Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Keys to unlocking your charisma

rodenburgAll good performers have it. So do the best politicians, business people, and teachers. “It” is presence, or charisma, the ability to command attention, to influence, and connect. We used to think it was innate, but experience and recent research suggest not.

Charisma is a learnable skill or, rather, a set of skills, that have been known since antiquity. What’s needed is help to fish it out.

Influential British voice coach Patsy Rodenberg  has spent 30 years developing  a model for  ‘presence’ . She describes  it in terms of three circles.  “I started to look for the physical, intellectual, and emotional manifestations of presence and the blocks we all have in our bodies, minds, and hearts that disengage us from presence”. Rodenburg  is one of the world’s leading voice teachers, Head of Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London for 26 years,  a renowned authority on Shakespeare, and she was voted one of the top 15 most powerful people in the UK theatre.  You can read an interview with her here, and watch her  in action below.

‘First circle’ is when you are introverted,  self-absorbed, with energy focussed inward.  The symptoms may be a collapsed body, an averted gaze, and a voice that drops back. In first circle people don’t seem interesting or interested; they’re hard to reach.

‘Third circle’ people are BIG, often bombastic and they focus their energy outward in order to dominate. They take up loads of space and airtime. People in Third Circle look past you, and often speak too loudly.

‘Second circle’ people have the right balance between self-awareness and presence for others. This is where you want to be.

Here’s Patsy:

When you are in Second Circle, you are fully present in the world because your energy is placed on specific points outside of yourself. When you arrive in Second Circle, you have charisma, and if you catch the eye of another person in Second Circle, a powerful connection has been made.

To get started:

Try noticing the world around you. Take time to look and listen to others without immediate judgment or censorship….Try walking with energy and then stop and look around you. Breathe deeply and as calmly as you can. Keep your shoulders released and lift your gaze up from any downward tendencies. Keep your spine up but not rigid.

And her advice?

One of the greatest tips I can give about public speaking is an extension of being in Second Circle. Know that the story you are telling is more important than your fear. Climb onto the podium with energy. Look around your audience, breathe to them and care for them, and remember you can’t make them like you.

Are you a First or Third Circle Speaker?

  • When you speak, do you notice people leaning into you (First) or backing away? (Third)
  • Are you asked to repeat yourself? (First)
  • Do you feel you force people to listen? (Third)
  • Do you give up or trail off sentences? (First)
  • Do you think that volume will control the listener? (Third)
  • Do you find yourself droning on (First) or manufacturing your voice to be more interesting? (Third)
  • Are you aware of people tuning out when you speak? (This last point can be true in either First or Third Voices)

Qualities of the Second Circle Voice:

It cares about reaching the listener and is generous in touching you.
It is a flexible voice, which reflects what is being said and reveals rather than hides content.
It is an interesting voice, and recognizes the listener’s presence by being neither too soft nor too loud.
It is an effortless, vulnerable, clear and intelligent voice, which has an immediate impact on the world.
It is a voice that encourages the listener to think, “Go on.”

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