The gift of the gab

Book review by: HAN AI LEEN 

Title: The Charisma Effect – How to Captivate an Audience and Deliver a Winning Message Author: Desmond Guilfoyle Publisher: McGraw-Hill  

THE very thought of the word “charisma” conjures images from King of Id, a comic stripe which I used to follow. The king and protagonist, upon hearing what his people wanted (they wanted “charisma” in their leader) demanded to have charisma. Thus, starting a hunt for acquiring charisma. And as we know that you either have it or you don’t, the scenes that followed had me in stitches. 

Now, if Desmond Guilfoyle had it his way, he would be advising the King of Id that charisma can be developed. Yes, you’ve read that right. Persuasion and eloquence can be self-taught. 

According to Guilfoyle in an interview with Star Business, charismatic personalities share many common and distinguishing features. They “adopt specific strategies and learn particular behaviours to achieve the total magnetic package known as charismatic communication”. He claims that through repetition, these strategies and behaviours become natural and habitual, resulting in charismatic communication.  

Guilfoyle believes that there are three crucial areas that need to be addressed when improving one’s charismatic communication. They are, the source of the communication; the nature of the communication and the characteristics of the audience.  

Hence, the book is divided into three workable parts: “Who says it” focuses on the speaker; “How it’s said” on how the message is delivered and “Who hears it” at analysing the listener or audience. 

While the book is written in easy-to-understand language and draws on the reader’s own imagination and experiences, many of the content reflects what anyone would have known about communication already. 

The only point of differentiation, according to Guilfoyle, is that other communication books pay little attention to form. The Charisma Effect is more focused on the means (the “how to”), rather than the ends.  

For example, he highlighted that charismatic communication uses words that invite and balance the positive and the negative. Chapter 9 offers lists of words that are designed to guide readers in choosing the right words for the right occasion. 

Guilfoyle guides the reader through certain techniques and models that attempt to change the way people respond to the speaker to improve the retention of the information heard.  

He also provides tips and advice for managing different situations, which are set to work equally well when communicating with one-on-one, small groups or mass audiences. 

Readers will note several case studies in the book that will help them identify themselves or people they know with.  

When asked if these case studies were fictional, the author explained that some are the result of observation and modelling of the behaviours of hundreds of successful public figures and broadcasters Guilfoyle has worked and met over his three decades of working as a current affairs presenter for the ABC, NZBC and the BBC and some are derived from the people he has consulted. 

Overall, the book promises to be a useful guide to those who are looking at improving their professional and social lives.  

As charisma is so elusive an element that not many would write a book on it, due credit should be given to this effort.  

Charisma-intrigued readers may also like to check out Anthony Alessandra’s Charisma: Seven keys to developing the magnetism that leads to success. 

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