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…