Why is charisma so important?
Have you ever wondered how one teacher can bore you to sleep in under 10 minutes and another can keep your mind engaged for an entire 4 hour class? They can present the exact same content and even use the exact same verbiage, but for some reason you find yourself drawn into one lecture and completely removed from the other. The difference between those teachers is charisma. Charisma is something that some people are just born with. However, it can be a learned skill.This blog article is not going to teach you how to be charismatic, but I will try to make a few points about things you can do right now to improve your image in front of a crowd.
Have you ever noticed a presenter that is constantly touching their face or folding their arms?
It’s a common problem typically caused by nervous energy and I myself am a victim. However, there is a cure! Engage your hands in your conversation. For some people this means extravagant gestures. For others, it means slight gestures with one hand, while the other is manipulating a paper clip. In any case, if you can find a way to engage your hands in your conversation and keep them from touching your face, then you can prevent a few of the obvious signs that you are nervous and you can instead portray confidence.
Some very prominent people use hand gestures to emphasize points. A prime example is our current president Barack Obama. Say what you want about Barack, but he definitely commands an audience. This is part of the reason that he was elected president. You will not see Barack reach up and touch his face during a presentation or fold his arms into a closed posture, but you will see him use his hands effectively to make a point. Sometimes he’ll even go as far as to bang his hand on a podium.
Another way to hide that nervous energy is to use props. In many cases there are props that you can integrate into your speech to ensure that you are keeping your hands busy, but also illustrating a point. Even a white board where you write down key points and point to them can be a prop. I have seen some impressive white board presentations in my career thus far and delivered one myself. I can say with certainty that speaking to a crowd with nothing but a marker and whiteboard is the best way to exude confidence and increase credibility. If you choose to leave the PowerPoint presentation out of the equation and rely solely on your memory, it requires hours more preparation and practice, but the results are astounding.
I was about to present to an audience for the second time in a month and had solicited some feedback after my first presentation. The feedback was mixed and ranged from “you say ‘umm’ too much” to “you looked uncomfortable with the material”. The truth is that I was very comfortable with the material, but I wasn’t comfortable with my audience. A few weeks later, I was asked to come back and present in front of the same core group and a much broader audience in attendance. My goal was to completely change the opinions formed by the core group of people after my first presentation.
I had done a lot of research on how to appear more confident and how to use silence as a tool rather than using filler words. In typical Brendan style, I also researched how I could take the presentation to the next level. I scrapped my PowerPoint presentation and instead brought in a white board and markers. I kept the same content for the presentation, but I chose to develop the content piece by piece rather than displaying it all in a slideshow.
When the audience came into the room, I felt a lot more pressure on myself to perform. I wasn’t really sure why until I noticed that all eyes were directly on me. I had never realized how much focus a slideshow takes off of the presenter. Again, nervous energy began to build up and I found that I reached up to scratch my nose within the first minute of the presentation. This was the first time that I discovered my nervous tick! I quickly grabbed a marker and jotted down a few topics for the presentation. After a few short moments of controlling that nervous tick, I found myself twisting the marker in between two of my fingers. I began to draw a diagram of the problem that I was describing. Unlike the previous meeting, this time I was explaining while the diagram was being built. This put all of the attention on me and gave the illusion that I knew my material much better than last time. Once the diagram was fully drawn and explained, I found myself twisting the marker in between my fingers again and began to incorporate my hands into my speaking with gestures (similar to Bill Clinton’s photo above). Without realizing it, I began to move around the front of the room and look out at my audience. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my confidence had grown immensely and what were my workarounds to relieve nervous energy turned into charismatic gestures that increased my credibility with the audience and drew them into my presentation.
In a matter of 3 weeks, I had transformed a presentation of the exact same content from boring and intolerable to engaging and exciting. I will never overcome the nervous energy that accompanies me when I speak. However, I have found that I can not only control it, but transition the nervous energy into charisma.
Spcial thanks to Matt BrenderRead More
Why is it that everyone always wants to be first?
From childhood competition all the way to corporate drive to be first to market, everyone wants to win the race. It seems to be human nature. Is this instinct really about more than just competition? I believe that this desire is attributed to more than just competition. It has to do with reputation, pride, and self respect.
Why do children race to be the first one to the car? Why do they always have to play the video game first, or to take it a step further, why do they feel the need to try to be the first player? My theory is that people value being better than others. Even children value being a leader in some way or another. Whether it is being the captain of a team, the desire to win a race in the school yard, or even to win the class spelling bee, children always seem to be competing against each other for recognition. In corporate society, the mentality is very similar. Colleagues compete for their manager’s approval and sometimes at the expense of each other. They push to be the first to complete a project or to ensure that they are the person that responds first to a question in a meeting. My question is:
“Why is it so important to be first?”
Human nature is to position ourselves in the best way to achieve our goals. Why is it that our goal is always to be first? I propose a shift in mentality in the corporate culture; I would prefer to be the best (a balance of quality and speed), not the first. In many ways, this is the goal of my industry (the technology world), but it is only the goal once a product or idea has been made available to the public. Too much emphasis is put on being the first into the market. You can make the argument that gaining the initial market share in a particular area is key, but if you are putting a sub-par product on the market then where will it get you? To elaborate even further on that point, once a splash has been made into the market by another company, why is it so important to be the next person to release a similar product?
