I used to think there was nothing more to the idea of "showing up" than simply that. I would go to conferences, panel discussions and networking nights. At each one, showing up in the room, having positive exchanges, gathering a few business cards and joining in on group discussions as I chose. Then, after a few years of doing so, I realized I needed to do more than just show up, I had to stand out in some way and as authentically as possible.
As I often do, I turned to my actor training, shifting my internal monologue to a more curious one, embracing each moment by moment as it came into play at these various events. I set intentions and reflected on them before walking in the room. I joined in with breakout groups at conferences, seeking to radiate as much as listen & speak within each group. I held my head higher & lighter, listened with gently parted lips and spoke simple and confidently, often asking more questions than offering up thoughts. I was on a journey to deeply explore and uncover my purpose in each space I visited.
I learned one of the hardest things in all of this, was to understand the power of my presence. It's hard to find it when you go looking and yet also, so purely simple to find inside yourself. If you work in an industry where you seek to inspire and motivate others to change the world for the better on a daily basis like I do, nailing how to absorb and read a room with your mere presence is a priceless gift.
Here are three tips to get you started on your journey towards showing up with spirit and transforming space:
I:) Claim Your Space, thoughtfully.
A few weeks ago, I found out that the state of Maine, where I live, is planning to host a women's conference for the first time ever in 2018. I work within a somewhat niche industry that supports women in philanthropy and social change so, upon learning that the planning committee was accepting new members, I sent out a quick email. But not just any email. I took the time to thoughtfully reflect on the value-add my presence could bring the conference, in addition to my perspective and opinion on philanthropy and social change. My advice: take your time with these emails to engage within new groups. Sometimes, it takes a good 10-15 minutes to craft a thoughtful email but claim your space with meaningful and insightful communication. Here is a draft below to get your thinking started:
Dear _______ ,
I was so thrilled recently to come across the opportunity to engage around your work. This __________ means so much to me and is a truly important place for individuals such as myself who are seeking to forge a meaningful career in ____________. That said, I wanted to write and ask to be invited to share my ideas with you all, one such idea being _________. I feel as if this type of thinking could greatly benefit those who are a part of your work and I would truly appreciate the chance to have a deeper discussion at some time in the coming weeks. Please contact me at ______________ and I look forward to connecting!
II:) Show Up, kindly.
I witness Millennials leaving various projects all the time. They claim their space, go to the first meeting or two, get frustrated and leave to find a new group or to start their own project. Fully showing up means being patience in the environment you’ve show up in. You might get sick of hearing that good ole statement: “this is the way we’ve always done it” but glue yourself to the chair and sit through it for a few weeks. There may be unseen insight for yourself that you obtain by listening and witnessing. For example, I started a youth program in my town in Maine and never would have created the program for undeserved young people in my state had I walked out of the first few slow, and even sometimes, offensive meetings. I claimed my space with presence, made my voice heard and stayed connected to a vision. What I was hoping to serve was bigger than me and a few old school board members so eventually, we got there together, as I kept pushing for change and they kept instilling bits of wisdom in me. So, be kind. See people as they are, respect what has been and push, a little each day, to create necessary shifts for success. We need to get intergenerational collaboration right NOW if we truly want to break the cycle and support the Gen Z's coming up behind us over the next few decades. If you're struggling with this, here is some sample language for your use, to show up and be kind, below:
"I'm so grateful for the way in which this work has always been done and I want to thank you for sharing _________ today. That truly resonated with me and I think we will use it to be successful in the coming weeks. In addition to that, I do think that __________ is the way in which we need to go about these other aspects of the project and I hope you can continue to support the thinking as this takes shape. I'd love to still have your insight on ________ and ___________ going forward."
There is always room for everyone and those who have been part of the work for a while, will appreciate your new ideas more if you're helping them find purpose in projects alongside you.
III:) Take a Theatre Class, soon.
Yup. Background in the arts or not, revisiting theatre and performance skills can DEEPLY help you in finding that radiance required to claim your space, show up thoughtfully, and inspire without even knowing you're doing it. Seeking new ways to receive and exchange energy in a space, craft nurturing moments and truly see the other people alongside you in your work, can turn you into an authentic and powerful relationship-building guru. Below, I share a simple actor training activity to put you back in touch with yourself and your colleagues, to become a radiant networking-presenting-professional with presence!
Look & Be Looked At:
Stand with your feet shoulder distance. Have a partner stand about 3 paces away from you, directly across the room. With gently parted lips and soft breathing, make eye contact with your partner. Giggle, laugh, cry, shout, let whatever comes up, come up. Then, look at each other with soft focus and breathe. Choose one person to go first and start to repeat exactly what you see on the other person: "I see two eyes, brown hair, etc..." Until you run out of insights as to what you both figuratively and practically see. Now, switch, intuitively and have the other person repeat the same, looking at you.
End the activity, without braking eye contact, by sharing, "I see you carry your sadness in your (chin, eyebrows, etc..) your anger in your ______ and your joy in your __________." Break eye contact. Reflect for a moment and talk about the experience of simply looking and being looked at. It may surprise you what you came to notice in your partner's face and expressions. And it will truly support you in seeing the entirety of each person you engage with in your daily interactions.