Recently I’ve been thinking about how much I disagree with the idea that presenters should focus on projecting more ‘charisma’ when they speak.
“How to project more charisma”, is a phrase I often see, with well-meaning advice on how to energise your voice, have more fun, maybe throw in some jazz hands and generally up the ante when you present.
To be honest – none of it resonates with me.
Why you should not focus on projecting more charisma
The main issue I have with this advice is it is all focused on you. The presenter. The performer. The star attraction.
The definition of ‘charisma’ is this:
“Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”.
So, when you are focusing on ‘projecting more charisma’, you are focusing on how you are being perceived.
Which I believe is unhelpful.
Look, it’s natural to want to gain approval and acceptance from the group you are speaking to. But when we make it the sole focus, it can be problematic for several reasons:
- It’s stressful: Focusing on how you are being perceived is what we do when we perform. And thinking of a speaking situation as a performance triggers nerves, performance anxiety and stage fright.
- It feels weird: When we stand in front of a group and focus on ourselves, we feel self- conscious. Suddenly we forget how to use our hands. How to stand normally. Where to look and what to say.
- It’s not useful: I hate to break it to you, but if you’ve been asked to get up and speak to a group of people, they’re not actually there to bask in your glory. They want something from you. They are looking for value, not a show.
So, my advice to you? Ditch the quest for charisma and focus on being a ‘comfortable communicator’ instead.
What is a comfortable communicator?
A comfortable communicator is someone who speaks naturally, is at ease with their audience, and is not afraid to show you how they feel about their topic. (Much like how you feel when you are communicating with your family, friends, and close colleagues).
How do you do this?
You need to remove the barriers preventing you from communicating in your natural, comfortable way. So rather than focusing on your hand gestures, vocal variety and star quality – try these 5 points instead:
1. Realise it’s not about you
I find the most ‘charismatic’ presenters like this advice least.
Unless you happen to be a stand-up comedian, a presentation is not about putting on a great show and making everyone like you. Especially a business presentation.
But it is about getting your message across.
So instead of focusing on what the audience will think of you, focus on what you want them to know about your topic.
2. Use stories and examples that you are comfortable with
Talking about some technical findings in the data? Find an example in the business where the findings of the data present themselves. You’ll be more comfortable in your explaining, and it will resonate far more with your audience.
3. Identify barriers to your comfort – and ditch them!
Are you finding it hard to recite your script word for word? Then don’t use a script.
Feel wooden behind the podium? Ditch it.
Feel prisoner to the slides? Ditch them all.
4. Make the generic presentation your own
Many organisations have generic presentations that multiple people roll out across the business. Presenting someone else’s words can often result in either reading from the slides or having words and visuals that have no cohesion. Both result in boring and non-effective communication.
Instead, plan out what you want to say and then select the company presentation visuals that will help your audience understand, or remember, your point.
5. Talk like you normally do
So often I work with clients who are just wonderful communicators…until they get up to present. As soon as they read their slides or try and look professional, they lose all their personality and natural communication ability.
Be yourself up there.
The easiest way to do this? Choose one person in the audience to talk to. Look at them when you speak, for long enough that you make a connection, and then look at someone else. This will encourage you to talk to your audience in the same way you would if you were talking one-on-one.
Remember this: the effectiveness of your presentations is not about making people like you.
But it is about getting people to listen to your message.
To do this, chose comfort over charisma. Every time.
Stop presenting. Start talking.