Stage presence is a funny thing.
You know when someone “has it” but you don’t always know exactly why.
A lot of people think you’re either born with it or you aren’t. Maybe you learned it from years of practice.
This is why stage presence is something that’s so hard to teach: many don’t actually know what stage presence even is.
Here’s my most basic definition of stage presence:
Stage presence = being present on the stage.
Often, this accompanies confidence and, quite often, an evident enjoyment. But at its basic level stage presence means exactly what it purports itself to be: presence.
What does presence mean? Someone is present on stage just by standing on stage, right? What’s the difference with someone who exudes “stage presence?”
The answer is critical: it's a sort of shift.
It’s a shift away from the chattering mind giving direction and making critical judgments like a tape loop.
It’s a full physical embodiment of your being, one that is wide awake, alert and existing as if in a river of easy flowing time. It’s difficult to talk about without getting a little metaphorical.
We are all present already, because we are physically here. It’s just that our attention is often enamored with those chattering thoughts in the mind (insert your own if you’d like):
I can’t do this
I need to do this
I’m going to mess this up
I’m too smart for this
I want to look good
I want the audience be inspired
I want the audience to like me
And there’s the big one:
The audience is not going to like me
It’s all day long, really, the incessant chatter of the mind talking and talking, usually quite repetitively.
This is what the mind does: it thinks. It’s a wonderful tool when used as such.
You wouldn’t be reading this blog without it.
But the thoughts themselves are often so dominating of our attention, that we’re missing out on quite a large proportion of our worldly experience. We’re usually pretty disconnected from the moment at hand—and we’re disconnected from our bodies.
In fact, this is the key to presence: noticing what is present.
That even means noticing the thoughts passing rather than immersing yourself in the content of the thoughts.
It can be pretty tricky just watching thoughts. They are quite good at drawing in our attention so that we forget we’re immersed in them.
And here’s the kicker: we can’t have thoughts about the present moment.
As a thought occurs, the moment in which it arose has already passed.
Most of our thoughts are either commenting on something that has already happened or projecting into the future.
[Notice here if there are any judgmental thoughts interfering with you seeing this fully in this moment].
I know that, for me, it was a real eye opener when I first realized I am not my thoughts.
I remember watching the thoughts in my head wondering how I’d never really noticed them before.
And that’s really all this presence thing is: just noticing that the thoughts you are having are noticed!
Let me put it a different way.
As you are reading, do you notice there is a voice narrating in your mind?
There is the voice of the words being read, and then there is the awareness noticing the voice narrating the words.
That awareness is present to the thought, it is aware in this moment. No matter the commentary or content going on in the mind, this awareness is always happening right now.
This awareness is pivotal to stage presence.