E-Charisma: The Skill You’ll Need In 2021

Dear Rich Lifer,

It’s no surprise that office culture and work-life have both changed dramatically due to coronavirus.

Post-work happy hours at the local bar have been replaced with virtual cocktails with co-workers.

Chats in the breakroom have turned completely into “gchats” or “slacks.”

And meetings that “should have been an email” are most likely just that — emails.

However, hours of virtual meetings and calls have left many workers feeling fatigued. Many who found it easy to command a room or engage with others in person are left feeling lost behind a screen.

A new term “E-charisma” has taken front and center when it comes to making a good impression via online platforms like Zoom.

Physical charisma (P-charisma) often goes a long way in getting noticed at the workplace, advancing your career or nailing an interview.

“E-charisma involves a completely different set of skills and attributes than does P-charisma,” says Leigh Thompson, a professor of management & organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Physical charisma has to do with holding yourself confidently, moving with ease, and dressing for success. These are all things that present visibly to a group of people whether you are leading a discussion or walking into an interview.

Online, many of these physical cues get lost in the technology, so the focus must switch. In other words, what you are actually saying becomes a lot more important than how you walk into a room.

If you have been struggling with bringing “E-charisma” into your work-from-home setup, look no further. Today we will share some tips from experts on how to turn up the charm through the screen.

Take Center Screen

Stage presence and charisma go hand-in-hand. But how do you achieve that on video?

Robert Chen, a partner at business communication skills consulting firm Exec-Comm and a managerial communication lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that you take up the space in the frame of your computer the same way you would take up space at the front of the room, were you giving a presentation.

He believes that it’s best to “be close enough [to the screen] where there’s just a little space between the top of your head and the top of that frame.”

Stay in the middle of the screen, so you are well framed and close enough to the camera that your face is the main point of focus.

Take the time to consider things like lighting or your background. If you can sit facing a window with natural light, great! If not, position a desk lamp or consider buying a ring light, so your face is well lit.

Try to keep a solid colored background behind you, or, at the very least, a clean and tidy background that is free of clutter.

Be Expressive

New York-based executive coach Ora Shtull wants to stress the importance of adding extra nods and smiles into video meetings regardless of whether you’re the host or a participant.

In-person, it’s easier to add small verbal comments to signal you are engaged, but digitally, these can turn into distractions or cause tech issues.

A smile goes a long way when it comes to “E-charisma.” Shtull suggests a warm, closed-mouth smile when others are talking to communicate thoughtful listening.

Ultimately, just do your best to avoid an absent-looking resting face.

Eye contact is also something that most likely needs practice when it comes to Zooming. Mr. Chen states, “In order to connect and engage in this virtual world, you have to look at the camera, as opposed to people on the screen.”

If it’s a small meeting with only a few people, you have more leeway to actually look at the other people on the screen, just make sure you focus on one person at a time and don’t let your eyes wander.

Speak Up

In-person, it’s easy to command a room if you have a resonating speaking voice, but over Zoom the confidence in your speech can get lost due to things beyond your control — like poor WiFi or other electronic distortion.

Slowing down speech and articulating can help ensure you come across as confident, clear and charismatic, according to Rosario Signorello, phonetician and voice scientist at Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie at Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle and CNRS in Paris.

He also suggests varying your speech patterns to emphasize points and make the conversation more lively and engaging.

Take extra care to come to a full stop at the end of every point, and take longer pauses than normal to help signal you are done talking.

In-person, you can more easily rely on physical gestures to cue another person to speak, but over Zoom, you have to rely mostly on your words to express transitions in thought or literally in who is speaking.

Paraphrase or say something like, “Connor, I hear what you’re saying,” before beginning your own remarks. Or ask direct questions to specific participants to show that you care how others feel about what’s being discussed.

You can also consider investing in a microphone and a set of headphones to increase the overall quality of your sound.

Freedom of speech could be abolished once and for all. See the other critical dangers that may be coming…

Be Careful of Tone

The lack of in-person interaction has made emails, texts and social media even more important.

Dr. Thompson has observed that “The people who got along with physical charisma and style in the pre-Covid era really need to work on their substance game because we’re being more sized up for substance in the virtual era whether we realize it or not.”

Keep digital correspondence conversational and personalize as much as possible. Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University’s ILR School, states, “People tend to perk up when you talk about them.”

Being charismatic means you can elevate the people around you. You can also do this by keeping an upbeat tone on your social media. You have to find the balance between showing glimpses of your personal life but not oversharing.

Hopefully you are now armed with some tips and tools to nail that next Zoom call. We don’t know when we will go back to offices, but until then…

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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