What is Charisma and How do I Develop it?

Charisma is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as a “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” In the context of effective communication and public speaking, chances are that you have been enthralled by the likes of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, or Tony Robbins. What made those public figures charismatic is not their ability to speak in public (though that surely helped), it is their presence, personal power, and their warmth.

How do you develop those three attributes and become a more charismatic person? You do that by working on improving those attributes in yourself. Let’s briefly look at some action steps:

Presence
You develop a greater presence by building a greater self-awareness. Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Become sensitive, and responsive to the people and environment around you, as opposed to insensitive and reactive to changes in your space.

Personal Power
Personal power is based on strength, confidence, and competence that individuals gradually acquire in the course of their development. It is self-assertion, and a natural, healthy striving for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world. To grow your personal power, grow your self-discipline. Discipline is the ability to do what you have to do when you don’t want to do it.

Warmth
The quality, state, or sensation of being warm, enthusiastic, affectionate or kind. This comes from genuinely caring about others and being considerate.

Which one of those qualified do you have, and which one should you probably work on improving?

Are Your Words Hurting or Healing?

Words can be used to hurt or to heal, the choice is usually ours to make. I watched someone deliver a speech today and he had a great story. When he was only 6 years old, his mother told him in very clear words that he would never amount to anything. That was the recurring theme within the conversation between his parents and him until he permanently left the house when he turned 15.

When he joined the army, he was lucky to encounter one of his superior who saw something greater in him and spoke healing words. Those healing words, words of encouragements, created a new vision in his mind. He went on to heal from that abusive childhood and grew stronger and more confident in himself. I can’t imagine the damage such words would do to a child, or an adult for that matter.

Each and every one of us on the planet has experience hard times in one form or another. In every interaction we have with others and with ourselves, let’s remember to always speak words that heal, and never words that hurt.

We all have a backstory. How does that help you?

In the case for effective communication, it is important to recognize and appreciate that every single individual you will ever interact with has a backstory. A backstory is background information about a real person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it. In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Steven Covey lists the following as one of the habits: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If we all have that approach when we communicate with others, it will make for clearer communication and better outcomes. backstory

I once remember having a conversation with two colleagues in the office and because I did not know the backstory of the other people in the room, I was very much tempted to be defensive and judgemental of their opinions and their ways or reasoning. I am glad I did not, because when they eventually got to share their backstories during that meeting, I became empathetic and more accepting.

Getting to know their backstories helped me show more compassion and be more loving. Next time you interact with someone and you are tempted to “lose it”, remember they have a backstory and their position might be an evolution over years, or a combination of several factors. Knowing someone’s backstory is the first step to understanding them better, and thus to be understood.

What is your backstory, and how will that help someone understand you better?

Top 5 Lessons From 5 Years in Toastmasters

Today marks the 5th year anniversary of my primary Toastmasters club, All Nations Toastmasters in Anaheim, California. I have experienced exponential growth from my membership with the organization, and learned both from the people I have met as well as the education program.

Lionnel at Toastmasters

As I take a moment to reflect on the achievements of the past and look ahead to the victories of the future, some of the lessons drawn from this endeavor surface. Here they are, with some of my thoughts on them:

  • Self-confidence is a skill

It can be improved. When I joined Toastmasters 5 years ago, my confidence level was at about -10/100. Today, it hovers around 70/100. What is different today compared to then is that I am aware that just like playing soccer or using the guitar, self-confidence is a skill that I can keep getting better at. Here is a great TEDx talk that elaborates on self-confidence as a skill: The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph

  • Courage is not the absence of fear

The fear of speaking in public is not logical, but so isn’t falling in love.  I have seen terrified people step up to their fears and thrive. Fear is normal, and should be embraced, not fought. The more you step up and face your fears, the more courageous you become.

  • Serious work beats talent

I have been told that I am talented as a public speaker, and it might be true. However, I have also put it an incredible number of hours into developing my communication and leadership skills. I have seen countless others do the same. Talent is the seed. Hard work is the soil and nurturing that grows the seed into an oak tree. If you lack talent, hard work will make up for it. If you already are talented, serious work will make you extraordinary.

  • Humans are not that different from each other

I have heard hundreds of stories throughout the past 5 years, and we all live our versions of the hero’s journey. We go through similar challenges, face similar evils, have similar aspirations, and all strive to live happy and fulfilling lives. That’s one of the fail-proof ways of connecting to anyone you interact with. Relate to others the way you wish they would relate to you, and you will build better relationships. If you need a friend, be a friend.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it

This has been my first hand experience. It relates to the third point. I have friends who have been active Toastmasters for the past 20+ years. They don’t need to be members anymore, but they know that the best way to remain sharp is to keep sharpening oneself. If you don’t use your good health, you will lose it. Similarly, if you use the skills and talents you have or are acquiring, you will lose them.

I personally believe that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. No matter how good I think I am, or how bad others see me as being, I am only getting started. My best is ahead of me, and it is exciting to be moving towards it.

PS: If you want to learn more about Toastmasters International and find a club near you, visit www.toastmasters.org

My Top 5 Books on Public Speaking

If you have had any chance of public speaking, you know it can be intimidating or empowering. That is depending on what stage of your learning experience you are at. I am a student of public speaking and I have been sharing what I know on my YouTube channel: 365 Days of Public Speaking (https://www.youtube.com/user/365dps). A lot of the things I know, I learned from books. In this post I share my top 5 books on public speaking. It is a great place to start if you need help or have targetted questions on how to improve your public speaking skills.

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Steve Gallo is the author of the pitch enthusiasts’ ‘bible’, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, and his Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds boils down to nine secrets of effective presentation, gleaned from his analysis of more than 500 TED Talks. Drawing on the research of psychologists and other experts in communications, Gallo also offers pearls of wisdom extracted from interviews with some of the most notable TED Talks speakers. This has broad appeal, bound to be read as enthuastically by a fan of TED Talks as it will be digested by public speakers.

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The CEO of TED Chris Anderson has been at the head of the organisation since the early 2000s, and so is one of the ultimate authoritative sources on public speaking in the modern era. He has an intuitive understanding of how the best speakers and presentations can get the audience onside, stir excitement and share knowledge, both within the presentation room and much farther beyond. For TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Anderson draws on a huge range of material drawn from working with the best TED speakers in a bid to help you become a master of impactful presentation.

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Another entry by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, A Concise Public Speaking Handbook (4th Edition) is a concise primer in preparing, researching and delivering a speech underpinned by the Beebes’ signature audience-focused strategy, which shows the speaker how to consider and analyse the audience at every step of the process. As a comprehensive round-up of the core presentation skills, this is an excellent resource for public speaking in any walk of life.

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This is one of the definitive and classic public speaking reference works. Self-help colossus Carnegie is no longer with us, of course, but his lessons for effective public speakers are timeless. Unsurprisingly, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking focuses on boosting your confidence, as well as using props and exercises to develop your speech. Sure, it’s old school, but in this case, there is no school like the old school.

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The sub-title of Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker shows that this is a book for entrepreneurs who are ready to “tell, sell and compel”. There is some great information in here for those who want to blitz their pitches with maximum engagement presentations. This is a great book, easy to understand, and you will find that the skills it imparts will stand you in good stead in life as well as in business.