We’ve all met those people that just seem to have “it”—they light up rooms everywhere they go. People take notice of them and remember the things they say, the stories they’ve shared. When they go, they leave people wanting even more.
We call these people charismatic.
As an entrepreneur, having this special gift can make all the difference in how successful you’ll be. When you have to pitch people on new ideas, maybe even really crazy ideas, charisma certainly comes in handy.
But it’s the luck of the genetic draw, right? Only the lucky few are born as natural people-persons. Well, not so. Researchers who have studied history’s most influential people—from politicians to star athletes—are turning this age-old assumption on its head. Charisma, it seems, can be studied and learned.
Now, just to clarify, there is no magic potion you can drink that will turn you into a JFK or Steve Jobs if you’re not. But, there are specific communication techniques you can learn and practice diligently that will increase people’s perception of your leadership and influence.
Sourced directly from this cutting-edge research from Switzerland’s University of Lausanne, I will show you three simple techniques you can employ in your meetings and presentations to be perceived as more charismatic.
Deliver Big Ideas Like It’s Going Out of Style
A key part of influencing clients is communicating your ideas clearly—and making sure they stick. Using metaphors and similes to deliver ideas can really pack a powerful punch. Why? Well, because they’re comparisons that force people to stop and think about your idea in another context or form, beyond just the basic interpretation of your words. They force people to think through the idea as they look for similarities, and in doing this, it’s engaging another part of their brain altogether.
Here are a few examples of how to use metaphor and simile to make a point in a business context.
- A business owner rallying his team for a new product launch refers to the competition as a “sinking ship.” His team envisions their competitor tipped over in the ocean, being pulled underwater, literally sinking. That’s a powerful image of demise.
- A web designer refers to his websites as “marketing machines.” No longer just a mere website in their client’s mind’s eye, but a powerful, shiny machine performing tasks efficiently and producing results.
- A manager likening their top-performing salesperson to the star quarterback of the team, leading the team to victory, the crowds are howling in the stands… and touchdown! You get the picture.
But remember that good communication is authentic communication. Be thoughtful when applying language techniques—the last thing you want to be is that person known for spouting jargon or cliches.
Create Opposition to Your Best Ideas
Setting up contrasts is another great tactic to inspire potential clients to jump on board with your ideas because they draw on two very different reactions: logic and feeling. Why? Creating opposition to your ideas by painting a picture of how they compare with an alternative, allows your audience to side even more strongly with you.
Here’s an example from an extremely charismatic friend of mine. Shannon, a marketing consultant, has used this contrast while meeting with a client as a technique to differentiate herself from her competition. Shannon’s very successful marketing techniques are often much more traditional than those of her peers. Shannon positions things this way: “The other guys are always looking forward. They’re focused on what’s next, what’s around the corner, always trying to predict the next big thing. But not me. I focus on the tried and true techniques that have stood the test of time. No quick gimmicks here… your business is not my guinea pig or personal playground.”
Pitting a bold idea like this against an alternative idea rallies her clients to feel even more strongly about her stance. They’re buying into Shannon’s idea and passion, yes, but in doing so they’re also taking a stance against the alternative way by choosing to work with her.
Expressions of Moral Conviction
Another key behavior researchers have associated with highly charismatic people is the willingness to express strong convictions in what is right or wrong—and how they’ll work to pursue what’s right, even in the face of opposition. When you take a conscientious stand for what you believe in, you demonstrate integrity to your clients. They recognize you as someone worthwhile to work with, follow, and believe in. Essentially, they can trust you. I’ll underscore here that your expressions must be genuine. People have a knack for sensing when someone is being false.
Here’s a great example of moral conviction from an especially charismatic construction company owner who we’ll call Leo. Passionate about the need for sustainable practices in construction and determined to positively influence the industry, Leo has even turned business down when clients’ priorities are not a good match for his business values. Since he sources green supplies as much as possible and focuses his building methods around ecologically sensitive practices, some of his costs run higher than his less eco-sensitive competitors. Leo understands keeping costs under control is important for most folks and he takes the time to explain his company’s vision and values to new clients. Not all of them convert into clients, but the folks that do feel compelled to refer Leo to as many other like-minded people as possible.
These well-informed clients become ambassadors for Leo’s passion—and his business. As a result, his company has grown substantially over the last two years as its green reputation has gained momentum. Leo now regularly speaks at trade shows on the topic of sustainability in his industry. That industry-shaping influence he was hoping for, well, he’s on his way.
By practicing these simple communication techniques in meetings and presentations, you can begin to positively influence the way others perceive your leadership. Keep at it and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be that person lighting up the room.
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