In a recent Harvard Business Review Article the Director of the MIT Human Dynamics Lab, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, defended his research effectively showing how the power of charisma can be measured and does indeed significantly contribute toward your success. In his research, Pentland was able to predict with 87% accuracy who would win a business-plan competition, which he made without reading or hearing their presentations!
The essence of his research can be demonstrated in more practical terms as well! Take for example the recently posted comment by Maria Sipka of Linqia to my blog article entitled Europe vs America – Who’s got better management?. Whilst my point was on “verbal communication skills”, in essence these can only come to the surface through the effective use of strong “social signaling”, as highlighted in Pentland’s work. Maria was attending the Lift Conference in Geneva Switzerland and commented; “..even though their credentials and content is superb, lack engaging communication skills on stage..” in referring to European speakers.
Pentland states that “The more successful people are more energetic. They talk more, but they also listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others. They pick up cues from others, draw people out, and get them to be more outgoing. It’s not just what they project that makes them charismatic; it’s what they elicit.“
We ourselves have proof everyday that “there are biological functions that transfer signals between humans”. For example, when you’re surrounded by happy people doesn’t that rub off on you? How about when someone yawns near you? What happens next?
How many seedcamps have I been to where amazing concepts & ideas were left on the shelf due to the poor communication & social signaling skills from the candidates? Great ideas may never see the light of day unless we can add charisma to our presentation & communications style.
So what are the quick social signaling techniques we can learn from Pentland’s work that will test your “charisma meter”?
- Tone of voice
- Gesticulation (passion!)
- Proximity to others
- Active listening
- Great questions
- Drawing people out & getting them to be more outgoing
These are only a few, but the most important part of charisma is that it has to be authentic. As Pentland confirms, we’re social creatures and when we see someone we are looking for honest signals.
How can you improve the signals you’re sending out? Quick tip, be consistently open to self & 3rd party criticism, as well as regular review & reflection! then be courageous and make the necessary adjustments.
Here’s an additional resource.. from my buddy Conor Neill Conor giving us 12 Great Tips for Public Speaking! His Rhetorical Journey will especially love Pentland’s conclusion that “social intuition is no longer magic; it’s now quantitative science“! I guess that means we’ll soon be back-on-the-road doing some more Managerial Communications seminars.. 😉