Be Yourself When You Give a Speech (How to Be Authentic)

The trick to being a good communicator, whether you’re speaking to a small gathering or to a packed auditorium, is to be yourself. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I was working with a team from an engineering company. They were preparing for an oral proposal, trying to win a government contract.

The team leader was lively and engaging every time he spoke to me. He was excited about his project, and he let it show. He spoke to me simply without making me feel like an idiot. And he had a warm voice.

But during rehearsals, he became a completely different person.

He talked the way he thought a speaker should – in a low, solemn monotone. He clasped his hands in front of him in a fig-leaf pose. He used big words. And he was boring.

I convinced him to go back to speaking the way he naturally did – only a little louder and bigger. (The team won the contract.)

To be as natural giving a speech as you are most of rest of the time, do this:

1. Hold a Conversation.

Don’t give a speech. Talk to your audience the way you’d talk to one or two other people you care about. (You will, probably, need to raise your volume and energy level, and you’ll want to plan out what you say.)

2. Say “You” and “I” and “We.”

Speak the way you naturally do.

3. Avoid Big Words.

Don’t try to impress people by sounding smart. Make them feel smart by explaining yourself simply and clearly. If you must use jargon, explain it immediately.

4. Speak to One Person at a Time.

Even if you’re addressing hundreds of people, choose one person, look him or her in the eyes, and speak for 8 to 10 seconds. Then look at someone else somewhere else in the audience and do it again.

5. Listen.

Your audience members are constantly giving you feedback – by their posture, body language, and eye contact. So pay attention to the signals they’re giving and respond.

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The Witt Communications Newsletter contains advice for improving your ability to present yourself and your ideas in a way that wins people’s cooperation. It comes out once a month. Subscribe here.

Also see How to Give a Speech.

For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more powerful speaker, contact us.

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