Ever been stuck in that moment when you’ve reached a pivotal point in your speech and you’re met with silence, lapsing into an awkward silence you push to move past?
Yes. When this happens it’s not because there’s something wrong with your words but rather how you choose to portray them. In showbiz, that’s the definition of lacking charisma. Charisma, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
Charisma, as defined by Merriam-Webster, includes assuming the form of:
a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader) <His success was largely due to his charisma.>
: a special magnetic charm or appeal <the charisma of a popular actor>
In regards to Lady Gaga, an iconic singer with ample amounts of charisma, these tips ring true for her but arguably most would disagree with one or two of these tips because we’re mere mortals. Personally, I’m in disagreement with the first. Mental speed can be a factor if it fits your personality but not all speakers think quick on their toes. The neuroscience study conducted that Morgan pulls from also notes,
“This effect was independent of IQ, general knowledge, and various personality measures, which suggests that speed per se enables charismatic behavior. Contrary to predictions, mental speed did not correlate with other indicators of social skills.”
Therefore, I would argue three points more important than speed are (1) remaining attentive to your crowd, (2) making a human connection, and (3) the creation of a space where the audience can enjoy the communication occurring. When these three points are implemented correctly, the speaker creates trust with the audience, achieves connection through body language, and creates a space full of curiosity and engagement (void of ego).
To wrap up this discussion, let’s take a gander at Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe Speech (you know the one I’m talking about) but move your focus to Viola Davis. If you didn’t watch the Golden Globe Awards because you were too busy taking pictures of your cat (don’t lie, we’ve all been there), you should watch the video below:
Viola Davis, in the midst of the iconic actress Meryl Streep, may have been overlooked by a few people but her introduction is the epitome of charismatic perfection. She engages with the audience immediately and forms a connection by telling her unique perspective of Streep. Davis humanizes herself with her candid interpretation, leading the audience to meet her authenticity excitedly because they’ve been drawn into Davis’s story.
- Lavish care upon your introductions: Every introduction is a small speech, one that translates the person being introduced to the audience. A good introduction sets that relationship up with a unique perspective, insight, or little-known experience–and relates the introducee to the occasion, be it an awards ceremony or a panel discussion.
- Make it personal: If you are just reading a prepared bio, you’re doing it wrong. You may not know the honoree or speaker well, but you can use those moments before you go on stage to figure out something that allows you to make your introduction personal. If you know well the person you’re introducing, don’t hesitate to put yourself and your perspective into it.
- Treat it like a little TED talk: Davis’s intro does just that, jumping right in with “She stares. That’s the first thing you notice about her,” instead of a lot of throat-clearing. This introduction is just under five minutes, not one minute of which is wasted, and it aims to connect the audience–full of people who think they know Streep, as well as fans watching at home–even more deeply with the actor. The delivery is as fine as you might expect from a great actor. Davis takes her time with it, so that every word is clear and can be heard and savored. Go and do likewise the next time you introduce someone.
To add to Graveline’s superb observations:
- Make it memorable: Davis does more than just connect with her audience through experience, she artistically uses various rhetorical devices to make her introduction memorable. For instance, Davis personifies the high powered scanner to describe Streep’s ability to accurately mirror the actions of another. Davis also uses Anaphora, a word I mentioned earlier, by repeatedly using “she” at the start of her sentences. While I’m sure you can pick out a few more rhetorical devices, in summation the introduction is poetic.
- Body language makes a difference: Although Davis did not move around the stage when she was speaking, her facial gestures, the inflection of her voice, and small shifts in her movement put emphasis on her words. Using body language is essentially when public speaking because it allows the audience to better understand how you’re feeling as well as capture their attention.
- Pause for effect: Davis uses pausing to give her audience a moment to absorb, process, and respond (be it with laughter or tears). This type of hesitation, when done correctly, adds impact to your words.
Most of all, remember that you can achieve charisma with practice – you’re not screwed if you’re not a natural. If you enjoyed this post, please comment about your charismatic experiences and/or struggles. And lastly, link or share with me a speech that has moved you, what is charisma to you?