The Real X-Factor

Charisma. What is it, how do you get it? Are you born with it or can you develop it? The term charisma (pl. charismata, adj. charismatic; from the Greek χαρισμα, meaning “favor given” or “gift of grace”) has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent.; a mysterious, elusive quality. Media commentators regularly describe charisma as the “X-factor”.

It would seem then that you could be born with it and you also could develop it.

As a singer, being charismatic is very important. It means the audience will most certainly look at you, be inspired by you, be entertained by you. If you are in a contest or having an audition, having charisma means you have a much better chance of winning them!.

In my experience, being charismatic onstage is accomplished by several feats: loving being onstage, loving the music that is coming through you and transmitting that love to the audience. If the performer is convinced that the audience loves him, the more he will love being onstage, and the more he will love the audience, who will then perceive him as being lovable, and an amazing feeling permeates the room. The tough part is being convinced the audience loves you when clearly they don’t. This is when you earn your stripes as a performer–you have to generate the love until they feel it. Sometimes, the feeling is created by instruments and music itself, but the emotion of love is always created.

To be loved, or loving powerfully, creates an energy that is charismatic. I will assert that even Susan Boyle had it the first time she sang–she loved her own voice, and was inspired by it, and in a few moments the audience was too.

To love your own voice is difficult for most of us. The critic in our heads is harsh and demanding, and we most often don’t measure up in some way. All of us have had the experience of telling a singer how much we loved their performance, and being met by eye rolls and nay-saying. We have undoubtedly been there, done that, too.

The problem with judging yourself is, it makes the whole experience of performing about you, and what you think of you. That is the opposite of what you want to do as a performer or if you want to be charismatic: you have to give the audience something . Ultimately, you want to give the audience a feeling they weren’t feeling before, and to open them up emotionally. You cannot do this if you are judging yourself.

I recently saw a show on Broadway in New York that amazed me: the feeling of joy that was created in the theater was so palpable that it almost blew the roof off the Stephen Sondheim Theater! The performers were feeling so much joy that we in the audience felt it–it was so strong that I cried from feeling so happy! These are highly trained entertainers, the best in the business, and they know that creating a real emotion is job one onstage. I was feeling various emotions as I watched the show, but the huge joy was a surprise to me–I wasn’t expecting it and that made it even more wonderful.

You, as a singer, must give up being the judge of you. Just know you aren’t a very good one, if you’re critical! Your first priority should be giving the audience the gift of your emotions, so they can feel their own. When you do this you are on your way to being charismatic and receiving standing ovations!