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Charisma and creativity have many things in common: both are easy to perceive but hard to define and to understand. People speak of charisma and creativity in terms of the secret behind success and leadership, a talent that recruits followers to ideas – and to people presenting them. Thus, both constructs have been the focus of a considerable amount of research in recent years that shifted our idea of the phenomenon from a gift or talent to a measurable, i.e. gradual and trainable concept. Yet, the questions how charisma can be objectively measured and effectively trained and how creativity can be enhanced in listeners through speech stimuli are largely unsettled.

This is the point of departure of the PERCY project whose first and primary aim is to develop, through acoustic speech-signal analyses and speech-perception experiments, a metric for the automatic measurement and evaluation of speaker charisma that complements existing word-oriented rhetoric strategies. Gender- and context-specific acoustic charisma profiles will be determined and displayed to speakers in the form of an integrated charisma score (a smart phone app will be created to that end).

Perception experiments will determine the effectiveness ranges, compatibilities of the individual acoustic parameters involved in charisma, as well as a ranking of their importance for the listener. In parallel, methods for the visualization of acoustic charisma parameters (and bundles thereof) are developed in order to support an effective training of speaker charisma. Charisma fosters a listener's intrinsic motivation to do something, and intrinsic motivation, in turn, is a major source of creativity. This is the basis on which the two branches of the PERCY project are linked and on which the results and stimuli of the charisma branch lay the foundation for the subsequent research in the creativity branch.

Major international partners are Campinas University Brazil, Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona Spain, Utrecht University, and the German universities in Berlin (FU and TU), Oldenburg, Lüneburg, Nuremberg.

Contact persons is Associate Professor Oliver Niebuhr, Mads Clausen Institute, telephone +45 65507649, e-mail:

The PERCY project is supported by Connect Denmark, Quer.Kraft, Sønderborg Iværksætter Service, E4-Impact, and SDU RIO.


Video: "Charismatic Speech with Oliver Niebuhr" (in German)



Niebuhr, O., Michalsky, J. (2018). Virtual reality simulations as a new tool for practicing presentations and refining public-speaking skills. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 309-313, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-63. View publication

Mixdorff, H., Niebuhr, O., Hönemann, A. (2018). Model-based prosodic analysis of charismatic speech. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 814-818, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-164. View publication

Niebuhr, O., Skarnitzl, R., Tylečková, L. (2018). The acoustic fingerprint of a charismatic voice - Initial evidence from correlations between long-term spectral features and listener ratings. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 359-363, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-73. View publication

Niebuhr, O., A. Brem, & J. Voße (2016). What makes a charismatic speaker? A computer-based acoustic-prosodic analysis of Steve Jobs' tone of voice. Computers in Human Behavior 64, 366-382.

Berger, S., O. Niebuhr, & B. Peters (2017). Winning over an audience. A perception-based analysis of prosodic features of charismatic speech. Proc. 43rd Annual Meeting of the German Acoustical Society, Kiel, Germany, 1454-1457. View publication

Niebuhr, O., S. Tegtmeier, & A. Brem (2017). Advancing research and practice in entrepreneurship through speech analysis – From descriptive rhetorical terms to phonetically informed acoustic charisma metrics. Journal of Speech Science 6, 1-24. View publication

Novák-Tót, E., O. Niebuhr, O. & A. Chen (2017). A gender bias in the acoustic-melodic features of charismatic speech? Proceedings of the International Conference on Spoken Language Processing, Stockholm, Sweden, 2248-2252.  


Read the full project description


The SDU MCI Acoustic Charisma Profiling and Training


Mads Clausen Institute University of Southern Denmark

  • Alsion 2
  • Sønderborg - DK-6400
  • Phone: +45 6550 1690
  • Fax: +45 6550 1635

Last Updated 06.08.2020