The 2 big impediments to authentic public speaking

July 06, 2011 |

The hallmark of a good public speaker is authenticity.

As I wrote last week, audience members know the genuine article when they see it and hear it. (Authentic presenting from Jack Canfield to Sir Ken Robinson) They know when a public speaker is feigning enthusiasm, passion and other emotions.

So why do so many of us fall into inauthentic behavior while presenting? Two major reasons:

  1. We are too often conveying words and concepts that are not our own and, hence, we don’t really believe in.
  2. We adhere ourselves to a style of presenting that is not consistent with our personality.

Let’s start with impediment No. 1. Most public speaking is done for business purposes. Thousands of presentations a day are made in conference rooms, hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms, and convention and event centers.

So much of business content is canned material, high on facts and numerical figures and low on storytelling and emotional considerations. Companies try to control their communications for good reasons – there needs to be consistency and accuracy. Yet they fail to deliver what any audience is really looking for, something they can actually feel.  That also leaves many business operatives spouting words and ideas and extolling features and benefits in which they have no emotional investment.

Audience members immediately detect the discord between what is being said and what is being felt. If the presenter isn’t buying it, neither is the audience. Hence, the presenter lacks authenticity.

Presenters also feel the discord between what they are saying and feeling. So how do business people respond to this situation? Oftentimes they hire a public speaking coach. What they too often get is a presentation coach too wed to his or her own method.

The speaking coach teaches them a particular set of presentation priorities, but fails to emphasize the importance of making your presentation your own. In other words, take what I teach you and make the necessary modifications to accord with what comes naturally to you.

If the presentation coach doesn’t do that, they have doubled-up a problematic situation. Now, not only are you speaking company-issued words that don’t inspire, the presentation style you’re using to deliver those words is like oil hitting water.

Now you don’t believe in what you’re saying or how you’re saying it.

Imagine a presentation coach telling Ronald Reagan to use body language, or urging Leo Buscaglia to tone down his body language. (Body language from Ronald Reagan to Dr. Love) In either case it would have been a huge mistake.

It’s important that I mention this caveat. Much of what comes naturally to us on the dais undermines our presentations, and much of what a public speaking coach teaches will, at first, feel completely unnatural. So did riding a bike when you first clasped those handlebars. Any new skill takes time to develop and feel natural. And there are certain habits every presenter must get under control, such as pausing, controlled breathing and genuine eye contact.

Give it time. Work with the coach.

In the end, though, you take the dais alone, carrying only your script and your own DNA.

Honor it. Be yourself. Be authentic.

Mike Consol teaches public speaking, PowerPoint presentation skills and business writing to companies and business professionals in the Oakland-San Francisco-San Jose Bay Area. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 925-449-1040.