"Charisma is the differentiator for any person who wants to sell anything -- ideas, products or themselves," says Cynthia Burnham, author of "The Charisma Edge: A How-to Guide for Turning On Your Leadership Power."
Burnham has a unique profession: charisma coach. A veteran of Wall Street firms and Fortune 500 corporations, she is hired by companies across America to add polish to their high level executives being groomed for top posts. Here are some quick tips to raise your charisma quotient:
1. Stand up straight. "It seems so simple, but it is amazing to me how many people ignore this important advice," says Burnham. "We haven't had a president who was shorter than average since the five-foot-seven-inch William McKinley, in 1896. (Ironically, a mountain was named after him.)" Taller is seen as smarter, more confident and more credible around the world. Because of the way we are wired neurologically, standing up straight also makes you feel more self-assured, calm and in control -- great ways to go into a sales call.
2. Practice your handshake. Think you have a great handshake? How do you know? This is one of the only ways you can connect physically with businesspeople, and it's very powerful. Research shows job interviewers choose people with better handshakes. Ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers to help you find a good pressure and appropriate grip.
3. Hold eye contact one extra eyelash. We break eye contact when we feel connection kick in. When you feel the "click," wait a tiny instant -- perhaps only an extra tenth of a second -- then break way. Do this especially when shaking hands or meeting a prospect for the first time.
4. Lower the pitch (not volume) of your voice. Both men and women are perceived as more credible, compelling -- and pleasant -- when they have low, relaxed voices.
5. Avoid chopping gestures. Whole arm karate chop gestures can psychologically "cut up" the space between you and your prospect in an aggressive way.
6. Pause before answering. Don't be in such a hurry. Train yourself to take a breath before answering anything. The small space of one breath will allow people to catch up to you, will give your brain time to come up with the best answer, and will make you look thoughtful even if all you've really done is breathe.
7. Reduce extraneous nodding. Sometimes we undermine how powerful and in focus we are by nodding like a bobble-head doll. Nod once or twice with a smile of agreement. But find your still center and stay there.
8. End your words. Most Americans say things like "slobby ardigulashunis nod elegan." If you end your words distinctly, you will be seen as more articulate and easier to understand. (Translation: SloPPy arTiCulatioN is noT eleganT).
9. Flash eyebrows. And smile. Body language shows the "eyebrow flash" to be a powerful welcoming gesture. Raise your eyebrows once, let them relax back, and smile. This gesture tells others you are delighted to see them.
10. Be willing to laugh. We get so serious. Shared laughter connects us with others. Don't be afraid to laugh genuinely with your prospects.
"If you want to lead people in new directions, move them to action, or simply connect quickly and easily with the important people around you, an extra jolt helps make it happen," says Burnham. "Great leaders, great team members, great salespeople all benefit from ways to look, act and feel more powerful and confident."