When I was a kid growing up on a farm in Western Ohio in the days before satellite TV, the only time we ever saw the President was either the State of The Union or in the case of a national emergency. The only time we saw a picture of our congressmen was when we looked it up at the library and if we saw a CEO of a major company on TV, they did something very bad. Living with only three networks and FOX, which had the Simpsons and reruns of everything else, limited our access to our leaders.
Cable Television changed the rules.
Today, turn on any of the cable news channels and you will see every public appearance our President as well as those running to succeed him, make live every day. CSPAN shows us our Congressmen in action on a daily basis, even when the chamber is empty and CNBC and FOX Business have CEOs being interviewed all day, every day.
We live in an era when our leaders have never been closer to us and it has changed the way we judge the people we interact with on any given day.
In years past, you were compared to Bob in accounting, not Disney CEO Bob Iger. You were compared to Bill in shipping, not New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. You were compared to Don the sales guy, not Donald…well, I still hope you’re not compared to Trump, but the point is, as our world has gotten smaller, our points of reference have gotten larger. To be charismatic today, you must study and follow the clues left by our national business and political leaders because they’re the ones you’re being compared to.
If changing these rules weren’t enough, social media blew them out of the water.
I watched a speaker in the 1990’s make the point that the quick screen cuts on MTV changed our attention spans. Today, there’s no music on MTV, but you had better be able to make your point in 140 characters or less and include an image. The changing rules of communication make it harder to break through unless you change your style to meet the times.
Here are my tips for navigating the evolving rules and still looking like a pro:
Look the part.
Having our leaders on our television sets every day means that the standard for looking like a leader has been raised. Every industry has a standard; just make sure you look like you belong there. Study the top people in your industry make sure your look fits with theirs. If YouTube is going to set a new standard, you may as well be able to use it t your advantage.
Use Short Sentences.
Gone are the days of William Jennings Bryan giving three-hour speeches. They’ve been replaced with tweets aimed to make our points in the quickest way possible. To adjust to our new shortened attention span, shorten your sentences and make your point with fewer words. It makes our conversations seem punchy and on point without being boring by droning on. It takes some thought to be brief but in the new age of communication, less really is more.
There is a quiet confidence that can only come when you’re comfortable with who you are. Earlier this week, I made the point as I was coaching someone that leadership has its own look, sound, and feel. The look and the sound are the easy parts but getting the feel takes a lifetime because you have to be comfortable in your own skin. It’s easy to turn into a mimic with all of the information available to us. Resist the urge. Watch the leaders on tv, learn from their example, but be your own person. Even in the new rules of media, being authentic is still the quickest way to be charismatic.
Our world has and will continue to change with every new invention but only by knowing the rules can you win at the game. The Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn’t stand a chance playing basketball by 1960’s rules and neither will you if you’re still following rules from a bygone era. The rules of the game have changed; just play them to your advantage.