From the June 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Do people like you? Do they really, really like you? Even if you're not a movie star, you still have to hone your personal magnetism. As an entrepreneur, you're your company's best spokesperson. But what if your charisma is lacking a bit?

In psychologist Andrew DuBrin's view, the solution is obvious: Build up your charisma muscles. "It's not easy to do," acknowledges the author of Personal Magnetism: Discover Your Own Charisma and Learn to Charm, Inspire, and Influence Others (Amacom), "but I think everyone can work toward becoming more charismatic."

How so? Start with the basics: Smile more readily, improve your handshake and appearance, and err on the side of optimism. If low self-confidence plagues you, says DuBrin, develop expertise that helps counteract those negative feelings. "If you do something well, people tend to attribute charismatic-like qualities to you," explains DuBrin.

It doesn't hurt to have a sense of humor, too. "When you're in a meeting," suggests DuBrin, "observe what other people do that makes people laugh."

Openness to and consideration of others is also critical, says DuBrin. "Sup-pose a customer gives you a big order," he says. "Instead of just sending an invoice, include a card saying, `It's a pleasure doing business with you.' This helps build strong relationships."

Playing Detective

Focus groups get smarter.

Imagine trying to get a group of teenage consumers to speak freely and honestly about--gulp--acne. Impossible? Not for Boulder, Colorado's Qualitative Research Centre (QRC), which got adolescents to face their fears.

As QRC--a leader in creative development research--demonstrates, focus groups (or, as QRC calls them, "consumer work-shops") are be-coming much more innovative. "The whole idea is to get people working together to dig deeper and deeper to find things that actually matter," says QRC's co-founder Arnie Jacobson.

To that end, QRC often gets workshop participants to do "reporting" assignments. During the aforementioned acne study, for instance, people were asked to photograph their medicine cabinets as well as draft self-portraits on spotted and spot-free days. "What they created," says Jacobson, "was very revealing."

Asked to reveal the rationale behind this new breed of consumer workshop, Jacobson stresses the importance of connecting with consumers as human beings. "If you ask some-body a question, there's this odd presumption that their answer is actually true--or that they care about what they're saying," he says. "That's pretty ridiculous."

Which is why there's so much interest in getting respondents to do collages, compile time capsules--and, yes, even take pictures of their medicine cabinets. "This gets [respondents] thinking about things on their own terms rather than under the pressure of [being in] a facility with a moderator and peers," says Jacobson. Seems focus groups are really breaking out.

Looking Good

New tricks for an old trade show booth

You never get a second chance for your exhibit booth to make a first impression. At any event, you want to put your best foot forward visually. But how can you pull off such a feat when your budget doesn't exactly reach Fortune 500 proportions?

That's the question Ambler, Pennsylvania's Incentive Media LLC hopes to answer with its line of Sample Stations, which start at less than $200. Sample Stations (above right) are full-sized, graphic-emblazoned booths that fold neatly into briefcase-like cases. "Basically, anybody can carry it," says co-owner Andrew Borislow. "Stick it in your trunk, and [you can] show up anywhere to put on a promotion."

Dismissing the notion of just throwing a tablecloth over the nearest table, Borislow argues in favor of more stylish booths: "It's pretty easy to justify the expense of the Sample Station vs. what a small business may already be using."

Contact Sources

Incentive Media LLC, (800) 646-4332, fax: (215) 628-2306

Qualitative Research Centre, (303) 473-0848, http://www.qrconline.com