Sell Anyone Anything

By: RSiegel
I had been called into another company to help a rising star from becoming a falling one. His presentation skills were holding him back.

When I called his manager for feedback, she offered these observations:

"He so self conscious when he's up there. He fidgets and is at a loss with what to do with his hands. He is reading from the slides, and when he's not, his talk is filled with 'umms and ahhhs.' I am a nervous wreck by the time he sits down...."

My rising star had adapted a performance orientation to presenting. He was hiding his true self behind the material and speaking to the room, not to individuals in the room. I had to help him see public speaking was not about performing but expressing authentic self.

Who we are speaks much louder than what we have to say, for what really sells people on anything is the authenticity of the presenter. Audiences are attracted to authenticity. The more comfortable we are, the more compelling we become.

"Leaders can no longer simply stand in front of a room and tell people what to do," writes Lee Glickstein in his book, Be Heard Now! Tap Into Your Inner Speaker and Communicate with Ease. "To make an impact, we need to forge a strong heartfelt relationship with people. That means we have to be authentic and human with them. We have to let them in, so that they will let our message in."
Self discovery and acceptance are crucial for powerful presenters. By consciously presenting, we can learn a lot about Self.

We are taught at a very young age that it is not okay to be who we are. We were either punished or made to feel embarrassed for being ourselves so we stopped trusting ourselves to speak and act in acceptable ways.

Psychologists say a family dynamic occurs whenever two people come together. These dynamics also haunt us when we speak.

As the youngest of three boys (there is a 12-year age difference between me and my next brother), I was constantly being teased. I began to edit myself, speaking and acting in ways I believed would garner my family's approval. I adopted a persona I called my "heroic image," and it had little to do with who I am.

When I spoke publicly, it was my heroic image speaking. I felt protected. My image became my mask and my words, my shield. My natural voice caused me such shame that I switched it to a rich baritone. Little did I know, audiences sensed my inauthenticity and discounted much of what I said.

As I became more comfortable with myself in my late 30s, I began to crave more connection. I wanted to be seen and heard for who I really am. When I spoke publicly, I slowly stopped performing and began to share more and more of myself.

Sometimes the best technique is no technique. "We can't try to be real," writes Glickstein. "We can just relax and let ourselves be whoever we are."
It takes a lot of practice to be real in public. Now with practice, I can have a conversation with twenty or more people. I focus one hundred percent on each person, even if I don't connect with all of the people in the room.

Instead of focusing on information, I focus on communication, because most audiences don't care what we know until they know we care.

When I focus on communication and not the information, I am more relaxed and fluid. I go where my audiences need to go and not necessarily where I had planned.

Public speaking and presenting can be a wonderful pathway to self-knowledge and acceptance. By sharing who we are, we become the powerful presenters we were born to be.
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