To mark the first anniversary of our book, ‘Insider Secrets of Public Speaking’, we are looking again at the core advice we’ve given. This week: AUTHENTICITY.
Authenticity provides the crucial third dimension to any speaker’s toolkit, although ‘being yourself’ isn’t what comes naturally to most people when they are in the spotlight. We are going to consider how you can make your speaking more authentic, but first, why do you need to bring your own personality to the stage?
Why you need authenticity?
Don’t be seduced into thinking that you can hide behind facts: you might think that because you are presenting a mass of data, the person delivering is less important than the numbers.
We would argue that authenticity is what makes the information stick, it is what builds your brand as a leader and it is what makes audiences talk about you afterwards. A speech is never just about the content presented: there will always be a relationship between the speaker and the audience, whether the speaker realises (or wants it) or not. You have to bring something into the room that lifts you above a photocopied factsheet.
As we have said in the book, audiences respond well to authenticity – and can sniff out the bogus with uncanny accuracy. If you look back to our last blog on authority, we mention that audiences always prefer clear direction over confusion. The learning for this is that you don’t need to worry about your presentation being perfect (because you can’t please everyone), you just need to be understood.
Think about the way you speak to someone you know very well. You probably have a few inside jokes and verbal shortcuts that you both understand. When you speak to a stranger, you unconsciously drop all of these. You will quite naturally speak to your boss or client in a different way to how you speak to your children. And yet it is still authentically ‘you’. We think that learning how to speak to an audience with authenticity works in a similar way.
We have found that the best speakers are a little more polite, a little more formal, a little slower and a lot clearer in showing their thought processes as they speak. There is a balance to be struck between being relaxed on a stage and having enough energy to keep focused on the interaction between speaker and audience.
Putting it into practice
We don’t have a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to churning out public speakers in our own image, but we are often asked for tips, advice and guidance. Put these pointers into practice, and you’ll find that soon they become second nature, and more importantly, you will find yourself adapting them to suit your own authentic style.
• Relax your body before you step into the limelight. You might still have nerves – but that’s ok, use them to give your performance a bit of ‘pep’.
• Audiences are usually on your side, so assume they are open to what you say without resorting to jokes.
• Treat your speech like a conversation. Ask questions of the audience and wait for people to think of an answer.
• When you make a particular point or punch line, deliver it to one specific person. For the next point, choose someone in a different part of the audience.
• Don’t be afraid of pauses: they give the audience time to consider what you’ve said and if you’re comfortable with a moment of silence, the audience will be too.
• Check back, make eye contact, see if people are nodding. If you fumble an explanation, go off script to clarify.
• Dress well.
Audiences, as we have said before, are not passive. We think it is a big mistake to treat them as if they are going to absorb everything you say at face value. The authentic speaker is one who can make the audience see the world from a different viewpoint – and not one that they necessarily agree with. You cannot do this if you try to disguise who you are.
The reason for focusing on authenticity last is because it is often the element of the speech that is considered last. We approach a speech asking what the audience wants, what the content should be, and how we command the stage for the time we have on it. Authenticity is about doing the internal work, having the confidence to know ourselves and put ourselves on display.
We hope our 3 Golden Principles of Public Speaking will help you with your next speech or presentation.
Watch us talking about them on Enterprise Nation TV below:
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This article appears on Nadine Dereza’s website as well as PS Programmes.
Nadine Dereza is the co-author of the best selling Insider Secrets of Public Speaking.