Stage Time: “Charisma vs. Sincerity”


Want to leave a lasting impression on your audience? Ever wonder which is more important in communication — sincerity or charisma? If you were in Vegas, which would you put your money on? Last week I was speaking at a conference in Florida. When my schedule allows, I arrive a day early to immerse myself in the conference to gain insight in order to connect with that audience. Every connection is different.

At this conference, I sat in on two sessions of other professional speakers. They were quite different in content and styles. The first speaker, I’ll call Mr. Charisma. He was full of life and vibrant. He was funny and charismatic. The audience loved him. He had them in rapt attention.

The second speaker had a very different style. They could not have been more polar opposites. He was humble and sincere and had a powerful personal story. Mr. Sincere was very conversational and the audience loved him, too. As a speaker coach, it really made me think, who was more effective? Which speaker truly delivered more value?

It was plain to see that they were each being themselves and true to their own style. In my opinion, neither one could effectively adapt the other’s style strength. It would not come across well. For example, Tony Robbins would not be authentic if he tried to speak like Brian Tracy and vice versa. Both are master communicators.

Every presenter is different because every person is different. Many of us emulate our speaking heroes at the beginning of our journey and eventually discover that being authentic leaves a more lasting impression as well as being simpler and much more fun.

In this situation, I have to say that from my experience the audience loved Mr. Charisma and thought he was a great speaker. The irony was even though he had some great points and was funny, that is what the audience left thinking, “He was great.” Not the best service to his audience. A few people approached him after to shake his hand and meet him.

They may have left with a couple good ideas and he was good, but as Paul Harvey would say, “Now, for the rest of the story.” This speaker achieved national fame and has been speaking longer than I have. One of his points was about being a champion and always improving. From my brief conversation with him after the speech, I didn’t get the impression he lived that philosophy about his speaking. I believed he gets great well-deserved compliments because he is charismatic.

From what I’ve learned from great speaker coaches such as Patricia Fripp, what was really missing from his presentation was good structure. The ideas and information he shared would have been more digestible and left a more lasting impression on his audience. They would have loved him and also left thinking more about what they could do to make some positive changes in their lives. Though his intentions were good, if we believe in the importance of your message, we can’t stop at good enough. We must remain a student and make sure the audience leaves with clarity and “gets it.”

Mr. Sincerity lived an inspiring life up against a challenging adversity. He is new to speaking and because of his story he was asked to speak. Not being formally, trained he came with the intention of just having a conversation and helping people. He was low key and sincere. He opened up and told his truth. Though he was not polished, he was “real” and he was able to laugh at himself and his situation. His intention was to “help people” and use his story to do so. Two distinct differences I observed. More people lined up to speak to him after. Many patiently waited for quite a long time to tell him their story or to ask a question. It was interesting.

The biggest difference to me was when Mr. Sincerity found out my background, he was eager to ask me questions. We ended up sitting down and having lunch where he asked many more questions about speaking. In the business world, he is much more accomplished than I am. It’s no wonder why, he was so eager to learn what I knew from my experience. He was very open to coaching.

What audience members do or think after you speak is a better gauge of our value. Sitting and observing then told me a great deal about impact. Mr. Sincerity’s impact was powerful. What impressed me was for his level of experience, that was impressive. One woman was so inspired, she was in tears. She was ready to make a change in her life and Mr. Sincerity was just what she needed.

Both presentations could have been even more powerful with better speech structure. That’s why I’ve spent the last couple years working with Patricia Fripp and developing a new program, Create Your Keynote by Next Week, due to be released next month. Authentic charisma and sincerity are important characteristics for great speakers. Neither work in a vacuum. Having an “audience-focused” outcome as your intention and good structure combined with charisma and/or sincerity is the ultimate goal.

In the situation I observed, I’d have to say that Mr. Sincerity left a more lasting impact even though he was less experienced on the platform. I believe that many loved Mr. Charisma, but left thinking more about how good he was and how “likeable.” My point to you is this — there is much more to great speaking. Neither stands alone. You can be very sincere and still not leave a lasting impression. You also bring to the platform who you are as a person. The outcome could have been just the opposite in this situation. What I loved to see is that Mr. Sincerity was “coachable.” He wanted to learn more and be better on the platform next time. Do you?

Putting aside this situation, all things being equal, I believe I’d choose sincerity over charisma. The raw truth is more helpful to the audience. If the goal of the presentation is just to have people “feel good,” I’d choose charisma.

What do you think is better, charisma or sincerity? Any good stories or observations to share?

Post your response and read others here on my blog!

Stage time,

Darren LaCroix
World Champion Speaker


P.S. Ever thought about having your own seminars or being a trainer? Want the secrets to making it simple and leaving a lasting impression, so you get rehired? Join master trainer, Ed Tate, and me for the TRAIN-the-TRAINER Champ Camp in Las Vegas on May 26th & 27th.

Come a day early and join us for the One-Day, Two Champ SPEAKING SCHOOL on May 25th!

I get emails . . .

Hi Darren,

I hope this email finds you well. I just finished the 365 days of quotes yesterday and then go this email….and since you crave feedback, here is some on the quotes program! :)

I loved the quotes – they had a range from business to self help/motivation to spiritual, which I think everyone will get something from each quote. What I really appreciated was when you put your own comments/reflections below the quote. The questions (that are on every quote) are good but after a while I stopped reading them because, even though I can’t tell you what they are right now, my mind was like, Oh, I’ve read these. Know what I mean? But when you wrote something personal, the quote and your comment seemed to stay with my longer. As an added bonus, I think that the reader gets to know you a little better, and therefore you are earning there trust.

