We’ve all experienced – and admired – people who walk into a room and make it light up. I’ve observed this quality in industry leaders, politicians, athletes and celebrities, as well as in teenagers, quiet academics and stay-at-home moms.

The phenomenon has made me wonder what special skills these people have that they can turn heads and draw crowds. Were they just born that way, or can that type of charisma be learned?

The answer, according to Catherine Bell, author of Empower Your Presence: How to Build True Wealth with Your Personal Brand and Image, is the latter: having a presence that captivates and holds attention is something that can be developed by everyone. At the heart of what Bell calls an “empowered presence” is confidence. And the foundation of that confidence is “true wealth,” which is not based on money, but on several, more profound qualities:

Meaningful relationships. Reaching out to others and encouraging them causes people to look up to you, count on you and want your insights, opinions and guidance.

Being fully engaged with life. Having a sense of fulfilment that comes from using your talents and energy frees you to make a positive impact on your life and the lives of others.

Peace of mind. When your personal life is in harmony, you can forget about yourself and concentrate on others by being completely engaged in the moment.

The manifestation of an empowered presence is your personal brand, whether it is one you’ve consciously worked on or the one you have by default. Brand is the summation of all the impressions that others have about you as a result of meeting you, experiencing your work or through the opinions of others. Your brand is far more than a logo, tag line or business identity, which are brand elements that should reflect the image you want people to have of you.

In order to align that image with your personal brand and, thereby enhance your confidence and empowered presence, Bell recommends the ABCs of image:

Appearance. It is important that your appearance is consistent with the image you want people to have of you. This extends to the look and the appropriateness of the clothes you wear. If the circumstances dictate formal attire, be prepared to dress up. Appearance also extends to grooming, hygiene and physical fitness.

Bell’s book offers suggestions on building a wardrobe and avoiding such fashion faux pas as wearing a tie with a short-sleeved shirt.

Behaviour. Being able to read situations, identify what is appropriate behaviour and act in ways that make others comfortable helps to empower your presence.

For many people, the way you act among others is an outward representation of your personal values. Eschewing societal norms is one way to stand out. But people with an empowered presence do not need contrast to attract attention.

The book includes tips on everything from shaking hands to managing meetings and dining etiquette.

Communication. The ability to convey thoughts, opinions, arguments and information is essential for demonstrating an empowered presence. The words you use, the accuracy of your grammar and the clarity of your message all contribute to the image you present. So, too, does your body language and your ability to recognize how others are receiving your communication so you can adjust your delivery.

The book offers advice on a variety of communication topics, including email and telephone etiquette, how to make small talk and how to introduce yourself into a conversation.

I found this book to be an interesting juxtaposition of insights into building charisma and everyday common sense.

Empower Your Presence: How to Build True Wealth with Your Personal Brand and Image by Catherine Bell,

Knowledge Bureau;

152 pages, $24.95


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