Sunday, January 5, 2014

Six Tips for Being an Authentic Speaker

There is an inherent problem that communication consultants and public speaking trainers face. In our desire to make speakers more effective, we run the risk of making the speaker something s/he is not. In the process of trying to become better speakers, they often lose themselves. This is detrimental to the speaker's success.

In fact, there is a very real possibility of coaching making you a less effective speaker. Here are six tips that can prevent that from happening. It's all about authenticity.

1. Remember the goal is to be yourself, at your best. If someone is trying to turn you into some ideal that they have in their head, you are probably being led down the wrong path. Micromanagement of every single gesture and every utterance is generally a bad idea. A good consultant takes the time to understand you, your unique personality and communication style. Then they try to bring out your best qualities and minimize any poor habits you may have gotten into. Sometimes this means "un-teaching" bad methods we have picked up along the way.

2. You must believe in your message with all your heart. Sincerity is visible and resonates with audiences. Likewise, if you are not being true to yourself, it shows. We, as an audience, can tell if you do not have the courage of your convictions. But when you do, it can become mesmerizing!

3. Share a bit of yourself in your message, Personal stories, honest reflection, and just plain honesty in general are recognized and appreciated. Share a little of who you are as a person in every presentation. Audiences find it a refreshing change from facts and data (which are too often overdone, sapping the life out of speeches).

4. Become comfortable with being the audience's focal point. You are the star of the show. Don't hide behind a lectern or podium if possible. Get comfortable with your own style of movement. Practice it, play with it, have fun with it (if possible/appropropriate). You are a performer and you would be surprised with your ability to "perform" while still being yourself. It's just your performative side. Some are more comfortable with it than others, but we all have that ability for playfulness that is the source of our performative ability.

5, Develop your talk without presentational aids (i.e., PowerPoint). You can and probably will add them in later, but too many START with PowerPoint and that's just bass-ackwards. YOU are the most important part of your message. So make sure your presentation can stand alone without presentational aids.

6. Know your audience. I have seen so many speakers who simply did not do their homework about the audience and context for their presentation. The audience quickly recognizes your presentation has not been developed for them and you are just talking at them. They resent it, you and may dismiss what you are saying because of it. Always remember, you give a speech FOR AN AUDIENCE. You are not speaking for a paycheck, a boss, or your professional survival. You are there for them, the audience.

In summary, be true to yourself in all you say and do. An engaged audience will forgive small technical imperfections, but they will not forgive inauthentic communication!

That's all for today. Be well, speak well, and as always, thanks for reading.

Daniel Leyes is the President of Semiosphere Consulting and Professor of Speech Communication at Brookdale Community College.