Charisma from the Feet Up:
How to Stand with Confidence

By Adele Landauer

Jim tried to be all things to all people. He was, after all, a company representative for a large company. He was an ambassador for their product, an information resource, a networker, a promoter of values, and a communicator of the company’s message and ideals. During any given week, he would find himself in front of customers, board members, the press, office staff, or factory workers. Jim felt that the best way to connect to his audience was to present himself in a way which he felt was most appropriate to them. So during worksite visits, he was crude and one of the boys. When he met with staff, he was overly sympathetic to the demands placed on them by upper management. With board members, he presented himself as fierce and cutthroat while with the press he portrayed himself as a man sensitive to the environment and world politics.

Despite all his hard work, despite all his attempts to emulate and appease his audience, Jim continually failed. His message was simply not getting through. His work became unsatisfactory. What could he be doing wrong? Wasn’t he giving the audience what they wanted? It couldn’t have been him, he thought. It must be the content. Yet his coworker Anne was working with the same content and experiencing success. She was doing what he couldn’t, namely making a connection with her audience, inspiring them, and getting positive results.  

He watched Anne present in front of the board, then at a staff meeting, in front of a union, and finally for the press. The content at each was of course different. The level of formality was as well. But at each event, her presence was strong and her body language convincing. She was natural and authentic. She was charismatic. And Jim thought he could never be that. Charisma—also known as presence—is something that you are either born with it or your not, he thought. There is no way that he could make such a strong connection or inspire people as she had. He bemoaned this to her over coffee one afternoon. She told him that she was not born with it but learned how to let her natural charisma come through.

Anne told Jim to think of musical notes. They can be read and understood, but until they are played, they do not have the power to touch an audience. The notes need an instrument. Content works the same way. Your words are like the notes. They can be heard or read and then understood, but they cannot touch an audience without an instrument. And that instrument is you—your body and your voice. Your charisma. Just as a musician needs to be trained to learn how to play, so does a presenter or speaker. So how can Jim learn how to play? How can he learn to be charismatic?

Decide how you want to appear before your presentation begins. How would you like to appear during a presentation? Self-confident, knowledgeable, friendly, empathetic, etc. What about arrogant? Or tired, bored, insecure, incompetent, or dishonest? Nobody wants to appear that way, yet how many people come off that way? Many. But why? Is it what they say? Sometimes it is, but it is more the impression they make. It’s how they act. As Mom would say, “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” But remember: you control your appearance. Think of an actor. He is in character before he steps on stage. And long before he utters a line, the audience knows who he is. It is the way he walks. The way he carries himself. It is not the crown that makes the king, but the way he holds his head. It is not the rags that make the pauper, but the way he moves across the stage. Long before you speak, transmit the message you want to send your audience.

Let your body support your message. A strong posture means strong content. You will appear more confident which in turn strengthens what you say. Learn how to stand properly. Imagine roots growing from your feet and connecting you to the middle of the earth. From your stomach there is a stick going straight down to your feet like a third leg. The stick goes up as well connecting you to the sky. Bring your spine in alignment with it. Relax your chest and breathe easy. Your stance is strong and so is your presence. You are connected with earth and sky and now with the people around you.

Come across as in control and capable. While you feel rooted to the center of the earth, do not become stiff like a tree. Find a comfortable position where you can move naturally. Do not bob or fidget back and forth.

Find your center. How can you appear confident and knowledgeable when all you feel is tiredness and stress? By learning how to locate and go to your center. To find your center, imagine that you have to hold a nut with your butt checks (Nut in the Butt Technique). Your pelvis suddenly stabilizes. Now pull back your shoulders and relax your chest. Your body is now centered. From here, you can access your energy and power. Practice this to commit it to muscle memory and to be able to move into your center at a moment’s notice.

Let your body speak but in a relaxed manner. Every gesture should come from your center and then return there or be replaced by an appropriate, natural movement.

Be authentic. In the end, it is not about being all things to all people but about allowing your natural self to come through. Your natural presence is charisma. By presenting yourself in a confident and natural way, you are able to create connections. When people can trust you, they can trust your content. When you hide who you are, you obscure not only yourself but your content.

These techniques are the start. With them, Jim was able to present himself more naturally and confidently. By having more confidence, he was able to show more and more of his natural self. The same is true for you. When you are present, you are charismatic and your light can shine. Your true being comes through. You will be connected with the people and world around you making your content stronger and the music more beautiful.

Read other articles and learn more about Adele Landauer.

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