I have a confession to make. Years ago, when I began my career at NBC TV, I was tasked with the planning and organization of many star-studded events. It was a fun job, until the event actually began.
With so many charismatic personalities in the room, I felt small--even insignificant at times. I didn't much like feeling that way, so I began my mission to understand the makings of these magnetic personalities. I was determined to learn how to transform myself from a wallflower to an outgoing participant and let the world become my oyster.
Why is charisma important? People are not only attracted to those who have presence, but also, when you rank higher on the charisma scale, they are more likely to believe in you, your mission, and what you stand for. In fact, venture capitalists' rule of thumb is to bet on the leader, not the idea. Charisma can be a decisive factor in all things significant to success.
Here's what I learned; it's not only served me well, but it's also made my life fuller and certainly more fun!
1. Boost your desire to connect.
Do you dread attending networking or social events? Look at it this way. Everyone there has a story. Walking into a room of people is like walking into a library or video store: There is so much to learn and enjoy! You never know how one person's story may change your life or the course of your business. Seek out knowledge, inspiration, and great connections. Remember, a room full of people is your candy store, not your prison!
2. Be present and alert.
Challenging yourself to hear every word and notice every detail is no small task. That's why those who do it stand out from the crowd. The human brain has from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day; that's 35 to 48 thoughts per minute! Practice bringing your mind back to the present when you drift off. Look people in the eye, smile when appropriate, and keep your energy high with humor and passion. People will feel valued and appreciated when you focus purely on them, leaving a lasting and favorable impression.
3. Drop the serious attitude.
People remember people who have humor and wit. You don't have to be a gifted comedian to bring a laugh or two into your conversations. Share fun stories about your kids or pets, use self-deprecation moderately when you talk about past mistakes in a humorous manner, and address light-hearted topics rather than being all business.
4. Look the part.
The very first impression people have of you is a visual one. Personal stylists and leadership trainers advise that you have at least one good suit in your wardrobe--ladies too! The rule of thumb is to purchase one-third fewer clothes and spend three times as much on your new items. For some events, jeans are absolutely appropriate, but avoid looking sloppy. A carefully chosen ensemble simply reads success.
5. Don't diminish the importance of eye contact.
I mentioned eye contact earlier, but I can't express it enough. If you are distracted, whether by the crowd, your phone, or because you are shy, it devalues the relationship immediately. If you find it difficult to maintain eye contact, begin by looking between the person's eyes, where the top of the nose begins. Eventually, you will become more comfortable, and you'll experience the magic of reading the nuances and emotions that the eyes carry.
6. Remember, remark, and repeat.
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone, only to be acknowledged with this sorry excuse? "Please forgive me if I don't remember your name; I'm terrible at names." Why doesn't the person just tell you that you don't matter to her? The same person, if someone introduced himself and offered up a million dollars, would remember that person's name with ease! (The ability to remember names decreases with age, but strengthening the memory is still possible.)
Treat everyone like a million bucks by making a concerted effort to retain someone's name, at least for the duration of the conversation. Repeat the name after the person says it: "It's so nice to meet you, David." Associate the name with someone in your life bearing the same name. Create an alliterative pattern involving something you know about the person, i.e., Susan in sales, Cindy from Cincinnati, Greg is gregarious. Lastly, eliminate the belief that you can't remember names; you can only do what you believe you can.
7. Be positive.
Nothing like being introduced to someone only to be greeted with, "Isn't the weather lousy?" or "These appetizers are awful!" Choose a topic you are passionate about, and your eyes will light up, as will your smile. Ask questions that prompt the other party to continue his or her story because, after all, you are obviously very interested. Avoid talking about hardships as though you are a victim. Always leave a conversation on an upbeat note and people will want to come back for more.
8. Become bilingual.
Your verbal language is not the only one you know. Hunched shoulders, crossed arms, and fidgety habits all speak to a lack of confidence. Before entering a room, use a power stance to feel like a superhero. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy's research on body language reveals that we can change other people's perceptions of us, and even our own body chemistry, simply by changing body positions. Try a playful approach. Before stepping into a public arena, strike a superhero pose, like Superman, with hands on hips, feet spread apart, and chin tilted toward the sky. Your internal and external energy will shift in seconds! (Do this in public at your own risk!)
Remember: Charisma is the transference of enthusiasm. That means having the passion, energy, and spirit to share to help others feel the same.