Guest and keynote speakers need to deliver addresses that are warm, engaging and authoritative. Authenticity makes all the difference between a forgettable speech and one that leaves a lasting impact. And as with any performer, you as the talent are inseparable from the message itself. After deciding that you have what it takes to be a professional speaker, learning how to come across as genuine is paramount. Here, we will explore seven steps required to become the authentic speaker your audience will never forget.
Begin with your authentic passions and lived experience.
Authenticity begins with focusing on topics you know. You need speaking topics where your lived experience has led to deep familiarity. Just as importantly, you need to be passionate about your subject. Audiences will pick up on any lack of enthusiasm.
First, develop topics where your personal and professional life provide interesting insights, amusing anecdotes and transformational outcomes. But make sure to avoid embellishment of your knowledge and experience. In the digital age, your true history will be discovered. You can likely think of several examples of politicians being caught in misrepresentations. Plus, question-and-answer periods will certainly test your credibility.
Define how your speaking topics benefit your audience.
Yes, you are the person at the center stage. But ultimately, public addresses are not about you. The best public speakers have just as much passion for improving the lives of their audiences as they have for their speaking topics. The best motivational speakers truly want to empower people and transform lives.
To get started, define who your audience is and how your keynote address will benefit them. Know exactly the key elements you want your audience to remember. Likewise, provide clear calls to action so that people know how to get started. Without taking these steps, you can come across as inauthentic in your desire to advocate for change.
Don’t try to be someone else in your speaking address.
This is the most challenging step in some ways. Yes, it’s important to learn from the great public speakers such as Kindra Hall, Jay Shetty and Simon T. Bailey. You want to watch videos and learn from the top TED speakers of today. But learning from the best public speakers does not mean impersonating them.
In developing your stage presence, be sure to make it an extension of your personality, not an alter-ego. Be yourself as much as possible without putting on an act to establish your credibility and gain your audience’s trust.
Redirecting your nervousness.
So what do you do with all that anxiety and nervous energy? The answer is to redirect it. Psychology Today recommends a distracting exercise—singing the first song that comes to mind, and following that with “a song lyric that contains the last word sung from the previous song.” Keep going until you cheer up or start to feel ridiculous, then take stock of how you feel.
Rehearse your speech delivery.
It may sound counterintuitive, but speaking with authenticity requires rehearsal. Lack of proper familiarity with the beats of your public address will only add to the unnatural pauses and “ums” that result from a lack of preparation. Even if you know your subject inside and out, unpreparedness can make you appear inauthentic.
To prepare, record your delivery both in rehearsal and at events. Test your speech with family, friends or associates. You may consider starting a YouTube channel or podcast. Local events, fraternal organizations, graduation ceremonies and churches each provide opportunities to hone your message. Then, you are better prepared for the next step for becoming an authentic speaker: focusing on your audience.
Focus on and engage your audience to build a personal connection.
Many public speakers quickly establish a personal connection with their audiences. That is why so many speakers begin with a joke or amusing personal anecdote. In doing so, they immediately move from action to interaction.
But that level of engagement should not end after the first few seconds or minutes. To maintain rapport and attention, speakers must continually reestablish and build upon the connection they created. Sprinkle your delivery with moments of levity even if your topic is serious or somber. Establish eye contact across various segments of your audience. Ask questions and invite feedback such as polling by applause. Remind your audience continually that you are listening to them as much as you want them to listen to you.
Mindfulness means a willingness to improvise.
Improvisation, in this case, does not mean going off on tangents. But it does mean being situationally aware and mindful of your audience and your surroundings. As an authentic speaker, you should have both the familiarity with your topic and rehearsal time that allows you to respond to situations as they occur.
Unforeseen questions, audience reactions, technical difficulties or a commotion such as crashing plates in an adjacent dining area should not throw you off. Rather, they provide an opportunity for you to let your charisma shine through. Don’t appear robotic by ignoring the situation or—worse—becoming flustered. Embrace the opportunity to share the moment with the audience with wit and grace.
Are you considering a career as a public speaker?
Are you an author, business leader, social media influencer or simply someone with a great and motivational story to tell? Public speaking allows you to inspire others both in-person and virtually while following your dreams. You can make great money, too!
Though top booking agencies such as the SUCCESS Speakers Bureau have stringent requirements for talent representation, there’s no harm in investigating. Often, those with the most to offer hold themselves back unnecessarily. Take a look at our Future Speakers page to see if becoming a SUCCESS speaker is right for you.