Speaker toolkit – part two: authenticity

“Just be yourself” – simple advice that is much easier said than done!

It can be difficult being ourselves on stage. Suddenly our doubts flood in: how serious should I be? Should I make more jokes? Do I need to sound more authoritative? Even if you are confident with your material, standing in front of an audience can make you feel like you are performing a version of yourself. Although this is a normal reaction to being in the spotlight, it can be frustrating and discouraging.

The good news is you don’t need to sound or look a certain way to express yourself and be listened to by your audience. Audiences are excellent at recognising when a speaker is being sincere and genuine. One of the key ways to build trust with your audience and put them at ease is by showing your true personality, passions and emotions. If you build trust with your audience, this is one of the best ways to keep them engaged. Maryam has some more advice on how to be authentic in the video below:

Here are some practical steps you can take help you be an authentic speaker:

What is your public speaking style?
Can you summarise this in three words – are you loud, quiet, serious, funny, energetic, or passionate? Once you get to know the characteristics of your voice and style then you can use them like dials on a sound board. Every time you speak, you can mix an authentic version of yourself which is appropriate for the event and the audience.

Watch or listen to yourself speaking
No one likes the sounds of their own voice or watching a video of themselves. However, seeing or hearing where you are most at ease and most yourself will give you a real insight into your favoured presenting style. If you don’t have a previous recording or film of you speaking, you can always record yourself on your phone or ask a trusted friend, or colleague to record a talk or presentation for you.

Ask others for feedback
Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends! So why not ask some friends, colleagues or family members to describe what kind of speakers they think you are? Ask them to be specific – what kind of emotions, language, images and styles do they associate with you? For instance, you may be the wise and intelligent professor, or perhaps the tech-savvy, energetic and excited entrepreneur. You might be surprised by what you hear!

It can be daunting to finally admit what type of speaker your are and what kind of voice you have, but it can also be freeing to focus on what feels good to do when you are on stage. So forget mimicking Barack Obama, being the new Steve Jobs or modelling yourself on your favourite TED speaker. It’s time to be the authentic you on stage – and guess what – audiences will love you for it.