Modern Charisma Course

Charisma is like magic. It gets people to like you, trust you and want to be led by you. These are skills and qualities that any Changemaker should wish to possess in this time of profound global transformation.

In this sequence of workshops you will increase your ability to speak persuasively in public and while doing so, learn how to radiate the presence, power and warmth needed to be considered a captivating and charismatic person. A persuasive speaker is often a charismatic individual; someone who draws consciously and strategically on the Aristotelian rhetorical notion of ethos/character to hone and polish their oral performance and delivery. A working knowledge of the instruments of rhetoric is essential for anyone hoping to resist rhetoric and call it out. It was long thought that if a person possesses charisma, then they do so naturally. This idea that charisma cannot be acquired or learned has been shown to be false. In her book The Charisma Myth (2012) behavioural scientist Olivia Fox Cabane blends (neuro)science, research, applications and techniques to point the way to how individuals might master the art of personal magnetism.

This course takes those insights and blends them with the main precepts and principles of classical rhetoric to form a fundamentally interdisciplinary programme demonstrating that charisma is indeed “for all” and, that with effort, dedication and practice, anyone can become a captivating public speaker and a leader of change.'

*The course includes all 4 workshops and some private preparation. 



Session 1 Friday 10 June


Drawing on the works of Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian, in this first workshop you will be introduced to the basics of classical rhetoric. There will be a focus on the rhetorical concepts of ‘ethos’, ‘style’ and ‘delivery’


Session 2 Friday 10 June


In the second workshop, you will practice public speaking exercises. You will start with something simple, like telling a short story, such as a fable. Persuasive people are engaging storytellers. You will end by giving an argumentative speech (without notes) using solid, non-fallacious arguments


Session 3 Tuesday 14 June


In this third workshop, you will be introduced to the scientific principles of acquiring charisma, set out by Fox Cabane (2012) and others. You will then practice and internalise these principles, working on maximising your own sense of presence, power and warmth in a speech-giving situation


In the time before your speech on Wednesday afternoon, you will write, then reduce, and then practice delivering your talk with only a flashcard as support


Session 4 Wednesday 15 June


In the fourth and final session, you will deliver an 8-10-minute deliberative TED-like Talk (without notes) on any topic pertaining to ‘Changing the World for the Better’. Your change-making speech will be persuasive and it will be delivered with charisma in front of an invited audience


For practical reasons pertaining to the training involved this workshop will be limited to a maximum of 10 students



Michael Burke

Michael Burke is a full professor of rhetoric at the Utrecht University/University College Roosevelt. This year he is also a Visiting Scholar in the Faculty of Education at our university. He is a former Honours Dean at Utrecht University (2016-2021) and a former Chair of the international ‘Poetics and Linguistics Association’ (PALA). He is also a Series Editor for the ‘Research Monographs in Linguistics (Rhetoric & Stylistics)’ series with Routledge. His research and teaching is fundamentally pedagogical in nature, focussing on the areas of rhetoric, stylistics, language, literacy, reading, citizenship, public speaking and persuasion. He has written numerous articles, chapters and books on these topics with various leading publishers. When working with students, he always seeks to be authentic, courageous, challenging and supportive. His pedagogical focus is on “empowering students to flourish” – and especially students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. This he does via the soft, yet authoritative, skills of sound critical thinking and clear and effective speaking and writing.

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