Is This My Chance to Finally Be Charismatic?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Ray Smith, in face-to-face meetings, physical charisma often goes a long way in helping someone get noticed and advance in their career. More reserved or shy types are often at a disadvantage. But physical charisma can be more challenging to replicate online—creating a potentially different pecking order.

In person, charismatic people could get away without saying much of substance because of all the other visual stimuli those around them were taking in, such as the way they stood (confidently) or moved (gracefully) or dressed (with flair). Online, with fewer physical cues, what people are saying or writing takes on more weight, academics and career advisers say.

I’ve always been fascinated by, and a little jealous of, people who seem to have a natural charisma to them. I certainly would not consider myself to be a charismatic person. In fact, this short clip of the sea captain from the Simpsons does a good job of capturing what I think of myself:

But as the WSJ article suggests, a different set of skills can help make someone charismatic in an online setting, so I figure this might be my chance to come across as charismatic with my students. After all, the tips seem doable:

  • your face should be in the middle of that screen and take up at least a third of the screen. You want to be close enough where there’s just a little space between the top of your head and the top of that frame.
  • make sure you are well-lit, with a desk lamp or ring light, so your image looks brighter.
  • use nonverbal energy like nodding to show that you’re engaged
  • Those who tend to be more expressive with their hands should move the laptop back enough to demonstrate engagement in the conversation when listening
  • A simple, warm smile (without teeth showing) should do the trick most of the time when others are speaking, and a broader smile when someone on the call makes a joke.
  • Try to look thoughtful in the most natural way you can, without looking stuffy.
  • Avoid a negative “resting face” and don’t slouch as you listen—telltale signs of weak charisma.
  • Consider investing in high-quality microphones and headphones so that nuances and rhythms in your voice aren’t lost.
  • Slowing down speech and articulating can also help ensure you come across as confident, clear, and charismatic.
  • Vary your pitch and speech patterns to emphasize points and make the conversation more engaging.
  • Remember to come to full stops when making points so that it doesn’t sound like an oblivious stream of consciousness.
  • Take a longer pause than usual to signal that it’s another person’s turn to talk.
  • Ideally, position the camera at eye level. To connect and engage in the virtual world, you have to look at the camera, as opposed to people on the screen for effective eye contact.
  • If it’s a smaller meeting where you need to interact more, it’s OK to look at the people on the screen; just look at one person or one pair of eyes.
  • When it is your turn to talk in a video meeting, one way to display charisma is opening with an acknowledgment of what the previous speaker said.
  • Ask questions to show that you care how others feel about what’s being discussed.
  • Using metaphors, asking rhetorical questions, and listing points in threes are also effective ways of engaging others.
  • Direct a question to a specific person when you finish your thought to make it personal.

It’s also important to effectively use other communication tools besides video meetings when working virtually.

  • with email, it’s important to make the tone conversational, personalize as much as possible.
  • On social media, keep the tone upbeat, offering glimpses of your personal life.
  • Commenting on others’ posts is another way to show charisma. Saying something positive or amplifying their content or their post is a great way to keep your name top of mind.

While there are a lot of tips offered, I think many of them are common sense.

One fear I have is that if all of this works, what a huge disappointment it will be when my students meet me in person…

Of course, I am getting way ahead of myself; whether these tips work or not is a big if…

39 thoughts on “Is This My Chance to Finally Be Charismatic?

  1. I think charisma works better on younger people than older people. I’ve lived long enough to discover that many charismatic people are con artists, dangerous, or otherwise bad business to be around. I always cast a wary eye at the charismatic ones. They’d better have something more of substance under their charming exteriors than a big pile of bullshit.

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  2. Someone’s face on at least a third of the screen? My first thought wouldn’t be charismatic—more like an egomaniac. Nodding is better than nodding off. I have to laugh at the image of someone trying to look thoughtful—kind of like the dumb smile that I consistently produce in photos when someone tells me to smile. Pausing to indicate it’s another person’s turn to speak—if this doesn’t work, can I just hold up a sign that says, “It’s your turn, dummy.” Ask questions to show that you care how others feel about what’s being discussed, such as, “You don’t mind if I go get some potato chips, do you?”

    On a slightly more serious note, using humor is a good way to promote charisma. That’s what I attribute to my volley of nonsense above. Your posts are enhanced by your positivity and self-deprecating humor, Jim. I hope you’re managing what must be a challenging situation.

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    1. we’ve got the same kind of humor, it’s no wonder I always enjoy your posts and comments. My wrists seem to be healing nicely, although I will be wearing splints for at lest four more weeks. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.!

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  3. I am delighted to know that on-line is allowing those who actually have something interesting and useful to say to gain their place in the world. Most of these so called charismatic people are hot air puffs. I rarely turn my camera on as I am very skilled at doing to things at once. I can genuinely listen and do which astonishes others but it is true. I can do other things and still absorb every word of a conversation. I am thrilled that now I can use my skill without irritating other people who can’t do this.

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  4. Charisma is a powerful thing. But I think its is most effective when first meeting someone or beginning to work more closely in a group. It is the flash in the pan of our personality. Over longer periods of time, it is charm that wins out. And, you my dear friend, are about as charming as someone gets. Rather than a flash in the pan, you are the long burn of genuine personality that people are attracted to. I am so happy that you have been able to keep the blog going through your circumstances. I hope recovery continues well and my best to you and yours!

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    1. thank you for the kind words, Brad. It is good to back as part of the blogging community. I’ve missed the interaction. Recovery is going well, although I’ll be stuck wearing splints for at least four more weeks… I hope all is well with you!

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  5. Charisma has never been my gift, I was always very shy and then when I came out of it, I began to care less what people think the older I got. One thing I think I could handle is nodding and I do talk with my hands, the Italian half of me refuses to let me do otherwise, so maybe…..

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  6. I learned over the years to stay away from charismatic people as many of them ended up narcissists and attention seekers. Having said that, the list above looks like a great way to help those of us who are shy or don’t have that physical je ne ce quoi, shine a bit more. Thanks for this post, and I did use the very last point 🙂

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  7. My sister has always made fun of me for talking with my hands…It can look like I’m about to rap at times lol. But maybe some people think I’m charismatic 😅

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      1. My hand movement can get a bit excessive at times 😁. But I’ve got a lot of energy haha. As for you, I know we haven’t met in person, but you seem to have a way of genuinely connecting with people that is truly great!

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