How to be charismatic on screen

There are some fascinating videos on YouTube that look at how celebrities perform in interviews: how “charismatic” they are. The analysis is very relevant to businesspeople being interviewed by media.

  • In 5 Common Habits That Make People Instantly Dislike You, we see the actress Brie Larson (Avengers: Endgame) make several mistakes that turn interviews into awkward, negative interactions. She’s contrasted with Australian actor Chris Hemsworth who does everything right.
  • In How To Be Charming Without Trying we see how “effortlessly charming” Emilia Clarke (Daenerys in Game of Thrones) is in multiple interviews – and notably, how much she smiles.

Can you learn charisma? Maybe, but the obvious takeout from these videos is that decent, generous, intelligent people with a good sense of humour tend to be naturally charismatic and make a good interview.

Guarded, egotistical, defensive people are generally toxic viewing.

One of the issues that comes up in media training is people being afraid to smile on camera. The fear seems to be that they will look “weak” or “lightweight”. 

There’s actually a kind of arrogance in this that goes down to essential character. What you’re implying, if you refuse to smile, is that people who do smile are less serious or less intelligent. Whereas the reality is that smiling makes people look confident, personable and charismatic. Not smiling makes people look nervous, boring or bored.

Probably the most brilliant person whom I’ve ever interviewed, for Sky News, is a modern-day polymath: heart surgeon, commercial pilot, invented the first anti-virus software. He spent his interview constantly laughing. In fact he chuckled so much that we had to edit some of it out for broadcast (this was due to the format we needed it in). He had no qualms about relaxing and using humour for a warm, engaging and intelligent chat.

To summarise: the three key takeouts from these interviews are:

  • Smile – genuinely, not fake smiling, raise the energy of the interview
  • Give back and be generous – be an active listener, thank the interviewer for their question, repeat phrases, credit other people (eg your team) when appropriate, 
  • Be humble – arrogance is toxic on screen, find ways to share your company’s successes eg with some statistics but not an overly commercial spiel – it will just get edited out