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What exactly is Charisma? And what does it mean to you the actor?

How do we define charisma?

I guess it’s about people that we are drawn to and want to engage with. more than others.

But quantifying why we are drawn to them is another question altogether. What makes these people more likeable than others? This is a whole different exercise.

The ancient Greeks describe charisma as a “gift of grace”. This description works if you abide by the fact that it is a God given trait that comes naturally to some but not to others.

Charisma is actually a learned behavior and is something that all actors need to learn! 

It is something that we can learn like reading or writing or learning a new language. And yes, of course wealth and appearance are undoubtedly linked to likeability, but having neither of these attributes does not preclude you from having charisma!

Is it that someone has a good smile that draws us to them? Or they’re a good story teller? 

These obviously help but are they the magnet that actually draws us in and keeps us in? Or is it more tied to body language and speech?

A doctor of organizational behavior Dr John Antonakis (the fact that he has a Greek name was not lost on me!) put it like this “Charisma signaling is all about information. Using verbal and non verbal techniques.”

Now obviously people who naturally have charisma have not gone out there to study verbal and non verbal techniques but….. it can be taught and this is what this article is about.

There is such a thing as charisma coaches did you know? I certainly didn’t!

One such coach Olivia Fox Cabane believes charisma can be broken into three pillars:

Presence:  Being in the moment. I have written an earlier email about this and how important it is for actors.  (Read the article)

When you find yourself talking to someone and your attention is drifting – refocus on that person and pay attention to your breathe and the subtle sensations of your body.

Power: This is about breaking down self imposed barriers rather than achieving higher status. The key to this is to remove self doubt (easier said than done) by highlighting in your own mind the success you have already achieved, and that your skills and your passion are valuable and interesting to others, thereby losing the fear that you are not worthy of the position you are currently in. AS I say, this is easier said than doen but as with all things, practice and it’s amazing the results you will find!

Warmth: This is a little harder to fake. This requires you to radiate a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness, compassion and acceptance.

To master this, Ms Cabane suggests imagine a person you feel great warmth and affection for, and then focusing on what you enjoy most about your shared interactions, then layer this to whoever you may be speaking to or listening to at the time. She believes this technique can change body chemistry in seconds, making the most introverted of us exude with the type of warmth linked to high charisma type people.

Charisma is not a one cap fits all.

There are charismatic people who are good story tellers, intelligent people and those with power. Though these people may have the power element and /or the presence element, they often lack what I believe is the most powerful of all – being warm.

Here at The Audition Technique we believe there are four essential elements to being a successful actor – Charm, energy, humour and intelligence. This in my mind wraps up charisma. And these four ingredients are essential in every role you play.


Our Creating Compelling Characters Course goes into this in depth whilst being mentored by Casting Director Greg Apps.
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Though charismatic people are often liked because they are great story tellers, it goes beyond that. They make you feel that you are the only person in the room when engaging with you. Aside from being humorous and engaging, they are able to block distractions leaving you feel that that you are the only one that matters.

The best way to be more likable is to get out there and practice. 

It starts at home, by removing self doubt, and focusing instead on being an active participant in conversations and interactions with others. 

Be sure to engage in social interactions and continue looking for ways to show off your strengths as a communicator, because as an actor this is what you are. 

A walking talking listening communicator.