On a radio show this morning, I got asked: “How would you rate President Trump on presence?”

Although I’m not a fan, there’s no question, Trump has presence. He commands attention.

The average attention span, experts say, is now 8 seconds. But when was the last time you went an entire day, or even 10 minutes, without thinking, talking, or reading about President Trump?

On the radio, I suggested that for Trump, being president is almost like a hobby; his real job: king of everyone’s attention. 

So yes, he has presence.

Presence begins (but doesn’t end) with confidence.  But you don’t have to feel confident to act confident.

Suppose you’re giving a high-stakes presentation. You might be anxious; that’s natural.  The mistake is to announce it.

“I’m a little nervous up here,” you tell your audience, “because I’m under- prepared, and over-caffeinated. Also, the entire left side of my body just went completely numb.”

You’re basically saying, “Audience, don’t expect too much.  In fact, let’s not focus on you at all.  Let’s worry about me.”   

Imagine if other professionals did this:

Pilot to passengers:  “This is the first time I’ve ever flown such an enormous plane.  Our flight today may be a little jumpy.  God knows, I am.  Hey, what’s that gizmo over there—wonder if it does anything important?”

Doctor to patient:  “You’re not sick, are you?  I hate that.  Please cover your mouth, and stop coughing so much.  I’m just getting over a horrible stomach virus.  I really feel gross—much worse than this stupid thing you’ve got.”

What do doctors, pilots, and presidents have in common?  Acting.

“There have been times in this office,” President Reagan said, “when I’ve wondered how you could do the job if you hadn’t been an actor.”

But we’re not talking about professional acting.  We’re talking about “acting as if.”

“Acting as if” is what you do each day when the alarm goes off, and you struggle out of bed.  You need to suit up.

Then, once at work, you need to act as if there’s no place you’d rather be. 

That’s the secret of “presence.”  It sounds like an inner state—but no one knows your inner state.  People infer “presence” based on how you act. 

How do you act? 

Tip:  Presence starts with confidence.  You can ACT confident without feeling confident.  Little things matter—posture, eye contact, vocal volume. 

If you act confident enough times, eventually the feeling will show up. 

Don’t wait.


1. DYNAMIC SPEAKING Workshop/BostonLimited to 7 people. March 26 & 27, 2019

2. YOU’VE GOT 8 SECONDS: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World, named one of the best biz books of the year by an obscure, but obviously brilliant, Canadian newspaper. Available in print, kindle, audio.

3. Are you an executive, a technical expert, or a U.S. president? We offer coaching.

P.P.S. There are at least 10 actions that contribute to “presence.” President Trump, for example, would score high on “command,” low on “humility.” For more: You’ve Got 8 Seconds

Click here to get these fast tips.

© Copyright 2019 Paul Hellman.  All rights reserved.