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How to Develop Charisma
By Ellen Finkelstein   Printer Friendly Version

Have you ever heard a presentation and later realized how attracted you were to the presenter? No, not that kind of attraction. Rather, you felt connected and uplifted while you were listening. You came away feeling happier. The speaker was so eloquent that you were touched in some way. Even if the presentation was about selling magazines!

That quality you experienced is called charisma. Webster defines charisma as "that special spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people." A charismatic speaker leaves an impression on the audience, large or small, that makes them want to come back for more. It's just what you want if you are trying to influence an audience.

We associate charisma with preachers, like Billy Graham, or old-time politicians, such as Winston Churchill. Could you become a charismatic speaker? The answer is yes! By breaking down charisma into its 12 individual qualities (listed here in no particular order), you can attain each quality with a little time and practice.

Quality 1: Charismatic speakers are self-confident and assured. They don't appear nervous or ill at ease.
There are two ways to approach this quality--from the outside and the inside. From the outside, you can gain self-confidence by gaining more experience speaking. Joining Toastmaster's International is a good way to do this, aside from the speaking experience you gain in your regular employment. In addition, practice each presentation many, many times, until you know it cold. You won't be as nervous if you are well prepared. Finally, as much as possible, get to know your audience in advance, as people. Even if you greet an audience at the door or start a small group meeting with a few pleasantries, you will find yourself feeling more comfortable.

From the inside, there are a number of techniques to lessen nervousness and anxiety. I recommend Transcendental Meditation (R) as a scientifically verified and well-known stress reducer, which will help you in your other activities as well. If that is not immediately possible, close your eyes to relax and center yourself for a few minutes before the presentation. A few stretches can also help reduce any tension. Stretch your mouth, too!

Quality 2: Charismatic speakers seem to be enjoying themselves; they are playful, humorous, and happy.
Step back and think about the funny side of your presentation. Don't take it so seriously; instead, find the lighter side. Try adding some mild humor to your presentation (in good taste, of course). Slightly self-deprecating humor is okay, too. It's good to show that you can laugh at yourself. For example, in a larger audience you can ask, "How many of you really want to be here this morning?" This works best if it's a beautiful day outside. If only a few people raise their hands, you can say, "I see I have my work cut out for me." If most people raise their hands, you can say, "And I thought this was going to be difficult!"

Quality 3: Charismatic speakers are lively & energetic.
Quiet and dull never sold anything. You need to wake up your audience. The basic for energy, of course, is enough rest. So get a good night's sleep the night before. If you've traveled the same day, find a few minutes to close your eyes and rest. When you start to speak, move your hands and look directly at the person or people you're talking to. If you're standing, move about (without pacing). Let your voice express your convictions--don't use a monotone. Later in this article, I explain how to record yourself during practice. Listen to your recorded voice and be sure there are variations in pitch, tone, and volume.

Quality 4: Charismatic speakers are knowledgeable about their subject.
This quality is a cinch. Do lots of research and learn as much as you can about your subject. What approach do your competitors take? Seeing the other side of an issue helps you understand your topic better. What is the history of your product or service? Gaining a broader background allows you to speak with more authority.

Quality 5: Charismatic speakers look good, they have a stage presence.
I'm not suggesting that you do something about the size of your nose. The good appearance that you associate with a charismatic speaker is something different and has inner and outer qualities. From the outside, dress your best, always in conservative, modest clothing. Take the time and spend the money necessary so that your hair is perfect and shoes are polished. From the inside, take the time to lessen any negative feelings you may have about the upcoming encounter. List some positive aspects and focus on those. Negative emotions show up in your facial expressions and can actually make you look unattractive.

Quality 6: Charismatic speakers speak without stumbling, using full sentences and correct grammar, without "ers" and "uhs."
In other words, they are good speakers. You can become a good speaker, as well. Joining Toastmasters International, as mentioned earlier, is one way to start. One of the best techniques is to record yourself as you practice. Run through your entire talk. If you can videotape yourself, great, but even a plain old tape recorder is a great help. Now, sit back and listen to yourself several times. Take notes as you go. I guarantee that you'll find plenty to correct. So go back and work on your delivery and try again. With practice, your speaking will become smooth and fluid.