Have you ever wondered what happened to some of the companies that were first to market and then magically disappeared? Do you still get an answer if you Ask Jeeves? Yes you do, but not as many people ask him now that other search engines have swooped in and stolen his market away from him. Does anyone recall Friendster? It was the first major social networking site predating even MySpace! However, it was unable to scale with its user base (poor quality design). That brings me to my second point, who uses MySpace anymore? MySpace has become irrelevant in the social networking world. It was one of the first to market (behind a few including Friendster), but it failed when Facebook came onto the scene and took the market by storm. Why does this happen? Too many start ups and even major corporations put emphasis on first to market as opposed to concentrating on creating the best quality product on the market. Sure being first to market still adds value, but if you release a better product a few months later you can far surpass the amount you would have made with a lesser product that was released first.
My point is that being first isn’t always a good thing, but that doesn’t stop people from rushing to be first. I am a believer that if you ensure a high quality product, your more likely to succeed than if you rush a product out the door just to be first. I am a huge fan of Google, so I will use it as my conclusion. Google was not the first search engine around. Despite the fact that they were not first, they were able to develop a better product than their competition and grab a vast majority of the market. They grabbed so much of a market that a phrase has been coined, “Google It” instead of saying “Search the [inter]net”.
Constructive criticism is welcome. Please leave comments below to let me know whether you love it or hate it.Read More
Recently, I enrolled in a graduate degree program for MS in Innovation Leadership at WPI. I’m currently taking a class that studies the differences between groups and teams. As defined by many authors that I have studied thus far a group is a collection of individuals that are not dependent on each other to complete their goal. A team is a group of people that are interdependent and rely on each other to accomplish the end goal. The class also covers the interpersonal skills that are necessary in order to help a team work. After only 8 hours of this class (2 actual classes), I have come to understand that the group of people that I am leading is not working as a team, but rather a group of individual contributors. Currently, we are a group of people that come together occasionally to update each other on the status of our individual tasks. We may share a common goal, but that goal is becoming quite blurry as the weeks and months roll on. With the new knowledge that I am gaining from this class, I’ve decided to change my approach to leadership in order to foster cooperation within the team and a growth of leadership abilities within the team members. As a team, we are exploring the depths of team member empowerment and harnessing our full potential.
How do we function now?
We are a group of individuals with separate agendas. We share a common goal of fixing a well known problem in our support organization. The team has two co-leaders (one of which is me). The co-leaders share the exact same goals and are consistently performing the work needed for the team to succeed, while the rest of the team tends to lag behind and receive updates at meetings though it is no fault of their own. Work is not delegated to the team members. Instead, all of the meetings (outside of team meetings) are organized and attended by the co-leads. The team does have defined roles that have been assigned to the team members. However, these roles are vague and ambiguous. Since these roles do not have a specific tasks tied to them, the team members find themselves not knowing how to progress forward. Management intentionally avoids interfering with the progress of the team. Exposure to management has been limited to only the co-leaders thus far. Team morale is low and our progress is slowing steadily as a result. There is a clear lack of accountability and responsibility to each other and to management. Again, this is not to speak ill of the team, but rather the common leadership style that is employed in corporate society to manage/lead teams of this sort. This team started off with innovative ideas and a burst of energy, but lack of a true “team” feeling has caused that energy and innovation to lose momentum and fade away into the background.
Enter the new way of thinking…
I’ve quickly found that the best way to find out why things aren’t working is to simply ask the question. The co-leaders sat down with the team to do just that. The team provided feedback indicating all of the above problems, some problems more obvious than others (none were a shock to hear). After contemplating how to apply the knowledge that I’ve gained recently and speaking with my co-lead, we have established a rather unique [to EMC] approach to leading this team. We are exploring the following methods:
Each of our bi-weekly meetings from now on will have a different person leading the meeting. We will also rotate the responsibility of presenting our accomplishments to the upper management team. This method is designed to promote accountability and give the team a better sense of responsibility. It has already increased morale and the members are showing initiative, which seemed to have run dry in recent months. The team members are rising to the challenge of preparing for meetings. We are working to establish a well-defined goal statement for the project that everyone can strive for. Although we are still in the early stages of this new leadership style, it appears to be working exactly as we have drawn it up (as a team). The benefits of this rotating responsibility are endless. It starts with everyone sharing exposure and recognition for our achievements and it ranges all the way to the small things like keeping everyone consistently informed.
The key to success in the technology industry and the key to EMC’s success has been and still is the ability to adapt. Since EMC loves acronyms, we’re using a process that I’ve lovingly decided to name LAP (Learn, Adapt, Progress). At the end of each team meeting, we will “run LAPs”. Please excuse my temporary marketing break in this post. The team will discuss what is working with this new leadership style and what is not. We will learn and grow together as a team. Any decisions to be made will be done as a team at this junction of the meeting. If we start to get stale again, this process will keep us moving forward.
This team was in need of a major overhaul. Instead of having a single person head up this overhaul alone and not listen to the concerns of the team, we’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and lead as a group. The co-leads have not completely relinquished their roles, we’ve just invited the rest of the team to join us and share the spotlight together. The co-leads still schedule meetings and organize events, but letting anyone think that we are the only members contributing to the success of this project. We’ve blurred the line between team member and team leader. In a group consisting of people that are all the same position within the company, this will unite us as a team that is now fully equipped to succeed and to advance the customer support organization much further than we ever anticipated.
For more interesting reading on this subject, see Are Your Weekly Team Meetings Weak?.