What if you trusted your own voice?
There are so many helpful tips out there regarding how to speak with clarity and poise, but what about how to speak as yourself?
Do you want to have more confidence when you speak?
Do you wish that you could have more influence when you speak?
And do you have this impression that, if you could improve something about your delivery, you would be more successful?
Like most things of this nature, the path to success is through a higher level of self-trust.
I’m going to begin with the assumption that you already have authority.
That may be related to what you know or your particular expertise, or it may just be that you know who you are and what you want to say.
Either way, the work in communicating that authority is in noticing and removing all the barriers that we put between ourselves and our audience.
Notice how hard you might be trying to be understood.
The biggest thief of someone’s presence is the desire to “get it right” or the illusion that you can control how the audience hears you.
Whenever we put pressure on ourselves in this way, we bring tension to our communication, which in turn brings a kind of fragility to our presence.
I used to coach TEDx talks in the early 2010s.
My favorite talks were these messy, authentic, powerful talks that invited the audience to connect with the speaker and with the material in a way that was authentic and honest.
Here’s an example of one of my favorites:
The great Ben Zander, talking about the power of classical music back in 2008.
It’s a chaotic presentation that looks as though he and the camera person have no idea what he will do next.
That was followed by another wildly successful talk in 2010 by Ken Robinson. (Note: who also had a successful talk in 2006, which was one of the first to be put on the internet.)
Brené Brown burst onto the scene in a 2010 TEDx talk with a similarly authentic and simple presentation about shame.
(It’s fun to see her back then and recognize how popular her work has become.)
Then something changed with the way these talks were done.
Expectations and success.
TED talks became a cultural sensation and everyone wanted to do one.
They became the way, not only to communicate an idea, but to develop a persona and a brand.
TED producers (and Chris Anderson) even came out with the “TED Commandments” for public speaking, which was an attempt to control the quality and feel of the talks.
The suggestions in the commandments are great, but what I noticed is that the majority of talks that I saw were trying to follow a different set of rules.
They were trying to get it “right.”
If you watch TED talks now, you might notice that they have a feel and a cadence that feels packaged in some way.
There’s a “TED talk” voice that people use now when they know that they are presenting in front of a TED audience.
When I was coaching back in the early 2010s, I could feel the pressure that people were putting on themselves to be “extraordinary” in their talk.
Which, in my opinion, has led the talks to become easy fodder for satire:
What if, instead of trying to get it right, we were just more ourselves?
You have a perspective (and that matters).
When I work with teams on their presentation or communication style, I’m usually inviting them to trust their own unique perspectives.
So often, we try to guess what our audience wants to hear, or what we “should” say, that we wind up compromising our own view.
I love Martha Graham‘s quote about expression and creativity because it sums up what I believe to be the key to our ability to have influence and persuade an audience.
“There is a validity, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.”
The trouble is that we don’t trust ourselves, do we?
Wanting to stay safe.
Whenever I’ve worked with clients on their public speaking opportunities, I’ve recognized this desire to stay hidden.
I’ve also seen it in my own presentation and acting moments.
I want to stay safe and be good.
The issue here is that we all have this preconceived notion of what “good” is, and it’s usually something more than who we are.
That’s why I suspect that so many of the TED speakers look and sound alike.
They are all trying to be what they expect is a “good” TED speaker.
They want to ensure that they will be successful.
Who can blame them, right? Don’t we all want to be successful without having to be vulnerable?
The problem is that this doesn’t work. Or at least, it doesn’t allow us to bring our unique “force and energy” to the moment.
All those performances that move us were done through a moment of complete self-trust. They were honest expressions of themselves.
And that is available to us all, if we’re willing to be seen.
What if you let go of the story that you had to be someone special?
What if you trusted your own perspective, without needing others to affirm it?
The willingness to step through a doorway like this is an invitation.
It’s an invitation to discover something new about yourself.
To discover just how strong and amazing you are.
Be brave. Trust yourself. Take the leap and speak from your position with confidence.
Your audience might not agree with what you say, but they will appreciate your willingness to say it as yourself.
Most importantly, by claiming your own voice, you give others the permission to claim theirs.
And that is the greatest gift we can give anyone.
Permission to be themselves.
If you’re looking for a fabulous photographer to take your next headshot, either for work or for personal use, I encourage you to check out Winky Lewis’ work. You can find her here.
She will help you love your headshot.
Here’s a recent one that she took of me in my office. I’m so grateful for her work, and I want to share her contact with you.
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