Command presence is a term that was developed in the military to describe someone who had the quality of a leader, especially those who would be leading soldiers into battle. The term has since been generalized to business and other settings. Command presence is an elusive quality, but you know it when you see it. Command presence takes place when you walk into a room, office, or any situation and you realize that there is someone who is in charge, even when he or she is not formally in charge. Command presence is communicated both verbally and nonverbally. It is an elusive quality, partly because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For people who have it, their personality and charisma fills up the room.
Brad: When my daughter was 8, she was in a ballet class. I remember going into the class and sitting down on the floor with some of the other parents. This ballet teacher had 16 8-year-old students and the attending parents' total attention. As I watched the ballet teacher demonstrate the steps she wanted her students to emulate, I remember thinking that not only did she have the attention of everyone in the room, but also, that she was a remarkably tall woman. I was shocked when I stood up at the end of the class, to see that this remarkably tall woman was in fact, rather short. Her command presence augmented both her physical and psychological stature.
Some political leaders, such as Winston Churchill were able to use command presence to help change the tide of history. Other leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu, were able to use command presence to change society. Some movie actors have developed it. Watch Paper Chase with John Houseman or Mandela and DeKlerk, where Sydney Poitier as Nelson Mandela and Michael Caine as DeKlerk, give unbelievably masterful performances as examples of towering command presence. You can also watch Martin Sheen in the television show The West Wing where just the way he walks into a room demonstrates command presence.
For actors and presenters, command presence is called stage presence. You can get a strong sense of stage presence in the world of professional speaking by seeing or listening to Tony Campello, Jeanne Robertson, Marcia Steele, Les Brown, or Peter Legge who, within 10 seconds of beginning to speak, demonstrate command presence. In summary, command presence radiates a sense that the people who possess it are comfortable with themselves and they have a strong sense of who they are and what they represent. They also have the energy level, vitality, and ability to inspire people to dream of a better future by changing the way they think and moving them to action.
One of the most important things aspiring Master Presenters can do is to develop their command presence. One of the first steps is to do an honest inventory of where you have command presence and where you need to develop it. First, you can observe people who have command presence and notice how they behave. Second, you can interview people who have command presence and ask them how they developed it. Third, you can ask for feedback on your command presence and they must be honest enough to tell you the truth. The following exercise has been designed to help you develop your command presence.
Please make three specific suggestions of things you could do to increase your sense of command presence.
Total Quality Improvement is a continuous process requiring constant analysis, assessment, and adjustment. Just as the world's best manufacturers use Total Quality Improvement to improve their products, Master Presenters depend on the 12 techniques in this chapter to help them develop and implement their goals, and improve and enhance every presentation. However, there is one more thing that Master Presenters do to continually improve the skills and strategies as a presenter by setting a lifelong goal to become a lifelong learner. It is to this last factor that we will now turn our attention.