Charisma: What It Is, How To Get It, And Why You Want It

by drjim on March 16, 2010

Speakers With Charisma Can Change The World

Speakers With Charisma Can Change The World

So here’s a quiz for you: who has been the best speaker in the past 100 years? Not an easy question to answer, eh? Even those of us who don’t spend a lot of time studying history can come up with an impressive list of names: John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler (even mean people can be good speakers), Winston Churchill, etc. Clearly these are the best of the best when it comes to speaking in public. What made them so good and can we become as good as they were?

What Is Charisma?

It turns out that in addition to being in the right place at the right time, these fantastic speakers all shared one thing in common: they had charisma. In a nutshell, a speaker who has charisma has the ability to connect with their audience and cause their emotions to be induced into the audience.

Eva Kihlstrom has studied what it takes to obtain charisma and she’s discovered that 50% of our charisma is built into our genetic make-up – we’ve either got it or we don’t, the other 50% can be learned. Let’s see what we can do about the part that can be learned…

It’s All About Technique

We’ve all seen speakers who didn’t have charisma – they were no fun to either watch or listen to. The reason that we didn’t like being in their audience is because they spoke with a monotone voice and displayed almost no emotion. Clearly they weren’t connecting with us.

In order to work more of that powerful charisma stuff into your next speech, you need to start to vary your voice to match what you are talking about. If you are trying to convey fear, then you need to raise your voice. If you are trying to communicate wisdom, then take it down a few notches.

Your face needs to match the words that are coming out of your mouth. So much of our emotions are played out over our faces that if you can use your face to its fullest extent while you are delivering your speech, then you’ll be able to draw your audience into the emotions that go along with your story.

Have Your Body Tell The Right Story

Hopefully you are getting the point that charisma is so hard to do because it’s really the result of using everything that you’ve got to deliver your speech. This includes using your entire body: how you move on stage, the tone of your voice as you speak, in addition to the actual words that you use in speech that you deliver.

The difference between a speaker with charisma and one who doesn’t have it can be striking. A speaker who has charisma speaks with so much energy that the audience can’t help but get caught up in the topic. It’s this energy that can motivate an audience to go out and take action based on what was said.

Mental Images Rule

In order to connect with an audience, a charismatic speaker needs to be able to build vivid images in their audience’s minds. Having a shared mental image can do remarkable things in terms of bringing an audience closer to a speaker.

In order to create a clear image, a speaker needs to pick their words carefully. Using words that have easily pictured images makes this much easier to do. Take some time and listen to (or read) great speeches from charismatic speakers and you’ll see that this is exactly what they do.

What All Of This Means For You

Once you get over the nerves and jitters that come with speaking in public, we all start to wonder what comes next. The ultimate goal for any speaker is to start to work more charisma into your speaking style.

In order to do this, you need to find ways to make a stronger connection with your audiences. No new technology is needed to make this happen. What you need to do is to make better use of your voice, your facial expressions, and your body language.

The power of a charismatic speaker is impressive. If you take the time to work on developing your skills in this area, then you will have a skill that very few speakers can demonstrate and this will make you stand out from everyone else.

Question For You: Have you ever listened to a charismatic speaker and what to you most remember about their speech?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m pretty sure that by now everyone has at least heard about the TV show “American Idol”. It’s the most popular show on television right now and everyone seems to be talking and gossiping about it all the time. Outside of being a great source of entertainment, is it possible that this show just might be able to teach us a few things about how to become a better speaker…?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen Naylor March 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Hi Jim,

I found you through Alan Michaels’ LI group, Corporate Planning & Global Industry Segmentation. I like the topic of charisma in life and am enjoying your blog. You can learn how to be a charimatic speaker by thinking about things in your life that make you so excited, and think of a good story that will draw your listeners in emotionally right at the start. And listen listen to your audience by reading their expressions as you speak and ask them questions to engage them. Most of us aren’t Martin Luther King or John Kennedy, so we have to work harder since we don’t have that name recognition.

A book that I enjoyed on presentations is “Advanced Presentations by Design” by Dr. Andrew Abela. The theme is being persuasive and I think that’s a good fit for your focus based on checking out your blog here.

My passion in business life in cooperative intelligence which integrates leadership, connection and communication for a holistic and positive approach to life, so it’s hard to categorize, but your persuasiveness is a piece of cooperative communication.

All the best,

Ellen Naylor

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson March 26, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Ellen: It looks like you are on the right path. Simply realizing that it is possible to connect with your audience is the first step in being able to do it. The details of how it’s done can take a lifetime to master, but that’s ok — we get just a little bit better every time we give a speech. Use your passion to be successful in all that you do!

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