Public Speaking: What is Charisma?

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What is is about great public speakers like Barack Obama that allows them to hold, interest, and arouse a crowd so well? There are probably multiple factors, some of which we don’t fully understand yet, but ‘charisma’ is the label we give some of them. So what is charisma? One definition of charisma is ‘A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm’, but what does that really tell us?

Some people believe that charisma is an undefinable thing, an ‘it’ quality that you either have or don’t. But others are convinced that charisma is actually something that can be broken down and understood, and maybe even replicated by someone who doesn’t naturally have it. The logic is that all inspirational speaker, even Barack Obama, have at their disposal the same basic tools for communicating: tone of voice; cadence; the words themselves; eye contact; posture; dress, and so on.

Research appears to indicate that some factors are more important than others in being a charismatic inspirational speaker. For your consideration, here we present three of them:

#1 Message

Interestingly, it appears that in order for someone to be perceived as very charismatic, they need to first of all be communicating a message that is at least a little controversial. We don’t tend to find people as charismatic when they simply reinforce the status quo, no matter how well the message is delivered.

#2 Posture and gestures

When speaking, a charismatic person will adopt an erect but relaxed posture, with their hands away from their face and their palms pointing either forwards towards their audience or up towards the sky. Their torso will face the audience directly, and not from an angle.

#3 Speech

Keynote motivational speaker will generally speak with an upbeat, positive tone,that slows for emphasis. Also very important is clear, simple language that invokes imagery. A charismatic person will speak fluently and articulately, with no unnecessary pauses, use of ‘filler’ words, or any other distracting speech habits.

The next time you watch a motivational speaker, pay attention to these things and see for yourself if they ring true. If so, you could try adopting them yourself the next time you are called on to give a speech or presentation.

Zander Smith
Site representative
GreatBlackSpeakers
Member of black motivational speaker group
http://www.greatblackspeakers.com

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