July 25th, 2011

When creating an aura of charisma, you need bucket loads of presence.

Today, I’m going to reveal one big secret that gave President Clinton the ability to effortlessly draw people into his world; and salesman Jim Eastwood (from BBC One’s ’The Apprentice’) the means to persuade others… with an almost hypnotic power. Indeed, Eastwood’s Irish charm was so evident that the UK media dubbed him ‘Jedi’ Jim Eastwood!

- So what makes Bill Clinton and Jim Eastwood so capable of exuding presence?

Well, according to Michael Ellsberg, author of ‘The Power of Eye Contact’ it all has to do with the number of behaviours a person employs when communicating their message to others. Ellsberg uses the jargon term ‘modalities’, which refers to simple gestures that you can use when talking to someone.

For example, winking when you talk to someone adds extra weight to your message, as does touching them. However, combining both behaviours has a synergistic effect that makes you stand out. It seems this is a key factor on how to stage presence.

Here’s a helpful list of modalities:

  • Smiling & eye contact
  • Raising your voice
  • Facing somebody
  • Winking
  • Touching them
  • Raising an eyebrow
  • Pointing

Ellsberg noted (originally on Tim Ferris’ excellent blog) that Clinton employs a simultaneous mixture of ‘eye contact, smiling, touch and rasing his voice’ to communicate a powerful message to his listener.

Without a doubt, Clinton’s eye contact is so powerful that Chuck Close, his portrait artist, remarked: “When he looks directly into youreyes, he has an almost laser-beam-like-lock-on thing that he does. He makes you feel like he’s really connected to you”

With that in mind, I was curious to know what was the optimal number of modalities to use at any one time if you wanted to radiate the aura of Clinton, or the Irish charm of Jedi Jim Eastwood.

I took to the streets of London and carried out five experiments to demonstrate how to stage presence.

The goal was to break the ice, using an increasing number of modalities:

  • Experiment 1: Using touch
  • Experiment 2: Raising my voice whilst facing them
  • Experiment 3: Smiling with eye contact; and raising my voice whilst facing them
  • Experiment 4: Smiling with eye contact;  touch, raising my voice & facing them
  • Experiment 5: Using as many behaviours as possible (frankly, being a mad person!)

It seemed using that 3-4 modalities created the strongest presence, which wasn’t too overbearing for the listener. However, using less, or more, gestures came across awkward and uncalibrated in most cases. This results mirrors the behaviours of both Clinton and Eastwood and seems to be the strongest way of staging presence.


I was suitably impressed and intrigued with Jim Eastwood’s communication skills that I made an exclusive video revealing the secret of Jim Eastwood’s Irish Charm! You can only see it on my Facebook Page (to find it, scroll down the wall to July 2011). Stay up to date with more exclusive videos like this one by clicking “LIKE” once you get there!

17 comments ... read them below or add one

  • Steven says:

    That was world class Marcus!

  • Dale says:

    Brilliant as always… when are you getting your own TV show on the BBC?

  • db says:

    This is very good. Thanks.

  • Sam says:

    Marcus, this is absolutely brilliant! I laughed so hard at the mans reaction when you went up to him and touched him on the arm, haha :)

  • TonyV says:

    Heya Marcus!

    I have a little question about the “raising your voice” modality. Does that mean you should speak louder or does that mean you should raise your tone?

  • Admin says:

    Great question! Ideally, raise your tone. On the street you have to talk louder because the environment doesn’t tend to lend itself to more intimate conversation. However, it can come across uncalibrated.

  • Ray says:

    Also – we often get the outcome we’re looking for – as in – if you expect things to go well, mostly they do – and vice versa.
    “Wether you believe you can or you can’t you’re probably right”
    still holds true today.
    Mate, lost your txt on confidence/anxiety, which was brilliant but not on your site for some reason!? Please post it!!!
    Great work – wishing you love, joy and happiness
    (in a brotherly way :) )

  • Tim says:

    Another Oakey classic! Thanks for your energy and enthusiasm. Brotherly love from me too!

  • Vix says:

    I believe the title should have been “How to rule the world of conversation like Marcus” Your brill!

  • Omar says:

    Love the video Marcus. The umbrella opener made me lol a lot! Keep up the good work!

  • theactor says:

    Yeah that is totally cool.

    thanks for a good lecture the other day – really great stuff!

  • Mark says:

    That is a great book, Marcus.

    I’d love to know what other books you recommend on charisma and communication

  • Peter F says:

    Great videos! I use these with my high school Personal Development class here in Fairfax, Virginia USA. The students and I feel we know you personally, Marcus! :-) Great resource! Cheers!

  • Marcus,

    Love this post. Also, love the notion of closing the space between you and your conversation partner, and lowering your voice, creating an “our world” vibe.

    This is also a great story about Clinton’s charisma…written by a former intern: http://www.philgerbyshak.com/connection-from-president-bill-clinton/


  • dorji sherpa says:


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