You can’t learn charisma... (Really?)

Updated: Mar 8

They dim down the lights, the crowd stops talking as the band takes the stage. Everyone gets ready. While the drummer adjusts his cymbals and the bassist tunes up, standing behind the microphone, the singer shows signs of nervousness. After taking a few steps to the right and left, seeing the audience staring at him, he walks up to the mic and says:


"Good evening everybody! How are you doing? »


You immediately can feel a certain discomfort spread through the venue. The singer has just lost 10 points of charisma before even singing the first note. He will have to work hard to get back on track.


We've all seen this.








"Charisma. Some have it, others don't. »


I've heard this claim so many times that, like everyone else, I believed it. But what if we questioned it? Can we take a step back and see it differently?


Since I've started coaching musicians, I take great pleasure in contradicting the idea that charisma is innate rather than acquired. I sincerely believe that almost anyone can develop charisma but that many lack the tools to do so.



The different roles on stage


Before revealing a few tips, let's first agree that there are two categories of people on stage. There are lead singers, like Mick Jagger, and then there are all the others. Although Keith Richards is a star, he falls into the second category.


Lead singers are responsible for connecting with the audience. They are the ones who must use their charisma the most to captivate and fascinate the audience. They host the show.


Are other musicians less important? No. Like supporting actors in a film, they are essential and can also be very charismatic, like Keith Richards. But their job is to help build the aura of the lead singer, which is ultimately a good thing for the whole band. Performing on stage is a team effort. When everyone understands their role, it's easier to win over the audience.


Increase your charisma : 5 easy tips.


1 - Create a memorable show intro


The first few seconds of a show are the most important, so it's essential to think of a powerful intro. Lead singers should never address the audience until all band members are ready to play. Let the band come on stage, start the first song and stretch out the intro. This creates a sense of anticipation; it tells the audience that something interesting is about to happen. It also avoids the awkward moment described at the beginning of this article. Once the band caught the audience's attention, the lead singer shows up, and the crowd will listen. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.



2 - Show leadership; the audience will follow


I sometimes meet people who have beautiful voices and whose training was done in choirs or cover bands. They sing in tune and with great power. It is technically impressive, and I take my hat off to them. It takes years of hard work to have such voices. However, these same people are often inexperienced when it comes to leading a band.


In a previous blog entry, I told you about a blues singer I know who leads her band with clarity and precision. She has an outstanding stage presence. Why? Because authority goes hand in hand with charisma. We all have a natural inclination to follow those who act like leaders. Performers who know how to lead their group tell us that they control the situation, which magnifies their stage presence.


Take the lead, indicate tempos, punches, crescendos, beginnings and endings. This will automatically give you more charisma. If you are not used to doing this, practice it at a rehearsal. The cohesion and spontaneity of the group will be much better.



3 – Bring variety to your song presentations


You can tell a show isn't polished when every song is introduced pretty much the same way.


"I wrote the following song when I was (insert age here) and (insert name of a loved one here) helped me get through (insert a challenging life experience here).


Then there is a bit of silence, and the drummer gives the tempo: 1,2,3,4. You can do that for one or two songs in a one-hour show, but please don't go overboard. Make it surprising, tell stories, add a musical background, interact with the audience, try slam poetry, address the audience in the middle of a song, etc. Whatever means you choose, try various approaches. Also, practicing presentations and speeches during rehearsals will give you more confidence in delivering them.



4 - Walk with confidence


We have all been walking since our early childhood. But strangely enough, often, when stepping on a stage, the average human being doesn't know how to move anymore. The legs no longer respond to commands. Some people, caught in a severe indecision syndrome, take one step forward, two steps back, and then wander from right to left without clear direction. Others, on the other hand, suffer from acute rigidity and freeze behind the microphone.


This advice is primarily for lead singers. But it also applies to guitarists, violinists, saxophonists, or anyone who is mobile on a stage. Be clear in your movements. Look at successful performers. They all walk with confidence.


  • Choose your destination before you take the first step, then walk with no hesitation.


  • Use musical segments to mark your movements. For example, singers who start singing a verse with a first step and end it on the last step will give weight to their movements and words. The same goes for the instrumentalist who walks forward and then takes center stage when playing the first notes of a solo.


  • It doesn't have to be choreographed, but it is essential to be aware of the visual impact of a well-executed move. It is a simple and effective way to look confident.



5 - Take control of the crowd's eyes


Majors artists who tour the world benefit from incredible technical support that will blow the audience's mind. Sophisticated lighting, giant screens, pyrotechnics, backstage assistants, etc. These elements will help distract the audience during a guitar or costume change and highlight specific moments in a show.


Without having the production resources of Celine Dion or Metallica, you can still learn to guide the audience's eye to make the performance more magical. Here are some simple examples:


  • To highlight other instrumentalists delivering solos, a lead singer only has to take a step back, look at the soloists, make a hand gesture and introduce them.


  • During a guitar change, playing an intro on the piano will divert the audience’s attention.


  • During an acoustic segment, a singer sitting on a stool will automatically create an intimate atmosphere.


  • The whole band walking downstage at the same time will increase the intensity of the show.

  • A singer standing behind a mic while using evocative hand gestures (or deliberately limiting movements) will give more expressivity to a song’s lyrics.


 


I have shared some very general ideas that any artist can use, regardless of the musical genre. Obviously, it is up to you to adapt these principles to your reality, style and band. Keep in mind that it's all about perception. The audience will be won over (or not) according to what they perceive. When going on stage, artists have a responsibility to deliver a captivating performance. Using this method will help to create a strong connection with the audience.


The tips listed here may seem theoretical, but all of these principles can be applied in action and instinctively. Try them out, you'll see.


These tips are suitable for all types of shows and all styles of music. My main goal in this post is to provoke thought about the art of creating memorable live performances and raise awareness of the audience's point of view.


Let me know what you think and subscribe to my FB page.


For a consultation, for personalized coaching, to optimize your stage performance, contact me.


Rock On!


Olivier







Photo by : Harry Swales






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