Authenticity has long been one of the most respected and sought after qualities in leadership, presenting and public speaking. We live in highly competitive world where for many our very self-esteem rests squarely on being liked, impressing people and an insatiable desire to look good.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear someone speak who is completely genuine especially as audiences are very discerning and are easily disengaged when they sense they aren’t quite getting the ‘real deal’.
In an effort to awe them with how hard we’ve worked and how much we know it’s very easy to come across as a different person to the one they may have been drinking coffee with a few minutes before.
The most common piece of advice you will hear from a public speaking coach is to ‘be yourself’. On the surface that seems to be good counsel, although at Mindful Presenter we have a slightly different perspective.
What does that mean anyway?
It seems to me that life experience and conditioning dictates that we inevitably end up with many ‘selves’.
The list is infinite but to give you an example of just a few we have:
Our courageous self
Our persistent self
Our patient self
Our loving self
And of course on the less endearing side we have:
Our angry self
Our frustrated self
Our selfish self
Our intolerant self
So when it comes to presenting and speaking in public therein lays the challenge, which self should we be exactly?
Our Mindful Self
What exactly does that look like?
I believe it’s the ultimate challenge for all speakers and presenters because it seems to me that if we have the time and attention of an audience we owe it to them to call upon:
Our mindful self
Our respectful self
Our focused self
Our emotionally aware self
Sarah Palin’s recent speech endorsing Donald Trump’s Presidency campaign contained a great deal of what sounded authentic in terms of:
These are all highly respected and sought after qualities in a speaker but even when combined, in the absence of one vital ingredient they are still not enough.
The great thing about Sarah Palin’s speech is that these qualities are highly visible and to be applauded. She certainly sounds authentic, but authentic about what?
When we have the attention of an audience our authenticity must be encased in substance.
In other words, it’s not just about delivery, content is king.
With that in mind here is what I believe we can learn from Sarah Palin’s recent speech to aid our development in authentic public speaking:
Make it about your audience rather than yourself
You will have your own view when you watch the video of course but it seemed to me that this particular address was designed for the camera and the media. It’s hard to find anything of value that would make a difference to the audience.
Have a structure that your audience can easily follow and relate to.
Listening to a presentation which lacks order or structure is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from completely different sets. Every audience needs clarity, coherence and flow.
Be mindful and objective rather than angry
It’s crucially important to make an emotional connection as well as an intellectual one and an expression of anger is fine, just don’t dwell there. Our audiences need to also feel hope, vision and some inspiration and too much bitterness isn’t very endearing.
Focus on solutions rather than everything that’s wrong
By the time we reach adolescence most of us have already mastered the art of telling everybody what’s wrong, it’s easy. The challenge is focusing on the solutions and demonstrating a better way.
Never make it personal
It’s always disturbed me that so many politicians go out of their way to prove their point and make themselves look good by making others look bad. The great speakers don’t have to belittle anyone they have a clear and powerful message designed to help their audience and they stick to it. Make it personal for your audience but leave others out of it.
Sarcasm isn’t very charming
Have you ever noticed that sarcasm is often used by people who feel insecure? It can be a defence mechanism to make us look stronger than we are at someone else’s expense. It can get a laugh but it’s not very charming.
Authenticity, communication and leadership are just a few examples of simple words that when you stop for a moment to really think about them aren’t always quite as simple for many of us to understand. Like so many things in life our understanding and interpretation is governed by personal experience and perception.
I’m a huge advocate of authenticity when it comes to public speaking but not if it simply serves to:
Make yourself look good and others bad
Endorse rambling rather than focus
Centres largely on bitterness
Focuses too much on the problem rather than solution
Have a look at the video and see what you think.
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Image: Courtesy of flickr.com