call it charisma and  believe that you either have it or not, which is pretty dis­cour­ag­ing for the aver­age ordi­nary presenter…

I am con­vinced that each of us is born with a beau­ti­ful nat­ural pres­ence that awaits to bloom.

When mind­ful­ness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

There again, — Thich Nhat Hanh

We sim­ply un-learn how to man­i­fest it when we grow up. Just like bold­ness, which I devel­oped in last week’s post, we don’t know any­more how to express our com­mon human gift of pres­ence. Read “Re-learning to be Bold”. Fear of judge­ment, fear of rejec­tion, inse­cu­rity, fear of expos­ing one’s self “naked”, vul­ner­a­ble are among the main rea­sons why we lose this presence.We can all re-learn to man­i­fest and develop our pres­ence. First, we need to know the dif­fer­ence between being present and not being present.

One woman has devel­oped a sim­ply fan­tas­tic approach to pres­ence. Her name is Patsy Roden­burg. She’s Britain’s most esteemed voice and act­ing coach. Rodenburg’s busi­ness is to iden­tify and har­ness “Pres­ence.” She has worked with all these famous actors:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, Hugh Jack­man, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGre­gor, Nicole Kid­man. Patsy Roden­burg has helped them  iden­tify what she calls the “Sec­ond Cir­cle” zone, where pres­ence really takes place.

To live life to its fully Sec­ond Cir­cle poten­tial, you really need to allow your­self to return to the pos­i­tive pres­ence you were born with”

Here’s a short video where she demon­strates the three cir­cles of energy and explains what it means to be in the sec­ond cir­cle, the give and the take of being present.

How do you know when you are in the sec­ond circle?

You are in Sec­ond Cir­cle if you:

  • Feel Cen­tered and Alert
  • Feel your body belongs to you
  • Feel the earth through your feet
  • Feel your breath is easy and complete
  • Know you reach peo­ple and they hear you when you speak
  • Notice details in oth­ers — their eyes, their moods, their anxieties
  • Are curi­ous about a new idea, not judgmental
  • Hear clearly
  • Acknowl­edge the feel­ings of others
  • See, hear, smell, touch some­thing new which focuses this energy inside the whole of you

From Patsy Rodenberg’s book, The Sec­ond Cir­cle.

In my next posts, I will pro­vide exam­ples of speak­ers who are speak­ing from this sec­ond cir­cle and also explore the dif­fer­ent approaches accord­ing to gen­der, espe­cially in busi­ness rela­tion­ships. If you have been read­ing my post on the Goldilocks syn­drome in pub­lic speak­ing, you can see the links between the soft, almost apol­o­giz­ing “too cold” voice and the first cir­cle and the aggres­sive, con­trol­ling “too hot” voice with the third circle.

I believe both men and women need to find their own bal­ance, their own voice, which is nei­ther hyper fem­i­nine, nei­ther hyper mas­cu­line, but a “right” mix­ture of both dimen­sions, accord­ing to their per­son­al­i­ties and to the con­text. Both women and men need to learn to speak each other ‘s lan­guage and invent a new lan­guage of power. That’s really what coop­er­a­tion would mean for me, between men and women at work. Engag­ing a real dia­logue, not a fight for one’s gen­der and priviledge.

That was one of the con­clu­sions of yesterday’s debate on coop­er­a­tion between women and men at work. Gen­er­a­tion Y man­agers and work­ers are fed up with the sound and the look of power today. Young women don’t iden­tify with women lead­ers as “mas­cu­line” role-models. What’s new is that young men also reject the dom­i­nant “macho” cul­tural model and are look­ing for a diver­sity in the ways to express their mas­culin­ity and even­tu­ally, a new model of Power and Leadership.

We are not inter­ested by power the way you’ve built it.”

(“Le pou­voir tel que vous l’avez con­struit ne nous inter­esse pas.” )

- Car­o­line Weber. HEC au féminin.

Men want to be able to say I don’t know. But we are going to find solu­tions together”

Men want to be able to express their suf­fer­ing and even be able to cry.”

Men want to break free from the norms of the masculinestraitjacket.”

(“Les hommes veu­lent pou­voir sor­tir du car­can des normes masculines.”)

–François Fatoux, Directeur général de l’ORSE  (Obser­va­toire sur la Respon­s­abil­ité Socié­tale des Entreprises)

I expect plenty of com­ments and reac­tions to this post! Please share your thoughts and ques­tions with us, it will also feed the next posts.

What would the new voice of power look?

Related posts:

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7 Responses to To Be Present or Not to Be Present? And How To Know the Difference…

  1. Jon Hansen says:

    Iron­i­cally, I just deliv­ered a keynote via remote Inter­net feed to an audi­ence of 400 that was a hit … read about it her @

  2. AnnLewis says:

    Great post, Mar­ion, and spot on as always. I love Patsy Rodenberg’s work — it’s pro­found, but I find that coach­ing clients ‘get it’ imme­di­ately because it’s so phys­i­cally based and recognisable.

    Thank you for fol­low­ing the golden thread that leads to authen­tic pres­ence — it’s at the route of everything.


    • AnnLewis says:

      That should read ‘at the root of every­thing’, of course! Apologies.


    • admin says:

      It’s a won­der­ful com­pli­ment, Ann to acknowl­edge my work as the golden thread to authen­tic pres­ence. If I could con­tribute a tiny bit I’d be very happy.
      Yes, I too believe it’s the route of every­thing.
      Thank you for tak­ing the time to stop by and enrich my day with YOUR pres­ence on this blog.

  3. Pingback: How to Present with Impact using the 4 Ps’ Approach? | Geronimo Coaching Now

  4. Mar­ion, thanks for the info on Patsy’s 2nd Circle–I think this per­fectly describes the space you need to be in for social artistry, some­thing I’m really explor­ing in greater depth. I actu­ally strive to be in that 2nd Cir­cle as much as pos­si­ble. It’s what feels the most right and nat­ural to me and is actu­ally one of my career goals–to live there as much as pos­si­ble. Great post!

    • admin says:

      Michelle, I can’t wait to hear what you think after you read Patsy’s sec­ond cir­cle book, which I know you have ordered just after read­ing this post. I am very curi­ous about your notion of social artistry. I guess we can build mean­ing­ful and trust­ing con­nec­tions & rela­tion­ships. To be followed…Thanks for keep­ing the con­ver­sa­tion alive, Michele!

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