Be yourself. For real. I mean it.

For some reason, public speaking conjures up thoughts and expectations – in speakers’ minds – of needing to adopt a certain persona other than their own. Not so. In fact, not preferable at all.

37811536 - young confident woman in red cape and mask

Let me explain why and hopefully relieve you from any conscious or subconscious thoughts about needing to be more or better than what you already are:
Authenticity. This is more than a buzzword. Your authenticity is what draws people to you, makes you likeable and credible. This is what you abandon, betray even, when you try to adopt a podium persona. On the one hand, authenticity reveals you; in the best sense, it shows your great traits, but then, yes, it possibly shows some of your not so great traits as well. On the other hand, authenticity shares you, it makes you real and relatable. Allowing oneself to be real and relatable is ultimately what makes a speaker compelling and appealing and effective.
Transparency. We live in a world where there are very few secrets. People can see and find out more about each other now than even five or 10 years ago. People share and post more about themselves now than they ever did. The net result from both sides of this equation is that audiences have a keen sense of what’s real and what’s not and so they can be quite skeptical and discerning. Audiences can sniff out BS these days faster than you can advance a slide. Just like authenticity, transparency can enhance your likeability and credibility. Being open, especially when it’s difficult or unexpected, will earn you points with audiences.
Good enough. The real you is good enough. Could you be better, more organized, more polished as a speaker? Sure, everyone can be. Should that stop you from getting up and speaking with confidence? No. You’re an adult, a professional, and you’re respected enough to be asked or invited to go the podium and speak. Embrace who you know you are – the good parts and the parts that are works in progress – and acknowledge to yourself that, though you may not be as great as you’d ideally like to be, you are pretty darn good, certainly good enough. And let that be the last thought you have before you approach the microphone!

Beth Levine