"During the process of domestication we form an image of what perfection is in order to try to be good enough.  We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody" --Don Miguel Ruiz

Think, "I might faint."

Have you ever lost your train of thought in the middle of a presentation?  Been there—done that!  And maybe you heard that voice in your head saying, Oh no, I bet they can tell!  They’ll see right through me— can they tell my voice is shaking?  Oh, oh, now my knees are shaking!  If they couldn’t tell I was nervous before, now I KNOW they can tell! OK, I just fainted.  Now I’m SURE they can tell!!"

Well, guess what?  You didn’t really faint and the audience couldn’t tell that you were nervous until that little gremlin— that negative little naysayer in your head— started telling you that you were blowing it.  

Are you ready to tell your gremlin to “Shut up!”   

I like to say, Sorry, gremlin, but for now, this is not about me!  It’s about my listeners and what I can do to deliver a listener-focused, clear, confident and concise message!” I always strive to remember to keep my focus on my listeners’ needs instead of my evaluation of their evaluation of me. 

Feel, "I'm Not Good Enough..."

You’re not alone if you’ve ever had the feeling, “they’ll see through the façade and judge me as not good enough.”  Since the fear of public speaking has often been ranked as a fear greater than death, you’re probably more normal than not!  

There are many reasons why one may fear speaking to an audience—shy, unsure of communication skills, unsure of content knowledge, language or cultural differences, to name a few.  But by centering in your authenticity while weaving a message that connects to your listeners’ needs and interests (and their minds and hearts), you can have an insightful and enjoyable conversation with your audience members.

Connecting Through Your Authentic Presence means taking into consideration the many aspects of your being, while tapping into what has meaning, value and relevance for your listeners.  Projecting through your Authentic Presence means making a conscious choice about how you want to come across in any situation.  It means creating a genuine connection to your listeners.

Seven Reasons To Use Your Authentic Presence In Public Speaking

Over the next three weeks, I will share Seven Reasons To Use Your Authentic Presence to Connect To Your Listeners, to deliver clear and confident presentations.  

Let’s begin with the first three:

1) You Have to Be Believed to Be Heard - While working at Decker Communications in the early 90’s, I remember the behind the scenes conversations that were taking place as Bert Decker considered the title for his latest book. He ultimately landed on You Have to Be Believed to Be Heard.   Bert’s premise was that your listeners must first connect with you on a human level—person to person—and genuinely feel that they can trust you, before they can truly hear your message or consider your recommendations.   They have to be open to the “authentic you,” in order to be receptive to your message.

Recommendation: “Just be yourself” is often the best advice.  If your behavior doesn’t seem natural, your listeners will feel less comfortable with you and distrust your message.  The challenge is to resist default behaviors that cause you to play small—avoid tweedy bird gestures (really small) and quick eye contact.  Talking fast says to your listeners, “This person really wants to get it over with!”  Pause, be aware of your pace; don’t diminish your credibility by racing through your presentation.

2) Perfectionist Doesn’t Sell - Elayne Savage points out in her book, Don’t Take It Personally!: The Art of Dealiing with Rejection that by trying to be perfect we are trying to protect ourselves from rejection, because if we do something perfectly we don’t leave space for someone to tell us, ‘It’s not good enough.’   

In a highly competitive society we become conditioned to define success by our ability to please others, especially those with the power and authority to make decisions that can have an impact on our livelihood.  Our desire to perform well in the eyes of management can override all else as we become immersed in analyzing and defending our worth, our expertise and competencies.   Anxious energy directed toward trying to make anything absolutely perfect is counterproductive.  

  Prepare and then trust the process.”  The truth is that even the best speakers make mistakes – and sometimes very big ones!  What’s important is to not get hung up on it.   Instead shrug it off, and move on.  Or, you can use it to show your humanness, use it to build your relationship with the audience.   Be honest and genuine and the audience will forgive your mistakes and appreciate your authentic style.   

3) The Fear of Losing Control is Overrated - I mean really, it’s not like skiing down a mountain at 60 mph!  But, you ask, what if I don’t remember everything?  This concern is probably one of the greatest fears associated with public speaking.  The one who surrenders wins the struggle of trying to controlwhich leads to a more relaxed and natural presentation style.  

Recommendation: Let go of the need to control And, if you happen to lose your train of thought?  Well, there are options!  Pause, take a breath and look at your notes.  Your listeners will be busy processing the last thought you expressed.  If done very deliberately, and with a strong comeback, your listeners will actually appreciate your efforts to stay on track!  If you are giving a presentation with slides, the pause can be used to quietly review a slide, then share your thought while directly focused on your listeners.

Think of your own presentation experiences.  What's important to you in how you want to come across to your listeners?  What is it that you find most challenging about presenting to an audience?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  I bet you’re not alone!