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The #1 skill we all need.

Sitting in church on Easter Sunday, I was thinking about you. And your presentation skills. Okay, not the whole time I was sitting in church on Easter Sunday. But you did cross my mind.

Because I was listening to different individuals speak … and feeling their impact on the people in the pews. Here’s what I noticed. There were some announcements and some readings and the clergy and lay people who shared them with us were fine.

Then there was a call for children to come up to the front of the sanctuary. And the youth minister talked to them … and us … in a way that was radically different from anything that had come before.

His voice was strong. His tone was conversational. His energy was powerful. You could feel his impact on the kids right in front of him and on the adults in the pews as well. The way he spoke enhanced what he said.

And it’s like that for all of us.

What we say matters. How we say it can change everything.

These days, the people who do the hiring for almost any position want, expect, and even demand good presentation skills, and that typically includes speaking on virtual platforms now, as well as in conference rooms or auditoriums.

We’d expect a job in sales to require a person to speak well. Or maybe a management position. Or a corporate training gig. And of course they do.

But employers also insist on excellent presentation skills for purchasing managers, medical safety experts, financial analysts, systems engineers, logistics specialists … it goes on and on.

That means when you’re looking for a job, a consulting assignment, or a professional services engagement, it behooves you to be excellent at engaging an audience and expressing yourself with confidence and clarity.

I have a couple of thoughts about that. (This doesn’t come as a surprise, I’m sure.)

First of all, for a skill that seems to be in universal demand, people are surprisingly reluctant to invest their time, energy, and money into getting better at it.

I don’t know for sure what holds them back; do you? Maybe they really don’t understand how important it is. Maybe they think “good enough” really is good enough. Or maybe it’s just fear.

And – I think there’s some misunderstanding. “Presentation skills” is convenient shorthand; we know what it means. But I’m convinced people really want something bigger than being able to give a speech to a group.

It’s not just about presentation; it’s about Presence.

Presentation skills are about what you say and do at the front of the room or in front of a camera. Presence is about how you be with your audience. Being trumps saying and doing every time.

Yes, it matters how you stand, what you do with your hands, whether you’re speaking loudly and clearly enough for everyone in the room to hear you. It especially matters whether you can make eye contact with the people listening to you. All those skills count.

But the most important issue is whether you’re fully, completely there, exuding energy.

When it comes to speaking about your work, you must be Present to win.

Not long ago, I heard a panel of people who hire speakers telling an audience of speakers wanting to be hired that the days of the perfect, polished, professional presentation are over.

The emphasis now is on interaction and engagement.

That’s what event planners want, they told us, when they put a speaker on stage at a conference or association meeting. And some very successful “old-school” speakers are beginning to find themselves in less demand as a result.

This talk about a shift in the speaking business was music to my ears; audience interaction and engagement are among my better things.

At the same time, I see implications for people who are not professional speakers and don’t want to be.

If you talk about your work in a departmental meeting, at a networking event, or in a sales call, you are a speaker. And yes, that even applies if you tell the people in your congregation where to meet for coffee-and after the service. You need those “strong presentation skills.”

Even more than that, you need the Presence to create a connection with your audience.

You’re looking for the kind of connection that leads to engagement and interaction. Engagement and interaction, in turn, lead to people saying yes. Yes, to your idea. Yes, to your product or service. Yes … to you.