When doing it right is getting it wrong (One thing we all need when communicating)

You’ve read it all. You’ve seen it all. You’ve heard it all.

Stand up tall, shoulders back, feet shoulder width apart. Make eye contact, but not for too long. Don’t put your hands in your pockets or fold your arms. Vary your hand gestures, open palms. Move across the stage from left to right.

I absolutely believe that every piece of how we communicate verbally and non verbally matters. 

But.

Have you ever been given the opportunity to speak to a group of people and felt like you’re doing everything you are supposed to, and yet still not connecting?

Or maybe you have watched someone speak and it seems like they are doing everything right from what you’ve seen, heard or read. And yet you find yourself with an apprehension towards the person that you can’t quite put your finger on. 

Recently I was watching a presentation from someone who seemed to have it all and do it all. They were extremely knowledgable, had a great track record and seemed to master ever body language / posture technique I could think of. Yet as I sat and listened to them speak, I struggled to connect.

What they were doing seemed right, but it didn’t seem real. They were getting it right but at the same time getting it wrong. They were awesome, but were not authentic.

I’ve been there. When it feels like you’re right on the money, but somehow totally missing the mark. You feel confident and pull out every trick in the book, but it’s only met with glazed eyes and courteous applause. 

In 2014 Cohn&Wolfe conducted an international survey to learn more about brand authenticity. Their key findings show that consumers would prefer a brand to be authentic (87%) over being innovative (72%) or unique (71%). 

I believe the same is true of those with a platform to speak. You can have the best idea, the newest innovation and the most unique approach, but if you lack authenticity, your presentation will leave your audience with an unsettled feeling that they can’t quite pinpoint. 

When you get up to speak people are asking two questions: 

Do I believe this? – This is a content question. 

Do I believe you? – This is an authenticity question

I think it’s possible to be doing everything right and still get it wrong if we lack authenticity. 

So how do you be authentic? 

Authenticity is defined as “not false or copied; genuine; real”. I could give you 5 steps to being authentic. But ultimately, it would be no different to giving you 5 steps on how to stand, act or speak. The best piece of advice that I could possibly give is just the simplicity of “be yourself”. It’s the best path to authenticity. 

Yes stand up tall with your shoulders back, yes make eye contact, yes use appropriate hand gestures. It isn’t one without the other, but when you relax and feel comfortable in yourself, this will happen naturally.

You know how to speak. You do it every day. In your everyday conversations with people you aren’t wondering how you stand, you aren’t wondering if you are making enough eye contact. You just do it. We overthink things when we get nervous and we try to force ourselves to act in a way that is not natural and it comes across forced and false. 

Communication is a vehicle. It moves people. It takes people on a journey from where they are to where you need them to be. But people don’t want to go on a journey if they don’t trust the driver. That is why I spend two thirds of my training in “Lead the Room” helping people discover who they are and what they have to say before worrying about how to say it. 

Remember, be yourself. Contentment ends the moment comparison begins. When we eye off what someone else has on their plate, we begin to be discontent with what we have on our own. You are unique and as such have something unique to contribute.