And you gotta be you—whether you’re in front of one potential client or customer or a whole roomful of people.
For most of us, the more eyeballs that are looking back at us, the harder it is to be our genuine selves.
We might start to think we have to put on an act. We might start putting on an act without even thinking about it. And when that happens, we’re not doing the audience—or ourselves—any favors.
A panel of people who book speakers said recently some very popular, polished professionals are in less demand these days because authenticity is all the rage. And if audiences want the pros to be authentic, they surely want the same from you when you speak at a Chamber meeting or your professional association.
So here are a few tips from my not-as-famous-as-I’d-like-it-to-be 39 Keys to Command the Room, Connect with Your Audience and Cash in with Your Content.
Instead of a speech, presentation or performance—think conversation.
The speeches, presentations and performances have become old hat. What your audience really wants from you is you.
So give it to them.
No orating, no pontificating, no lecturing. Just talk with them. And if you can share something valuable with them, so much the better. We love conversations that leave us smarter or more knowledgeable than before.
Use natural language.
Stay away from stiff or formal. Sometimes when we take the “stage” we get preoccupied with grammar and vocabulary and our own need to sound smart.
The result is often an extremely formal sentence structure that does not resemble actual speech because it contains too many clauses and multisyllabic words and it does not include the contractions that most individuals use when they are conversing.
Let them see you as you really are.
Well, yes, there are limits. I wouldn’t show up to speak as I really am when I roll out of bed in the morning. And, it’s easy to get caught up in a façade that becomes a barrier between speaker and listeners.
The more you can be your own imperfect self, the more your audience will connect with you. That connection is critical if you want to influence them. And of course you wouldn’t be speaking if you didn’t want to influence them in some way.
So bring the real you to the front of the room.
Forget about having to speak like anyone else.
I learned this in one of my first coaching programs for speakers, run by two strong personalities who each have a catch-phrase they use when they’re speaking.
Larry Winget asks audiences to respond with “You Bet!” Suzanne Evans encourages people to yell, “Hell Yeah!”
The call-and-response thing works really well for both of them; they’ll have a whole roomful of folks on their feet hollering “Hell Yeah” and “You Bet.”
So what happened when it was our turn to take the front of the room? A bunch of my colleagues came up with catch-phrases of their own and urged their listeners to shout them out.
And they sounded exactly like—pale imitations of Larry and Suzanne.
You can learn a lot from listening to a really good speaker. Then take the lessons and make your talk your own.
Make sure your voice, gestures and facial expression match your content.
Audiences sniff out phoniness and when they find it, they tune out. And they will find it if what you say doesn’t match how you say it. Incongruity will kill the connection you’re trying to make with them.
You can test this out for yourself next time someone you know is just furious. And you notice them saying through gritted teeth and clenched jaw, “I’m not mad.”
When the “what” and the “how” don’t match, people will believe the “how” every time.
So practice what you’re going to say until you’re comfortable with it. And change the content if you have to, to align it with your real feelings.
You may not want to be a professional speaker, or even a professional of some other kind who gives a talk to attract clients. But you’ll find these tips useful in all kinds of informal situations too. Post a comment and tell us how you might use the Be You suggestions.