March 2012: Be Yourself

By | March 14, 2012

“When you’re in the wrong relationship, it’s like you’re acting.”

~ Anna

A few years ago, I met a friend in acting class named Anna. Although young in age, 24, Anna was already very wise. She had broken up with her long-time boyfriend, and had recently met a new partner in her life.

When I asked how her new relationship was going, she said “Mary, it’s wonderful. I can be myself in this relationship.”

I asked her what she meant by that. She replied “Well Mary, I now realize that when you’re in the wrong relationship, it’s like you’re acting.”

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Wow, that’s so true!

And what has this got to do with public speaking & presentations? EVERYTHING!

Just as you want to be able to be completely yourself in your personal relationships, so too you want to completely be yourself when speaking in front of an audience.

When I first started public speaking many years ago, I thought I had to be “formal.” To me, this meant straight-faced, serious and absolutely no humor, because that would be “unprofessional.” Unfortunately for my audience, that also meant my presentations were stiff and boring!

Being your relaxed self, means lighten up! And be conversational!

Today, I can’t emphasize this point enough to my students and coaching clients.

For example, what are you like when you are talking to a few friends in your living room, or having lunch with a close co-worker? I’m willing to bet that you are probably relaxed, smiling and enjoying the conversation. This is what I mean by being your “relaxed” self.

It’s no different in front of an audience. They WANT to see the relaxed you. Not the formal, stiff you, like I was. When you are being yourself and conversational, you engage the audience much more effectively.

One way you can practice this is to experiment with a small section of your speech. Sit down with a friend as though you are just having a regular one-on-one conversation. If a friend is not available, you can also do this by video-taping yourself. The key here is to forget that it’s a speech or presentation and just have a personal conversation. If it doesn’t feel or sound natural, it’s probably because you are being your “presentation” self again. Repeat this again and again, varying the tone and emphasis, until it sounds natural and you are relaxed and your speech sounds conversational.

Authenticity is being your true self, not your “presentation” self. Whether you’re in a relationship, or in front of an audience.

The next time you speak on the platform, will you be ‘acting’? Or will you be your relaxed, conversational self?

Mary Cheyne, MBA
2009 World Champion of Public Speaking 1st Runner-Up
Keynote Speaker / Trainer / Coach
Magnetic Podium, LLC