As a volunteer association leader, being present is not just about being seen, and physically showing up to wave the flag at your association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), or Conference, it’s about being fully engaged in the moment. 

What Does it Mean to Be Present? 

Being present refers to a state of mindful awareness of what’s right in front of you, without focusing on the past or worrying about the future. It’s about paying attention to what’s going on around you without attempting to change anything. Moreover, it’s about being fully present while networking with fellow association members to connect, brainstorm, share experiences, and learn. 

When you’re fully present, you’re focused on the here and now, and are fully engaged in the present moment. You are not distracted. You acknowledge the needs and concerns of those around you. You are taking it all in and offering your undivided attention. 

Why Is it Important to Be Present? 

 Being present allows you to have control over your thoughts. This will enable you to improve your skills such as being able to absorb more knowledge, become a better listener, and increase your awareness of your surroundings. 

When you are fully present you are not “working the room” on autopilot or going through the motions. You are therefore better able to build connections with other members, encourage trust, and motivate others through your actions.  

As a volunteer association leader, when you are present it sets the tone for the Board, and the association. It fosters a positive and inclusive environment. In addition, you demonstrate your commitment, and establish yourself as a role model, thereby inspiring others to follow your example. By being fully engaged, you can address Board concerns, provide guidance, and effectively lead your association. For more on leadership responsibilities, check out Association Leadership Traits: Do You Have What It Takes to Lead? 

Benefits of Being Present 

 There are many benefits of being present. 

  1. It strengthens relationships and promotes a sense of belonging among association members. This results in increased enthusiasm, involvement, and collaboration. 
  2. It enhances communication by ensuring clear and effective information flow, reducing misunderstandings and possible conflicts. 
  3. Being present enables you to identify and address issues quickly, avoiding potential problems and encouraging timely solutions. Further, your active presence instills trust, confidence, and loyalty among members, consequently attracting new association members and retaining existing ones. 
  4. You are aware of what is happening around you when you’re present. You can then facilitate better decision-making and ensure that the association’s objectives are in line with the needs of its members. 

 How To Be More Present  

  1. Use Your Phone Less – Looking at your phone, or scrolling social media pulls your attention away from current tasks, activities, and other members. 
  2. Prioritize Active Listening – Truly listen to others without interrupting or forming judgments. Pay attention to their words, and non-verbal ques. For more on active listening, read my article, The Importance of Active Listening for an Association Leader. 
  3. Avoid Multitasking – Multitasking distracts us and is not productive. Devote your attention to one task at a time to avoid spreading yourself too thin. 
  4. Reduce DistractionsWe continually get sidetracked. Try to set aside dedicated time for interactions, meetings, and discussions. Take note of what distracts you and try to avoid those things.  
  5. Make Eye Contact. – If you’re having trouble staying present in a meeting, make eye contact with the speaker to stay engaged.  
  6. Take Breaks – Step back from your busy schedule. Meditate, do deep breathing exercises. These things will train your mind to focus on the present and strengthen awareness. You’ll be able to concentrate better on tasks if you incorporate mindfulness into your day. For more, check out my article Mindfulness & The Association Leader. 
  7.  Be Okay with Not Knowing All of The Answers – We have a need to know all the answers now. Not knowing how to handle certain situations can cause us to doubt ourselves and lead to self-criticism. The less you stress and strain to find the answers, the more likely they are to come to you. 

As much as we sometimes wish we could, we can’t change the past. Being present with the people around us right now is the only place we need to be. This is where we make a difference and achieve the most fulfillment. Being present is a skill, one that can be learned, developed, and honed. As a volunteer association leader, it is important to lead by example and demonstrate the behavior that you would like to see. Create a safe space for others to share their honest opinions, and frustrations, and offer a gracious ear. Demonstrate enthusiasm, engagement, and genuine concern for the association’s mission. Actively participate in meetings, attend association events, and engage with other members. Lastly, take an active role in guiding and mentoring new Board members, providing them with the knowledge and support that they need to succeed in their roles. As an association leader it’s important to be mindful of the future strategically, and for planning purposes.  When you’re fully present today, you help shape and guide the future of your association in the very best possible way.