Projecting a Commanding Presence (On Developing Charisma)

When Kennedy spoke, he projected a commanding presence. Nixon didn’t. Neither did Ford or Carter. Reagan and Clinton did, big time. Neither of the Bushes projected a riveting sense of presence. Obama does.

Projecting a commanding presence isn’t something you can learn from a workshop or a self-help book. It’s more a way of being than anything you do, although the way you act can enhance it.

Here are ways you can make yourself more attractive to audiences.

1. Be Yourself.

Everything that makes you unique — from your appearance to your beliefs, your experience, and your sense of humor — can be used in a way that wins people’s attention and respect. Don’t imitate anyone, even dynamic speakers you admire.

2. Be in the Moment.

As simple as it sounds, it’s true: Having a sense of presence is rooted in being present. It’s the antithesis of being distracted or preoccupied. The two best ways of staying in the moment are 1) being conscious of your breathing and 2) laughing. (That’s one reason why audiences love speakers who laugh at themselves and who get the audience laughing along with them.)

3. Be Interested.

If you want others to be interested in what you’re saying, you have to be interested. (The best way to be boring — not just momentarily, but incessantly — is to be bored.) It’ll help, too, if you’re interested in your audience and how they might be affected by your presentation. Cultivate your sense of curiosity and wonder, and resolve never to talk about something that you don’t want to know more about yourself.

4. Be Connected.

Whether you’re speaking to a few people in your office or to a jammed auditorium, build rapport with them. Look them in the eye as you speak. Talk to them like they’re your friends. Think of your presentation as a way of helping them solve a problem or achieve a goal. Let them know how much you care and they’ll care about what you say. See “Build Rapport with Your Audience.”

5. Be Grounded.

People who project a sense of being in command are not easily swayed or pushed about. They stand their ground. The same is true for powerful speakers. Plant your feet. Imagine that you’re rooted to the earth and that its strength flows through you. When you move, do so with a purpose, not just to pace.

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The Witt Communications Newsletter contains advice for improving your ability to present yourself and your ideas in a way that wins people’s cooperation. It comes out once a month. Subscribe here.

Also see How to Connect with your Audience.

For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more powerful speaker, contact us.

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