Defining the IT-Factor

A married man: George Clooney

A random married man

It’s not for sale, and yet it is one of the most sought after things in the world.

Movie stars have it. Some captains of industry exude it. Politicians who have lost it, are likely to lose the election.

What am I talking about?


Originally, the word charisma meant “grace” or “talent from G-d.” Later on it became the “gift of leadership, power of authority, or charm that can inspire, influence, and motivate others.”

Some believe charisma is elusive and exclusive. Either we’re blessed with it from birth, or we were born to be bland.

Others like Olivia Fox Cabane, are convinced it can be taught. Olivia is an executive “charisma coach,” and author of The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

Cabane thinks charisma is the result of a set of specific behaviors, and not an innate or natural quality. She bases her opinion on behavioral psychology.

No matter where you stand, I think we can all agree that charismatic people have certain things in common that make them attractive to others. I’ll go one step further and claim that charisma is often an essential ingredient to success.


In my world – the world of voice acting solopreneurs – charisma is a huge part of what attracts casting directors and other clients to certain talent. It’s the “IT-factor” that is so hard to define, but that everybody is talking about.

Charisma is like a bright light shining through a crystal. All of a sudden you can see a rainbow of colors, each color being a different attribute. To illustrate what I mean, I have broken charisma down into a number of qualities most inspirational people are known for. These people are…

1. Confident, but not cocky

Charismatic people know their stuff inside out, but they never try to impress. If anything, they want to be impressed. Some of the most influential, intelligent people I have met, are also the most humble people. They don’t seek approval from others. They’re completely comfortable with who they are.

Charismatic (voice) actors know what they’re doing. You can see it in their posture, and you can hear it in their performance. They’re open to feedback and willing to experiment. They don’t need outside adulation to feel good about themselves.

2. Focused on others, and not on self

Charismatic people have a gift to make others feel special. When you talk to them, you have their full attention. They are totally present. One question they often ask is: “If there’s one thing I could do for you, what would it be?”

Charismatic (voice) actors make their clients feel special, and they focus on bringing the script to life. When in session, they are totally in the moment. They’re service-oriented, ready to go the extra mile.

3. Eloquent storytellers

Charismatic people are usually great public speakers, and intriguing to watch. Face, voice, and gestures reveal the same message (see my story on congruence). They are enthusiastic, and their energy is contagious instead of draining.

Charismatic (voice) actors are great storytellers. Once they start, you can’t stop listening to them. They are expressive, and they use their voice like a musical instrument. They have the power to move you. When voicing games and cartoons, they’re definitely animated!

4. Interested and interesting

Charismatic people ask the best questions because they’re always open to learning something new. Their ongoing curiosity has made them interesting as well as wise.

Charismatic (voice) actors are active listeners. Their ears are always open, ready to pick up a new accent, and to discover a new character. Before they hit “record,” they need to know all about the content, the context, the characters and – of course – the client.

5. Authentic and engaging

You can say a lot about charismatic people, but you can’t accuse them of being fake. Self-assured and emotionally intelligent, they despise posturing. Even though they may be introverted in private, they are outgoing in public. They don’t mind being the center of attention, because it serves a greater purpose. It often comes with the job.

Charismatic (voice) actors are no copycats. They are originals. They may be good at doing certain impressions, but they are hired because of their unique timbre and talent. They are great networkers, because they’re not afraid to put themselves out there. They know that those who are too shy to ask, will never get what they want.

6. Optimistic and purposeful

Great leaders often embody optimism in testing times. They are persuasive and proactive; they seek solutions and overcome obstacles in unexpected ways. They smile a lot, and come across as assertive, yet warm. Without exception, they are driven to do exceptional things.

As a solopreneur operating in a saturated, uncertain market, you won’t survive without a positive mindset and a solid plan. You’re on a mission, and you won’t allow a negative mood to sabotage your success. You come in prepared, and you are confident that you’re exactly where you are meant to be. And when it is time to go, you make sure to leave on a good note because last impressions last.


I realize this recipe for charisma has many ingredients. Remember this. It’s not a technique. It is an attitude. Just like love, it can’t be forced and it shouldn’t be faked. If anything, charisma is the result of many unconscious processes that were developed over time.

I do believe that all of us are capable of these behaviors. As you may recall, I’m a reluctant extrovert. I really had to force myself to be more outgoing, and show my emotions. You should see me now. I even became a happy hugger! If I can do it, you can certainly do it. 

