Monday, October 6, 2008

Public Speaking: The Secret

I am going to let you in on a little secret. Actually, it's a really big secret. It's the secret that every single person who ever has to do a presentation wants to know:

How can I deliver a powerful, persuasive and entertaining presentation that makes people stop and listen?

The answer?



That's it.


I'm not lying.

I believe, along with every other public speaker on the planet, that the best speakers are the ones who can be themselves on stage. They don't put on a show. They don't use big words to impress their audiences. They don't do what they think they should do. They just do what comes to them - naturally.

This authenticity is what draws us to a speaker and makes us sit up and listen. So what's so hard about being yourself? There could be a number of issues holding you back, and until you take care of each of these, you'll never reach your true potential as a speaker.

1. You don't know who you are
This point is actually a lot more complicated than how it looks on paper. It's one of life's big questions and one which all of us are always working to answer: Who am I? The closer you are to answering this question for this point in your life, the better a speaker you will be. If you aren't exactly sure who you are or what you stand for, it will be hard to open yourself up to an audience and even harder for your audience to trust you and your message.

2. You are trying to be a "speaker"
You've taken so many courses and studied so many "master speakers" that you think that's the one and only way you should speak. All I can say is a big, huge, fat, "WRONG!" Didn't you ever listen to your mother when she asked that rhetorical question about whether you'd jump off a bridge... ? Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's right. The top speakers have found a style that works for them, now you need to find a style that works for you. This is incredibly easy if you just BE YOURSELF.

3. Being yourself makes you feel too vulnerable
It's scary standing in front of a group of people and sharing what's on your mind. If you put up a front and pretend to be someone you aren't it's a lot easier to accept failure. If people didn't like the talk you don't have to take it personally because really, you weren't personally involved. You can blame it on your "style" instead of accepting that maybe someone in the audience didn't like you. I'll let you in on another secret: not everyone is going to like you. That's just a fact. The sooner you accept this and let it go, the better.

So how can you become more authentic? You should be able to speak on stage the same way you speak to your closest friends and colleagues. There is nothing wrong with being conversational, asking for your audience's opinion or showing that you have a sense of humor. You need to let go of what you think should be said or done and do what feels right for you. Don't compare yourself to others. You've been asked to speak because someone felt that you had something important to say. They asked you to speak because they like YOU, not you in a speaker's costume.

Take a deep breath, relax, put on a smile and share your passion with the world. That's what makes public speaking fun. Enjoy it!

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