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What is Relational Presence? How is it possible that something so simple can not be explained until it is experienced?

A composition of quotes from Relational Presence Facilitators from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Hereby a translation of the transcript:

Stef de Beurs – about the threat of public speaking
It was a pure necessity. It was so that I had the threat of getting in front of a group and that threat alone was enough to “help, help, what am I going to do?”

Rian Verstrepen – about fear
One-on-one was okay, but if I had to tell something in front of a group, whatever it was or a speech at school or to introduce myself, then I would instantly become deaf, blind and dumb. And then I just had to wait and see.

Jennet Burghard – about not being aware
I was always so preoccupied with content, always preparing myself so well for everything and I was so trained in tricks, but I wasn’t really there. So it was performing, and not really connecting. Not showing myself. And I was unaware of that.

Rudolph Huizinga – about finding the solution
I was tipped by someone to come to a meeting in which the work of what we now call relational presence was presented. And within 10 minutes I knew what was the key to solving my problem: connection.

Paul Naveau – about focusing on your audience
The effect of Relational Presence is that your audience really feels engaged. Instead of a presentation where you are just sending your content. It becomes more of a conversation. And you’re still the one delivering the message.  But it’s really much more a dialogue, even though it doesn’t necessarily involve a lot of talking back and forth.

Danique Thuis – about being seen and heard
I think the magic was, what I really realized at that moment, people don’t really see and hear each other anymore. And that day it was suddenly like a bubble where that was truly happening. It released so much in people. I thought yes, this is the core: everyone just wants to be seen and heard in their essence.

Rian Verstrepen – about being present
Relational Presence helped me to go from my head to my heart in contact with others, without constantly worrying about what I was saying, whether it came across well, whether it was right.

Jennet Burghard – about creating safety
People often describe me as a good listener. I think they feel seen by me and safe.  They often describe that (in my work as a trainer) as ‘what a safe group, never been in such a safe group’.  And I know it’s the methodology at work, and how I am that. How it arises and is.

Stef de Beurs – about speaking in the moment
An example. I notice that I voluntarily offer to speak at a funeral of a client which I’ve known for 25 years to say something in the auditorium. And I only had two little words as an entrance and I didn’t have anything on paper. I went by just standing up and being present. And that was already fifteen years ago. It has brought me a lot.

Caroline Peet – about inner peace
I have that inner peace, I know where to find it. Yes, and apparently I then invite the other person to find their own peace as well.

Ardie Nooijen – about being yourself
I think every human being benefits from knowing and being themselves. And that it helps if you are okay with who you are. Relational Presence has helped me in that.

Hilde De Voghel – about happiness
Relational Presence, actually it is just instant happiness. Instant happiness.

Ready to experience this for yourself?

Check the calendar, where you can find live and online trainings offered by Relational Presence Facilitators. Or contact a Facilitator in your country to start a conversation about being fully present and connected with self and others.


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

We shall not cease from exploration…and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot



It’s January as I write this. So, let’s talk about beginnings. I have 3 or 4 regular opening stories that I always tell at the start of our first Foundation workshop.  In those first few moments I stand or sit in front of a new group. Some of them I’ve told hundreds of times…and yet I don’t get bored of them. Even though I sometimes imagine that I might. How can this be?


Each of the stories has a different purpose. They set a particular tone. They are appropriate to different groups and do different “jobs”. One is better for groups who are (mostly) terrified of public speaking, one is better for experienced speakers who are wanting to learn a new way of approaching public speaking, another is better for groups primarily wanting more authentic connection with their audience.

And I haven’t changed them because they are good. They are stories that actually happened in my life, and they do their jobs really well. I haven’t changed them because I can’t think of any good reason to change them, apart from a desire to “mix things up”.

And sometimes it’s fun to mix things up. To tell stories that I’ve never told before. To experience the novelty of telling a story for the first time, hearing myself saying completely fresh words and feeling the audience reaction. It’s like walking or skiing on fresh snow – there’s a sense of freshness – of going into territory which is open and clean. I run a monthly club for my graduates and most (if not all) of the stories I tell them are ones that have never previously seen the light of day. And I love that.

Yet tomorrow, I will sit in front of a new group of trainees and tell them one of the old stories as they start their journey with me. I’ll probably choose to tell the story I’ve told the most times to any group. And my challenge, like a well-known singer singing one of their greatest hits, is to bring these words alive, as if they were being uttered for the first time. What does it take to do this? And what does this tell us about public speaking and communication in general?

This moment is always fresh

The Greek philosopher Heraclites famously said, “you can never step into the same river twice”. It may the “the same river” and yet it’s always changing. And that is always true of the present moment…if we’re really paying attention.

I may have told this story before and been in “this room” before, but I haven’t told this story to this group before. The group has its own signature energy. As I make eye contact with each individual, the connection feels absolutely unique and fresh. I’ve seen many people before, but I’ve never connected in this way with this person before. And in the event that I’ve met one of the individuals some time ago, they are a somewhat different person to the person they were then and so am I. We are like rivers. We are always changing – with experience, with our moods, with the seasons.

When we are truly paying attention, there is what one of my teachers calls a quality of imminence. The palpable sense that this moment that we are experiencing is created only now and will never come again. And if we can land in that feeling it’s quietly thrilling.