So, if you feel you’d like to give this charisma-thing a try, don’t attempt to display all these behaviors at once. Begin by becoming an active listener. Maintain eye contact, and make it about the other person. Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking to you. To quote Stephen Covey: “Understand before being understood.”

Find out what you can do to make others feel comfortable. Break the ice with a little humor. Discover how compliments give people wings. Stop complaining, and stop wanting to please everybody. Don’t make excuses, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Take responsibility for your own life, and please keep your ego in check.


Charisma is not reserved to Hollywood royalty, or to tycoons or political power brokers. It can’t be bottled and it can’t be bought. You don’t even need an expensive coach to teach you to become more likable and appreciative. Deep down I already know you are charismatic. You just need to show it a bit more.

I guarantee you that when you start taking small steps in the right direction, you will notice a distinct difference. A difference in the way you feel about yourself, and in the way people respond to you.

Of all the things we have discussed about script delivery and performance in the past few weeks, this may very well have the greatest impact.

That’s why I want you to ask yourself:

“What can I do today, to become more charismatic?”

and DO IT…. gracefully and lovingly.

After all, you are tremendously talented.

Use your gifts warmly and wisely, and you will receive much in return!

That I can promise you.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be Sweet. Please retweet!

PPS This is part 7 in my series on performance and script delivery. You can read part 1 by clicking on this link, and part 2 by clicking on this link. Click here for part 3 and click here for part 4. You can read part 5 if you click here, and click here for part 6.

photo credit: pierrotsomepeople via photopin cc

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  1. As always Paul, you have this unique angle that is well balanced. It’s fearful and inspiring at the same time, you my friend have been and are a great influence as I walk on the road less traveled.

    Your charisma is much appreciated !

    Thank you for caring and for posting such insightful and educational blogs.

    Best Regards!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You are very welcome, Julio. I’m happy to act as one of the tour guides on this amazing journey to voice-over success. Be the best you can be, and enjoy every moment!

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  3. In our VO world, sometimes there is a lot of noise and too much hot air. You seem to break through the aura with with clear-cut perception and very little BS. I like how you know what it takes to be successful, you don’t back down easily or often, and you have a heart of gold! There’s a reason why your blog is followed closely. You have been an influential person with a unique perspective for a long time. Thanks for giving us something worthwhile to think about (again).

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Sweeter words have hardly ever been spoken about this blog, and about the author, Susan. I can only tell you what I told Connie Terwilliger earlier. I believe that the world we see is a mirror of who we are. Thank you for revealing so much of yourself in your last comment. I can only hope to live up to a fraction of what you have described. If I manage to do that, it is well worth it! Thank you.

  4. Well Paul, you always nail it! Listening is supreme and is a challenge, particularly for those of us who are in our heads a lot and one step ahead, anticipating what’s to come. I appreciate that reminder in particular, though I also think you were spot on with everything you highlighted. ¡Gracias for your constant inspiration! Even though I only reply occasionally I’m always a grateful fan.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Without readers like you, Rosi, this blog would be an exercise in narcissism. Thank you for taking the time to read my musings! Sorry I wasn’t at Faffcon 7. I have a feeling I really would have liked it, but I simply had too much going on. Please give Brian a big hug from me!

  5. I always look forward to reading your articles, Paul. You find a way to make some universal idea into something that connects to VO…brilliantly. Thanks for another stellar addition to the Nethervoice.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Well, when I set out to write this 7-part series, I wanted each story to stand on its own, and yet be connected. That’s when I came up with the five characteristics of masterful delivery. They are:

    • Clear and Clean
    • Convincing
    • Consistent
    • Context & content appropriate
    • Charismatic

    This week marks the end of this series. I’m overjoyed that it has been so well received. As always, thank you so much for being so kind to me!

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  7. A super article to start the day. Thank you, Paul. I love how you start with listening to others. That’s so important. Being a better listener is definitely something I need to work on more. Good stuff!

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks, Joe and Judy. I hear you!

    Acting is reacting, and it starts with listening. Listening to what the script has to say. I love a quote I recently saw on Facebook: “Most people don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply.” It’s time we get back to listening to understand. If all of us would start doing this, our world would be a better place.

  8. Very good article, Paul.

    +12 points for “it shouldn’t be faked”.

    It’s more of a path than a destination.

    Better to be yourself and change over time.

  9. Thanks once again for a great article Paul. It contains many nuggets of gold – your analogy of the rainbow is splendid!

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m glad you liked the rainbow analogy, William. I believe it made things crystal clear!

    And Debby, I’m not a good judge of my own charisma, but I may have my moments…