When you meet someone phony, how do you react? Do you immediately distrust them? You most certainly don’t like them. The false smile and artificial laugh gives phony people away along with bogus small talk. With a person who fakes it, we feel ill at ease. We can’t be ourselves because the person we’re talking to isn’t being real. It all boils down to this: we don’t trust people who fake it.
So why, then, when we get in front of a large audience to present a speech, do we feel it necessary to be someone we’re not? If we’re shy, we feel the need to put on an outgoing face. If we’re serious, we feel we must act like we’re funny and clown around. Presentations aren’t about endless entertainment; speeches are not stand-up acts or comedy monologues. Presentations are about connecting with people in order to share ideas. The best way to connect with an audience is to show them your true self.
When I first started teaching in 2007, since I was so close in age to the students in my college classes, I did a lot of pretending. I pretended to be more mature and sophisticated than I am. I was humorless and 100% focused on work. I was so concerned with proving that I deserved to be leading the class that I completely forgot to be myself. In fact, I tried not to be myself, as I was determined to be “The Serious Professor.”
Needless to say, no one was impressed with “The Serious Professor.” Audiences connect with human beings. Garr Reynolds explains that audiences “care only about seeing your authentic self” (Source). So how do you show people who you truly are? Presentations make people nervous, unsure, and anxious. How can you be yourself through your lizard brain fears?
First, consider who you are in your everyday life. How would your family describe you? Your significant other? Your close friends? Your co-workers? That’s the person you want to show to your audience.
Second, consider how you can show that real person to your audience. If you haven’t properly prepared, there’s no way you’ll take showing your authentic self into consideration… you’ll be too busy worrying about your content! (This is why “winging it” rarely ever works.) My suggestion is to be so comfortable with your content that you can focus on delivering a speech with your authentic self in mind. After all, it’s who your audience came to see!