Quality 7: Charismatic speakers have an opinion about their subject. They care about it. You can sense their emotion, enthusiasm, and conviction.
You could even say they are passionate about what they are saying. Do you have an opinion about your product or service? How strongly do you feel about it? So, you find it hard to have conviction about the paper you sell or the customer service training you offer? What good does it bring to people? For example, paper, depending on the type, brings knowledge to people, contributes to good health, or adds to our quality of life. Similarly, think deeply about what you do and its relationship to the human endeavor.

Quality 8: Charismatic speakers relate their topic to the broader scheme of things, they are expansive, inspiring, and uplifting.
Think about the place your product or service has in the entire economy of the world. How does it contribute to what is important in life? As mentioned earlier, learn about the history of your field. Depending on what you do, you may even be able to go back a few thousand years. If you sell paper, for example, do you know where and when it was invented and what effect it had on civilization?

(Of course, it depends on which kind of paper you are selling. Bathroom tissue was introduced in 1880 by the British Perforated Paper Company. Writing paper was officially invented by T'sai Lun at the court of the Chinese emperor in 105 A.D. However, new evidence shows that paper was being made as early as 200 B.C. using chopped up fishing nets. For about 500 years, papermaking was confined to China, but spread to Japan in 610 A.D, Egypt in 800 A.D and Europe in the 10th century. In ancient Egypt, an early form of paper known as papyrus was used. Paper allowed governments to record laws and businesses to record agreements. Paper was also widely used to write down religious scriptures. Thus, it was extremely important for the development of our civilization.)

Think about what you contribute to life. What good do you do? When you have answered these questions, add some of the answers to your presentation. Don't go overboard, but a certain amount of inspiration is a powerful selling tool. If your audience leaves uplifted, they will remember that feeling long after they remember some of the finer points you made.

Quality 9: Charismatic speakers create a strong rapport with their audience, they connect.
Part of that riveting quality of a charismatic speaker comes from the relationship created with the audience. Part of that relationship is created by what you say. But most of it is created with your eyes, motions, and emotions. Eye contact is an absolute must.

For a large audience, never start or end with the lights out so that you have time to establish eye contact. Move around and use your hands. A great technique is to actually move into the audience periodically. Don't hide behind a podium or table.

With a smaller audience, even an audience of one, be careful not to look down throughout your presentation. Meet your prospect's gaze from time to time. Use your hands, lean forward; come close (but not uncomfortably close).

Quality 10: Charismatic speakers are positive in outlook, cheerful, and cooperative.
Most people don't want to hear negativity. They want to hear solutions. Even when you point out how bad their current situation is and how much they need your solution, don't dwell on the negative. Emphasize the positive. Keep a cheerful outlook. When your prospects bring up objections or questions, answer in a spirit of cooperation and appreciation for their point of view. This approach puts you above the fray. At the end of your talk, you want your audience to feel encouraged and positive about what they heard.

Quality 11: Charismatic speakers are organized; their points are clearly connected and logically follow one another, with an overview at the beginning and a conclusion at the end. They are precise and complete.
You can know your subject cold and still present it in a disorganized, haphazard way. To make a compelling argument, you need to make sense. Start with a skeleton outline. Here's an old standard for a presentation:

  • Attention getting opening
  • Overview
  • What the audience needs (the problem)
  • How you can provide what the customer needs (the solution)
  • Action steps the customer can take to buy
  • Summary conclusion

Now flesh out the outline. Make sure each part is also organized. Think about the reasoning of each part and revise as necessary. Design your close so that the logic follows inescapably and inexorably from your main points.

Quality 12: Charismatic speakers (genuine ones) are honest, well mannered, patient, fair, and responsible.
You can probably think of more adjectives. These qualities portray a person's character and moral fiber. Your customers need to feel comfortable doing business with you, that you are a person they can trust. You don't want the question, "Would you buy a used car from this man?" to apply to you. Your talk should reflect these qualities. For example, don't put down your competition (be fair). Don't interrupt your audience (be patient). Listen carefully to questions before answering and never use objectionable language or make negative references to others (be well-mannered). If you agree to get more information or follow up, do so (be responsible).

By developing these 12 qualities, you too can become a charismatic speaker. You can be that person that audiences feel attracted to and connected with, whose eloquence leaves people uplifted and enlivened. Work at it and you will succeed!

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