Personally, I related most to the spiritual quotes (loved how they came from different backgrounds) because without the spiritual the business and other ‘stuff’ doesn’t really matter. :)

Thank you for putting these quotes together and supporting people to make the world a more loving place. I appreciate your work, Darren. 

My best to you,

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12 Responses to “Stage Time: “Charisma vs. Sincerity””
  1. Steve Gamlin says:

    GREAT message, Darren! I made my selection prior to reading (I’ll take Sincerity any day of the week) and was glad to hear of the audience’s reaction (yours as well). It is my goal, every time I take the stage, to be the most AUTHENTIC speaker who has every had the good fortune of being invited to share his message…and I am glad to see it celebrated here. Gives me hope!

  2. Duane Hoffbauer says:

    This post is another reason the “Teacher” … that being you…. shows us more that whats on the surface. If I was in the audience, I probably would have graded Mr. Charisma better than Mr. Sincerity. I think what your doing is going deeper into their end result. You show us what really counts. Who ultimatley impacted the audience not just during the speech, but a week or two later. Wonderful post today.

  3. Jonathan Li says:

    Great article! Sincerity matters more. Being sincere that makes a speaker more charming.

  4. Amitabh Mishra says:

    What a great observation – thank you, Darren! I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few speech contests at Toastmasters, but once I lost a contest to someone who, like Mr. Sincerity in your story, was rather new to Toastmasters and not as ‘polished’ as I thought I was. Well, I couldn’t get over the fact that I wasn’t voted first, that my ‘polish’ was not rewarded. Now it all makes sense……

    • Hi Darren:
      I honestly believe, charisma comes with a punch line.
      The audience will laugh because they think, you really
      have genuine charisma.. Then of course there’s the
      good habit analizing charisma and make it funny.
      Use more charisma, until getting out of breath winding
      up your digital watch.
      Have a smiling day, Herbert.

  5. What you refer to as “Sincerety” I think of as “Connection”, and your blog speaks the truth.

    While your blog is about speakers, I see a great application for sales…especially for my own target audience of financial professionals.

    Over the years, I have worked with a number of “professionals” who think they can simply skate by on their charm (charisma). In the speaking world, the equivalent could be many of the “motivational” types of the past who seemed deep on feel and shallow on content.

    Today, it is expertise that sells. The best way to find out what your customer or client needs is to listen. They don’t always know how to verbalize it in the right terms, however, I always find if you focus on the message, speak a confirmation statement back to them in a language they understand, then work together and find an answer, then you are building connection. The old adage of “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true than today.

    Whether you speak from the platform or you provide answers for customers and clients, focus on connection and you’ll have more business than you would ever find by talking AT other people.

  6. Andrew Margrave says:

    Charisma and sincerity do not need to fight each other. Both can combine in the same person. Of the two, sincerity is much the more important. Charisma by itself all too often lacks integrity. Sincerity is allied with integrity. Neither sincerity nor charisma will emerge in full force without
    a real speech architecture and powerful nonverbals fully congruent with the verbal message.

  7. Rena Romano says:

    I’ll take sincerity when I need a message. I’ll take charisma if I only need to be entertained. That being said, you never know what you need or want until you are present in the moment. So if a speaker can deliver both, woo hoo for them and the audience. Just be true, be you when ever you speak. Thanks Darren

  8. Hi Darren,
    Thank you so much for your insight on these two speakers, the structure of their presentation and how they connected with the audience.
    I, too, like the previous commenters, connected with Sincerity speaker.

    This reminds me of the John Maxwell book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, where he discusses the three questions of 1) do you care for me, 2) can you help me, 3) can I trust you?
    Based on your observations of those who approached the speaker afterwards, it seems that they had answered those three questions as YES.

    People will remember the Sincere Speaker message much longer and more deeply than the Entertaining Speaker.

    I always appreciate your insights. Thanks for taking the time to write out the differences between the two.
    Lauren Midgley
    Fellow Toastmaster – District 25

  9. Fred Jacques says:

    At our district contest last Saturday there were 6 contestants. 5 were on the charismatic side with lots of fan support and one, who had no moral supporters in the audience, just let his sincerity shine through. He had a walking disability so he had to have the lectern in the center of the stage to lean on while speaking. He started his speech with a simple ” Good Evening.” and proceeded to tell us about his life – what he did that made him happy and what he didn’t do that caused some regrets. His message was pure, simple, sincere and authentic. Although he did not get any big laughs or reactions, you could tell that the audience was with him all the way – the intensity of their attention was apparent. He didn’t place in the contest, but the way he presented his true self to the audience made a lasting impression. I’m not sure the other 5 contestants would have been able to connect so well if they had to do it without moving around, with limited gestures, with less humor and no one in the audience who knew them.

  10. Rene says:

    Dear Darren,

    Darren, I agree with you 100%.

    This is not the first time that I have read the difference between charisma and sincerity. As you have said, “both are very effective in their own way”. Sincerity has a much greater impact on the audience, because real people stories are told. The struggle of going from where you were to what you have become is much more inspiring for all of us. I guess sincerity means the story is coming from the heart where charisma has a lot more to do with showmanship.

    Rene Roy/ DTM

  11. Shonell says:

    Charisma vs Sincerity – I feel it definitely has to do with the purpose for which the audience came for. If it’s a session where the speaker is suppose to enlighten, then a speaker with ‘charisma’ is what they need. If the session is one for upbuilding, then a speaker with ‘sincerity’ should be the way to go. A person who can do both of these is is Great Speaker. Darren, I think you have the right idea about checking out the audience if you are not certain the approach to use.