Many trainers in public speaking world will have you believe that you need to channel Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King or former president Bill Clinton to be considered successful as a speaker. I have to differ strongly with this assertion. While I understand these well meaning trainers are more describing the key characteristics, skills and attributes that define these successful speakers – they most often fail to offer any actionable insights on the path and effort it takes to get there. Additionally they perpetuate myths that keep people from rising to occasion and becoming successful speakers. Most importantly they ignore the fundamental fact that you are a unique person with a unique collection of skills, intelligences and experiences. Fundamentally they fail to explain that you have to come upon your speaking style that is authentically you – not base upon anyone else or measuring yourself against another. These myths often hinder than help beginning speakers in a few ways:
Successful Speaking Born Myth
Many speech coaches would have you believe that all the outstanding speakers of yesteryear and modern day were born that way. This is so far from the truth. If we examine the lives of all those individuals who because pillars of public speaking ALL of them spent countless hours working to improve their speaking, communication and leadership skills. Speakers are no more born than Olympic athletes. The craft of speaking does take time and effort but its an investment that pays off dramatically in both career and life.
Less Authentic Speaking Skills
Most beginning public speaking students end up believing they need to embrace the characteristics of these expert speakers without understanding how to do so in their own authentic way. As a result, they comes off as contrived, unauthentic and rehearsed. This leads to audiences not connecting with their message and missed opportunities to communicate effectively. Its not about channeling or faking it, rather it is learning fundamentals and making them your own. I could go on but I’d rather focus on ways you can embrace your own innate speaking genius.
To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying you can ignore the many fundamental skills of public speaking. I’m merely pointing out that when identifying of the skills of other successful speakers we should focus on the lessons they teach and how we can incorporate their characteristics and attributes into our arsenal of skills. This isn’t accomplished by simply channeling or “faking it till we make it” but rather by more scientific and practiced means. You can be come a better speaker, even a ground breaking one – but more by effort than innate genetic skill. There is no magic to it. That said; I’ve 5 ways to embrace that will lead you to finding your own unique speaking prowess.
Find you Passion
We all have those things in our lives that make us smile when we think of them. What is yours? If I asked you to speak about it on the spot I bet you might continue on for hours. This authentic passion isn’t something we channel or fake – it just is. The trick with speaking is that sometimes the topics we speak to don’t immediately arise this in us. Fact is, sometimes we need to find how to tap into the passion we have for the subject we need to deliver — because it will improve our performance.
We all know it when we see it. A charismatic leader is always move us emotionally and intellectually. They have a capacity to make even the most banal or boring seem otherworldly. We often sit in wonder while we listen to such speakers. How do they do it? It is rather simple. They are masters at using powerful body language, their voice and intoxicating messages to move us. Despite what some say they aren’t born that way but expand upon the skill through training and practice.
We live in a society that for some reason fosters feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. Fortunately, we do have a choice to change this trend and it lies within us. We can treat ourselves with the ultimate kindness, compassion and understanding and therefore be most likely to produce the most outstanding outcomes we are most certainly capable of. Self acceptance is a key part of this. We should accept where we are at this moment and aspire to improve in the ways we need to as speakers.
Being authentic to who we are is a critical aspect of success. Whether we realize it or not our core values drive our decisions and actions. This is equally important as a speaker, presenter or leader. Bringing that authenticity to our presentation, speeches and talks will mean the difference between an engaged audience or a snoozing one. Be yourself. Acknowledge strengths and work on your opportunities for improvement – but never feel you are lesser or incapable just as you are in this moment. You as you are have so much to offer – be authentic and real and you will see the results with time and effort.
Practice & Improve
All of those amazing speakers past and present weren’t born that way. It took them 1000’s of hours of practice, study and effort to get to those speaking outcomes that define our times. Like most other skill speaking isn’t borne out of genetics alone but nature and nurture in an interactive interplay. We have to work with and be guided by expert teachers (public speaking coaches and others) who help us learn what we need to improve upon. Like most any other skill, if we put in the efforts we will see the results. Practice.
Of course you need to learn the fundamentals, practice and apply your passion and charisma – but you must fundamentally be at peace with who you are, your strength and opportunities for improvement. Work toward improving those things you can and accept the things you can’t You don’t need to be Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King today – but you do need to be the best speaker YOU can be.
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