In Mission Impossible: Fallout, we see the villain sitting in a room watching the destruction of society play out on a news report. Seeing the success of his plan, he starts to gloat and confess. Once he finishes, the walls come down. It turns out the whole scene was a façade–and he had been tricked the entire time.
This juxtaposition between reality and deception makes the movie thrilling and entertaining. But in real life, you won’t be taken seriously as a speaker if you fluctuate between a real and fake persona. Showing the schism between the two raises questions about your authenticity. So the next time you give a speech, make sure you do these four things so that your audience sees you as an authoritative and trustworthy speaker.
Don’t hold back from natural gestures
You can’t dissociate from your body–for example, force yourself to stand stoically or sit still–if you want to appear authentic. You need to move naturally, rather than engineer certain gestures or facial expressions. That just makes you look awkward and unnatural.
I recently worked with a client who climbed mountains in his spare time. He’d conquered Mount Kilimanjaro already and was preparing to tackle Mount McKinley, which is the tallest mountain in North America. It was evident that he was physically fit. Unfortunately, his gesture suggested otherwise–floppy arms, floppy wrists, and floppy fingers. This created a disconnect between his physical body and his own presentation of himself. He wasn’t connecting with his natural energy. By not letting his physical strength come through, he didn’t convey purpose and intention.
Be comfortable with making spontaneous facial expressions
On the other side of the spectrum, I had another client who came off as slick and inauthentic. He was good looking but not manicured. He had a pleasant voice. He maintained good eye contact. However, he had one consistent, overriding behavior–sustained facial expression. When he spoke, he manufactured his look–eyebrows up, forehead wrinkled, mouth in a half smile. He held it for minutes at a time. It was evident that he wasn’t conveying what he felt. To come off natural, he needed to allow his face to change organically with his feelings.
When speaking spontaneously, your facial expressions should only last a few seconds. If you have a habit of making a sustained facial expression–look at yourself in a mirror. Count to 20 while holding your eyebrows up, then let go. I’m confident that you’ll see and feel the difference.
Focus on the moment
When jazz musicians improvise, they can be behind the beat, ahead of the beat, or on the beat. But as a speaker, you need to be on the beat. If you are behind the beat, your listeners will think that you’re “editing” your speech–choosing your words and considering how to phrase your message. As a result, you might come across as having a hidden agenda.
To speak “on the beat,” think about making a visual metaphor. For example, say you want to highlight the urgency of a message, convey the image of an ambulance–flashing light, screaming siren. If you want to emphasize a message of accomplishment, you can refer to a mountain of purchase orders. The more clearly you describe these images, the more your audience will see you as authentic.
Be attuned to your environment
It’s easy to think of scuba diving as an immersive experience–but do you ever consider the level of immersion when you walk into a room? Do you attune yourself to the pressure in the room, as well as the sounds, the temperature, and the energy level? Communicating authenticity requires you to be in sync with these elements. For example, shouting for your team at a game expresses affection and camaraderie, but if you do the same in the boardroom, it shows grandiosity and emotionalism. People might see you as being overly dramatic.
Speaking authentically is not about putting on a costume or an act. Rather, it’s about the way you carry yourself, and how you move as you speak. It’s what you show through your facial expression, and present both in the moment and in your environment. Do all these things together, and you’ll have a compelling, genuine, and emotionally intelligent presentation.