Authentic Speaking is sincere communication spoken with generosity and purpose, animating the speaker into an alignment of words, vocal tone, and body language.
How Do We Read Insincerity?
Max is the kind of speaker we know well; we’ve sat through hundreds of presentations like his.
“Polished” and “smooth” are words we use to describe Max. He is confident and prepared and doing all the right things. But there’s something about Max that is off. We suspect his message is more calculated than sincere; his words skim along the surface, and we don’t trust him.
Max came to impress us, get our applause, or land new business. How do we know that?
The answer lies in research into the way our brains measure sincerity–tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. We don’t believe him if this “second language” is out of sync with his words.
Note: In the 1970s, UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian found that 93% of your sincerity could be interpreted through how you look, move, and sound, and only a slim margin of your trustworthiness lies in your words.
Can We Be Misread as Inauthentic?
Unfortunately, some of us end up sounding inauthentic–accidentally.
Jennifer is a very different kind of speaker from Max. She cares deeply about her topic and audience, but we can’t tell. Jennifer is self-conscious, focused inward, and worried that she’s blowing it.
Everyone experiences a rush of adrenaline on some level when standing to speak. If you’re like Jennifer and have yet to learn to harness it, you are thrown off by it, which gets in the way of an authentic presence.
You can stay on track, move past the adrenaline, and draw out your authentic style through practice. It may take a while, but if you intend to become an authentic speaker, you can do it (and it’s worth it).
Another way to appear inauthentic is to over-script and memorize a speech. We want to be in command, but over-scripting can mean we’re too busy remembering our exact words and transitions instead of connecting with the audience.
Are There Risks to Being an Authentic Speaker?
Is Authentic Speaking too soft for business? The opposite is true. People who are themselves gain our trust, and we are much more likely to be open to their message.
Authentic speakers are also relaxing and engaging and can strengthen the impact and efficiency of presentations and meetings.
The benefits are priceless for everyone, and the risks are often exaggerated.
Can Authentic Speaking Happen Organically?
Occasionally I work with high school students who anticipate college and internship interviews. These students often have incredible bursts of authentic expression since it’s so near the surface.
One fall, a young woman named Anna stood in the center of the room to introduce herself. She said, “I am Russian.” Not casually, but as a way of standing for something.
“America has become my country, but Russia is a great part of me. I want you all to know about Russia. So many beautiful customs and traditions. I don’t want to hide Russia; I am proud of Russia. I want to share it.”
At 17, this young woman held the room in the palm of her hand. She was the center of attention, trembling with strength.
Authentic Speaking will spring up without warning when you stand to do something as simple as introducing yourself. It’s as though you’ve taken truth serum. You will become animated, and your heart will power your voice.
5 Essential Keys to Speaking Authentically
1) Be True to Yourself
You must tap into what is genuine in yourself and use it to connect with what is real in others.
How do you do this? Ask yourself what matters to you. Explore your influences, backstory, beliefs, and point of view. Pursue any kind of self-development that resonates with you.
Use what you find and thread it through your messages.
2) Come with a “Gift”
Learn everything you can about your audience. How are you assisting people in overcoming obstacles and managing their lives? What value are you providing?
Generosity is at the heart of authentic speaking. Get clear on the challenge, need, or interest of your audience. Remembering why you are there will help you connect authentically.
Come with a gift. Otherwise, we might suspect you came for yourself.
3) Use the Heart + Mind Approach
In professional environments, we might assume the audience wants only the facts and essential points; but human beings also want an emotional connection.
Connecting with the hearts and minds of the audience is the goal–not one or the other. We are hardwired to connect with others, and passion is electricity.
4) Be Your Physical Self
Within you is an authentic communicator who confides in your sister at the kitchen table, belly laughs with your best friend, cheers when your child hits a home run, or tears up during a sad movie. And it’s you making a stand. It’s a force, and you can release it into your message.
Be your physical self–as though you were speaking to your friends and family. Use your voice, facial expressions, and gestures in the way that you do naturally.
For years, German choreographer Katja Heitmann has recorded how people gesture, stand and walk. She believes that movement is born within us as a unique physical expression.
5) Draw Out Authenticity Through Stories
You can break down the wall between yourself and listeners by sharing personal stories and experiences relevant to your audience.
Neuroscience reveals the power of stories to change our beliefs and attitudes toward the speaker–much more so than mere words. An overload of information can cause them to glaze over, but personal anecdotes give the audience a human connection.
Stories bring your message to life and make it uniquely yours. Your stories are the secret drivers that create meaning.
The Great Exercise
Authentic Speaking is The Great Exercise in leveraging your originality, owning your story, building self-confidence, and gaining the trust of others.
Why is authentic communication so rare? Inauthentic communication is everywhere, in abundance. People are skeptical and judgemental, and the marketplace is noisy. It takes courage to step out. Yet stepping out is the very thing that draws us to you.
The ability to accept and trust yourselves as a speaker will manifest more deeply in your relationships. You will begin to feel more comfortable in your skin, which is the foundation of a great life.
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