Have you ever noticed that the harder someone tries to be charismatic on stage or in the front of the room, the less it actually works? You see this a lot with politicians who are trying to sound like the other politicians they admire, but it happens to the rest of us too. Why does it always seem to backfire when we try to be likable? The answer to this question is that ultimate key to being charismatic is being authentic. Whenever we attempt to sound like or be like someone else on stage, no matter how eloquent we may be with our words, our audience will notice that we’re playing a part. No matter how skillful we are at playing our role, they will see through it, making it harder to make a connection. This makes authenticity paramount to being charismatic, but how then do we display our true selves on stage? Here are three ways to start:

Be Vulnerable

Let me make a vulnerable statement to you: I hate vulnerability. This, I understand, makes me human because no one likes opening themselves up to potential pain. That is why it such an effective tool. When we’re too perfect, or too slick, it turns people off. When all we talk about are our wins, it makes us unrelatable. When we speak of our failures and losses, people can connect to that. Humor is a great weapon to make a connection. Humor at your expense about a moment when you weren’t your best is both safe and funny. To be authentic, be vulnerable and let your guard down.

Smile With Your Eyes

By now, we all know that smiling is important, but too many speakers paste something face on their lips and hope to make a connection. A smile that can’t be faked comes from the eyes. The trick I learned to smile with my eyes I learned from one of the greatest political books ever written, Richard Ben Cramer’s epic What It Takes. In the book about the 1988 Presidential Election, Cramer profiles Bob Dole and hones in on Dole’s secret for looking happy in groups; he laughs to himself. A small isn’t this interesting kind of laugh. Doing this makes your smile much more genuine, making you seem much more authentic than simply smiling with your lips.

Lower Your Energy Level

I saved this one for last because it is probably the trickiest. I will always value a high energy level presenter over one with low energy, but when we’re too ramped up, we come across as fake. Our audience will start to question if what we’re doing is us or an act. I have for years battled with being conversational enough to be authentic. For me, this has always come down to lowering my energy level just a little bit, in order to connect with my audience. At first, it feels slow and as if I’m low energy on the border of boring, but the harder I work at it, the more comfortable it gets. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s one that we absolutely must make to be authentic. If you haven’t yet lost an audience because they can’t connect with you, the occasion will eventually come. It happens to even the best speakers in the world. Rebounding from these situations requires that we try easier, back off from trying too hard and just be ourselves. Charisma is about authenticity and getting there takes risk, but the reward is more than worth it. ]]>

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