Be Present!

by Stephen Boyd | August 10, 2010

Woody Allen said, "It's not that I'm afraid to die; I just don't want to be there when it happens." When it comes to living, however, you want to be present!

I tell my students that one of the best ways to become a better public speaker in my class is to be present when other students are speaking. You may not have a speech to give yourself, but by coming to class on the days your classmates speak and listening carefully you will learn things to do or not to do in your next speech. Showing up at class is one of the important ways you learn to become a better speaker.

This is true not only in attending class, but this principle is true in any endeavor. You cannot find a college major called "Parenting;" no, you have to learn on your own. Here is one absolutely brilliant parenting principle: show up! Show up for the second grade play your child is in. Show up for her or his little league baseball game. Your child will remember and understand that by your attending his or her game, you show that your child is more important than golf, a job, making another sales call, or simply "forgetting." Showing up shows you care.

Become a better family member by showing up at all family events: reunions, birthday parties, funerals, weddings, and retirement gatherings. Couples will remember long afterward if you attended their wedding. You are present; you care, you affirm them, you let them know they are important.

I often write letters of recommendation for students who have been in my classes. The first question I ask myself in forming the content of the letter is, "Did this student attend class regularly?" Think about that—my first concern is not grade point average or quality of work in my class. No, it is "Did the student show up?"

What is one of the easiest ways to get fired from your job? Simply don't show up for a day or two. Employees can give very creative excuses for not showing up. One of my favorites is, “If it is all the same to you I won't be coming to work. The voices told me to clean all the guns today." Also "I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at the Wal-Mart." But being present is more important than being clever with excuses!

One of the greatest fears for a speaker is to get dates mixed up and not show up for a speaking engagement. I received a frantic call from a person responsible for providing a speaker for an after-dinner engagement a few years ago. The speaker had the wrong day and was not going to show up. He wanted me to be the substitute speaker that day!

There are certainly times when life challenges are great. One part of life where everyone can succeed is by just being present. It was also Woody Allen who said, "Ninety percent of success is just showing up."

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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