You have an advantage over everyone else every time you give a speech or presentation: nobody else can be you! (Do you know how to speak for leadership? Discover key techniques in my free cheat sheet, "Leadership Skills: The 5 Essential Speaking Techniques.")
Sound obvious? It should be—but it's amazing how often speakers don't accept this fact that can and should be an asset to their public speaking.
A Tale of Two Speakers
I thought of this recently when I coached two executives, one of whom had extensive speaking experience and one who didn't. In our day-long session together, the inexperienced speaker kept trying to emulate her boss. And her boss was trying to be as good as a well known humanitarian from his country with whom he had worked on social justice issues.
What was wrong here? — Both executives were making a mistake that's common among business speakers: trying to make themselves into another speaking personality, both an absurdity and a clear impossibility.
Imagine the following situations, if these famous speakers had attempted turning themselves into an equally famous personage who had succeeded before them:
- George Washington trying to be Confucius.
- Eleanor Roosevelt imitating Pocahontas.
- Hillary Clinton speaking with Marilyn Monroe's whisper.
- Barack Obama channeling Popeye.
Ridiculous, isn't it? Of course I'm exaggerating to make a point. But it isn't as far off the mark as you may think. Speakers and presenters frequently try to be someone they aren't. The most illogical part of all this is that those other presenteres wouldn't be any good in the speaking situation anyway.
Have Faith in Yourself, Because Your Audience Does
That's because you are the person the audience actually wants to hear, not that other speaker. There's a reason, in other words, that you were asked to present: you have the credibility, the knowledge, and/or the suitability to be speaking to this audience, in this situation. The other person doesn't. (What happens if you run into resistance? Find out how to handle yourself in my cheat sheet, "7 Tips for Overcoming Audience Resistance.")
Let's go back to that pair of executives I mentioned earlier. The woman who was trying to emulate her boss was an international games competitor of a very high caliber, and the talk we were working on was a speech to young competitors in the field.
Her boss had no such credentials--so why was she looking to be like him? And her boss himself volunteered the information that the well-known humanitarian whose public speaking he admired had qualities as a chief executive that he wouldn't care to emulate.
How to Achieve True Leadership in Your Speeches
In other words, neither of these speakers had any need to become "better" than they already were. Each was highly qualified to assume the leadership roles their public speaking set out for them. In fact, leadership in these two speeches could only reside in them. In terms of your need to make an impact, here are 10 ways to stay fully focused when speaking for leadership.
We can't change who we are, so we shouldn't try to do so where public speaking is concerned. In our genuineness and honesty lies the power to reach an audience and positively influence their behavior. Every successful business speaker knows this, either intuitively or through experience.
Not such a secret? I agree. Pass it on.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- You have a natural advantage as a speaker because you're unique.
- Too many presenters try to be "better" than they are by emulating others.
- Chances are you were chosen to speak exactly because of your assets.
- Public speaking is a form of leadership, where authenticity matters.
- Your genuineness and honesty are sources of your power to persuade.