It’s a recurring argument that I hear from clients, and I know it’s coming. “I want to appear authentic!” It’s a noble intent.
Who doesn’t want to be true to themselves? But how you feel about yourself and how others observe you can be miles apart. This chasm impacts your ability to get buy-in from your listeners.
As part of a talk I gave, I was demonstrating how this discrepancy looks. I had a volunteer from the audience talk about something that was important to them. I don’t recall the topic: human rights, feeding the hungry, world peace, saving the whales, spaying your pet. Whatever. He talked for about 90 seconds and I stopped him. I asked the audience, “On a scale of one to ten, how passionate do you think he appears about this topic?” People shouted out numbers, as low as two, and as high as six. Our volunteer speaker was aghast – perhaps even angry. He almost shouted, “I would DIE for this!” An audience member shouted back, “Then show us!” It was a powerful moment of realization for him. And us.
This difference in perception identifies the problem. We know our heart. Others can only see our behavior. Think about a person who has really upset you while driving. Perhaps they cut you off, followed too closely, drove slowly in the passing lane, nearly crashed while texting, or stole your parking place. What do you think of them? You don’t know them, but you have some choice words – perhaps four letters long – to describe these social outcasts. But what about your driving? Have you ever committed such an egregious act? Be honest. What do you think of yourself? Honest mistake? Lapse of judgment? Or perhaps even, “Wow – I’m good!” Then consider what other drivers are thinking of you. It’s behavior that drives people’s impressions of us.
Stephen Covey (Jr.) says it clearly in The Speed of Trust: “We judge ourselves based on our intent; others judge us on our behavior.”
Which brings us back to how your behavior impacts your ability to appear authentic to your audience whether that’s your clients, prospects, or team members. If you want to drive the impression you are passionate about your subject, what should you do? Since passion, confidence, and enthusiasm are inferred from our actions, it’s crucial to show these critical components and not ask your listeners to infer them from your content. Want to give folks the impression you are excited to be presenting to them (usually accompanied with a dry, “Thanks for the opportunity to be here…”)? Then you need to look happy.
I hear workshop participants tell me, “Sure, I can do that.” And they really believe they can. Until… they see a video of themselves. I get two comments from our workshop participants over and over when they watch video of themselves before they receive coaching. “I thought I smiled more!” And… “What am I doing with my hands?!” Those behaviors are sending out a message. The question becomes, what does your audience think that message is?
Demonstrating your passion to your listeners does not mean you only present in a manner that makes you feel good. You may argue that you’re just not that demonstrative. Neither was I. Until I decided that the impression I made on my audience mattered more than how I felt. I decided that if it takes making huge gestures to convince someone that I’m passionate about my subject, then I’ll flap my arms until I fly. If modulating my voice can move someone to action, then I’m willing to practice speaking in whatever tone will work. I think that’s about as authentic as someone can be—matching the opportunity to present with a result that you are convicted about.
Now that you understand the importance of how you deliver your message, practice with your team. Work with your team to practice with the careful eye of a person or group who will tell you the truth. Bigger! More! We want CRAZY! Because that’s what it feels like. But it just looks… passionate.
Sounding like you feel—and not presenting to feel good—is a skill that is hard to master, but ultimately worth the effort because of the reaction and response you will get from your audience. I look forward to seeing you at CXps 2018 for a action-packed, and fun-filled 3-hour workshop.
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Alan Hoffler is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer at MillsWyck Communications. He is a sought-after speaker and the author of “Presentation Sin: The Practical Guide to Stop Offending (and Start Impressing) Your Audience.” His book is a collection of relatable stories from the trenches and 100+ communication tips based on his 25-year career and his observations from thousands of hours speaking on stage, coaching speakers, and training in the classroom.