The boy never thought he’d be able to communicate with others.
He developed a stutter that was so severe, he chose not to speak at all. As a matter of fact, he remained functionally mute for eight years—until a high school English teacher took notice of the boy’s gift for poetry. That teacher forced him to recite every day in class to improve his confidence and his public speaking ability.
That teacher’s success is evident, as you’ll readily admit if you’ve ever heard James Earl Jones intone “This is CNN” on the cable news channel of the same name—or frighten moviegoers as Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy. And you can appreciate the distance he traveled from a kid who was ashamed to talk to becoming one of the most memorable voices of the last few decades.
As personal branding agents, we represent many clients who just aren’t used to putting themselves out in front of the public eye. Much like the young James Earl Jones, they just don’t think they have the necessary public speaking skills to captivate a crowd. But what they don’t understand is that most people don’t—at least not when they’re starting out.
Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, says the biggest myth about charisma is the fact that it’s an innate talent. The truth is that you can create and master your own charisma if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Magician Steve Cohen, for example, readily admits that even though, early in his career, he had his magic tricks down pat, the audience didn’t care—because he didn’t understand how to make them care. In his words: "I learned to figure out what is going to be interesting to people at every moment...the trick itself is never important; it's having a presentational hook."
Similarly, the real magic of a powerful personal brand is having the charisma to supercharge it. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a doctor, a lawyer, or a business executive, the way to really stand out to the public is through projecting your personality in such a way that it connects with those you encounter on a deep and memorable level.
And, again, the good news is that you can learn how to make this happen. According to charisma trainer Joyce Newman, president of The Newman Group, “Everyone can be charismatic. We are not born charismatic—we cultivate it in many ways. One way is by observing and learning from people who you think are charismatic. You don’t need to copy them, but learn their secrets, try them on and fine-tune them until they fit you. It’s a trial and error process.”
Here, according to Forbes contributor Denise Restauri, are five components of personal charisma that are easy for the average person to begin working on:
If you don’t believe in your own awesomeness, why would anyone else? This doesn’t mean you have to be on a perpetual ego trip—but you should put out a vibe of being quietly confident about your expertise and your ability to implement that knowledge and skill.
2. Tell Great Stories
Stories are the most powerful weapon you can use in your personal branding presentations, as we detail in our forthcoming book, StorySelling: Hollywood Secrets Revealed. Great stories hold your crowd’s interest—and they also hold great powers to persuade and teach your audience.
3. Body Language
Half the reason wallflowers at a school dance don’t get approached is because they don’t seem approachable—they usually have their head down and are afraid to look at anybody they might be interested in.
In contrast, you should always be warm, approachable, and direct. Shake hands and make eye contact—and make the other person feel as though they’re the most important person in your life at that moment.
4. Make the Conversation About Who You’re Talking To
The more you go on about yourself, the less attractive it seems to the listener. Always demonstrate a sincere interest in what the other person has to say—and respond to their concerns in a genuine way.
5. Be a Good Listener
This is a natural companion to No. 4—because if you’re not listening to the other person, you can’t really know what’s on their mind. Sometimes we get so focused on making our points that we think we need to talk more than we do. When you put more effort into listening, you may think you’re not scoring the points you need to—but actually, you’re impressing that person with your ability to listen and empathize with what their concerns are.
Remember, even Steve Jobs came across as awkward and shy during his first Apple presentations—it took him time and effort to re-create his persona and become one of the most charismatic CEOs of our time. So don’t shy away from developing your own charisma—and your personal brand will boom as a result.
—JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-size businesses on how to build their business through personality-driven marketing, personal-brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at celebritybrandingagency.com.
[Image: Flickr user Germi Yllescas]