Living the words

As I tell the story that I’ve told before 100 times, I never tell it exactly the same way. This is not deliberate, it’s intuitive. I feel my way into the memory and into the audience that I’m in front of and get a sense of what I want to tell them now. Some details emerge, others recede. I choose different words and analogies. I pause in different places. Other emotions sometimes come through.

I am reliving and re-imagining the experience for this audience. The story is a freshly made, an improvised creation that I am feeling as I’m telling it. I’m not just remembering or saying the words, I’m experiencing them. And as I feel the audience’s response to my telling it, it influences my way of telling.

This is a two-way street. Yes, I’m doing all the talking, but the audience and I are affecting each other. I’m listening to them as much as they are listening to me. There is a felt sense that we are in this together. I’m letting the connection be more important than the content. (Although the events and words are hugely important, the connection between my audience and I is even more important).  I can feel it and they can feel it. And when I’m really in it, it’s often electrifying.

This is what it is to connect with a group (or even an individual) in Relational Presence. It’s the essence of authentic connection and speaking. And you can experience it any time you land in the moment, land in eye contact and let the connection be paramount.

Happy new year.


Daniel Kingsley is the Director of Presence Training – he helps people to be authentic leaders and speakers.

“How can you describe something that has specifically affected you through experiencing it?” Since coming into contact with Speaking Circles® and Relational Presence, we’ve searched for words and ways to explain the profound effect this has on you. We soon discovered that trying to explain it was no easy matter. Enthusiasm for the profound effect of Relational Presence comes after experiencing it. How did we manage to convince people to take part in the first place? Statements such as ‘transformational in all areas of life’ are for many, more off-putting than inviting.

The incredible thing is that Relational Presence is almost too simple for words.

The essence is that you are consciously present with all your attention, in the here and now and are available for connecting with yourself and others, using a peripheral, relaxed gaze. When you are present in this way, seeing and hearing others and letting yourself be seen and be heard, the effects are substantial. An atmosphere of security, trust and mutual respect arises where everyone is treated equally and you dare to say what comes to mind. In an extensive study carried out by Google looking at its most successful teams, this was called ‘Psychological safety’. After a wide-ranging search this turned out to be the key element in successful teams. Not team composition, not individual knowledge or experience, but the way everyone in the team is seen and heard for who he or she is.

How can you create a feeling of psychological safety?

We have an answer that works and that everyone can master in a relatively short time: Relational Presence.
Do we need to learn this (again)? Yes, however simple the methodology, discovering it requires a safe learning environment.

Perhaps, this is because it is missing in so many places. One of our colleagues, Peter Lake, who teaches at an Engineering School in Toulouse, runs a programme called: “Disconnect to Connect”. It is a great success. Students want to learn how to communicate in an authentic and interconnected way, in real person-to-person contact. And their future employers want this too! Experienced teachers come to us because they stopped looking at and seeing individual students years ago.

In many places the lack of attention during communication is shocking.
Not only at work, but also at home. Our habit of not being in the here-and-now has become so normal that we barely notice the effects. Recently a participant said “I always try to ask my children ‘how was your day?’ I now realise I scarcely paid any attention when they answered. I didn’t look at them, I didn’t really listen.”


One second. One second to slow down. One second to realise that the quality of connection always has to do with the quality of our attention. Where is your attention when you are speaking or listening? Do you look when speaking? Do you see the other person while you are speaking? Do you look while listening? Do you really see the other person? Are you really listening?

In an article on the internet, Katherine Schafler writes that Maya Angelou suggested there are four questions we unconsciously but almost continuously, ask ourselves in every situation involving other people:





We haven’t been able yet to find out when and where Angelou suggested this. But the questions certainly resonate. Imagine how it is if you can answer all these questions with ‘yes’ when you communicate with your partner, child, colleague, boss, client, neighbour, friends and yourself. And how it is when this also applies to the other person/people as well.

How can you do this in such a way that the other person feels genuinely seen and that you also stay connected to yourself? Relational Presence is our answer. Being in the here-and-now, giving your full attention to the other person through a relaxed, peripheral gaze and being open for connection.

You can learn this in training sessions given by Relational Presence Facilitators. Fin a licensed Facilitators in your country/area or contact us to become a Relational Presence Facilitator yourself.

Relational Presence applied to public speaking.

Seeing your audience can sometimes be overwhelming. Audiences have blank faces a lot of the time.

Audiences listen passively. They don’t nod very often, they don’t smile very often. So when we are speakers we get confused because we are SO used to having a normal conversation where we get lots of approval signals (smiles, nods, little vocal sounds, facial signs and body matching).
We often don’t understand this when we speak publicly and it feels like we are failing if we are not used to it. When you step in front of an audience you will step into the land of non-approval (or so it seems). So it’s not surprising that you might get feelings of judgement, or that the audience is bored, or you are not getting through to them. We need to make a mental shift towards accepting blank faces.
By Blank we mean bored looking, frowny looking, angry looking, yawning, looking up at the ceiling and the floor and even eyes closed. This is just how audiences listen. These are just listening faces. Next time you are in the audience take a look around you and see what other people in the audience look like.

You’ll have a far better time when you shift from seeing judgement to seeing normal audience listening. That’s why we really want you to love blank faces!