After the content is written, materials are prepped and reminders are sent, all that’s left is delivering your presentation. The old adages, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” and, “Know your topic inside and out” are fundamentals for presenting authentically. Your main focus should be how you carry yourself and bring your A-game to ensure participants walk away with a valuable experience. Being an authentic public speaker means knowing what your brand represents and appropriately showcasing it to your audience.
In today’s skeptical and information-driven world, the ability to authentically communicate with others has become a coveted skill. When a public speaker has this attribute, he or she can inspire others and make an impact on individuals, teams and organizations. When a speaker doesn’t have it, a potential moment of connectedness falls flat. Here are four factors to consider to represent your most authentic self when speaking.
When speakers share real experiences, they appear authentic and connect with their audience. There are multiple ways to incorporate storytelling into your presentation. One method is to weave one, large story throughout the entire talk, with a key message. Here’s an example:
- Once upon a time (call to action that sets the stage of the story): At my first job right outside of college, I worked at a small marketing agency.
- Every day (premise of the story): Every day, I walked into that office feeling miserable with my performance and unhappy.
- Until the day (insight in action): One day, my boss made the decision for me when he cursed me out over a small mistake.
- Because of that (change in action and transformed life): At that moment, I knew I had to figure out my true purpose in life.
- And because of that (continued change in action): Getting another entry-level job wasn’t the answer. I needed to engage in self-discovery to uncover how I would impact the world during my time on earth.
- And because of that (and continued if necessary): I decided to follow my gut and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand.
- Until finally (realization): During my year overseas, I figured out that I could be successful, and I wanted to help people not feel miserable at work like I had.
- Ever since that day (outcome and lessons learned): I decided to earn my masters in I/O psychology to help others feel happy, productive and successful in the workplace.
Dressing for a successful presentation is an art. You don’t have to be a fashionista to achieve mastery, though. The key to representing your brand authentically and being believable is feeling comfortable in your clothes. Consider well-known speakers and their fashion sense. Many of them wear the same style, whether they are in front of a group of senior executives or a crowd of 3,000 attendees. Be appropriate, but don’t cloud your brand by covering your unique style. For example:
- Brené Brown maintains a similar fashion sense across her talks – usually casual, such as a scarf, jeans, flowy top and hoop earrings.
- Simon Sinek wears an untucked button-down shirt and slacks or dark jeans.
- Steve Jobs’ regular uniform was light jeans, a black turtleneck and white tennis shoes.
- When rallying or campaigning, male political figures almost always do not wear a jacket and have their sleeves rolled up. This outfit is not a coincidence but a strategic move so that they look more relatable.
If you want to wear a sparkly jacket or big, crazy hair, do it! You will be better known and remembered for staying consistent with your brand and dressing in a way that allows you to showcase your personality.
Building the right energy with participants means meeting the audience where they are. Don’t be over the top, or you’ll come off as inauthentic and as though you’re trying too hard. If you come in too low, you’ll lose the audience’s attention before you start.
The right elixir brings you to the sweet spot. You can’t do it alone, though; participants help create the energy. Aim to communicate, not to perform. When you refine your secret sauce, you won’t need to yell or dance around the room to grab people’s attention.
If you connect your audience with your message, you will be more likely to engage them, because they will feel your passion and energy. You are transferring ownership of the knowledge from your mind to theirs. Your approach to energy is different for everyone and cannot be prescriptive, but here are some factors to consider:
- Your brand
- The audience
- Your message
- The environment
- Your style
Being aware of your own behavior plays a critical role in authenticity. To improve self-awareness, consider video-recording your talk, even with a cell phone in the back of the room. You’ll notice mannerisms and ticks, like clutching the podium or clicker or repeating the same phrase 15 times. It’s essential to practice, but not by memorizing a script. Have your key points in bullets, on notecards or on slides, and talk around them. If you attempt to memorize your speech, you’re likely to forget a section or a line when your nerves have kicked into gear and your adrenaline is rushing, which could knock you off your game. When a talk is scripted, your message and nonverbals often don’t align, and the audience pays attention to the nonverbals.
Don’t rehearse for perfection, but practice in different ways:
- If you’ll be speaking in a room, practice walking around while speaking.
- Practice without looking at notes or holding anything in your hands.
- Focus on the feeling or message you want your audience to walk away. Your gestures will find themselves if you speak naturally.
- If you’re participating as a speaker on a panel, sit down and talk about various topics that you’re likely to discuss during the session.