April 7, 2009

Who are you trying to be?



In asking a new client about his public speaking challenges, one person kept coming up as a role model: his boss. His boss is authoritative and commanding, while my client feels that he comes off as passive and too easygoing. His boss' voice is strong and powerful, while my client feels that his voice is weak and too soft.

I can't help but wonder to myself: is this true? Is my client really weak and passive and unauthoritative? Is his boss really so wonderful as a presenter?

I will probably never see my client's boss give a presentation, so I can't possibly know how he comes across. But I will see my client give a presentation, and furthermore, I will videotape him so he can see and hear himself. I guarantee that once he sees himself on video, he will begin to develop a more realistic perception of himself as a speaker, and most likely a more positive one, as every other person I've videotaped has done.

The problem is in our perception of ourselves and in comparing ourselves to others. It's great to have role models to look up to and goals to achieve for improvement, but oftentimes in comparing ourselves to others, we overlook our own strengths and valuable qualities.

Another client is concerned about co-presenting with a colleague who always gets standing ovations (see yesterday's post). She fears not being able to present at the same level as he does.

We talked about her purpose, her objective, what she wants the audience to do as a result of her presentation. We talked about her passion for the topic and her commitment to getting her message out there. And we talked about giving the audience tools to implement the program she's presenting on.

None of those things have anything to do with getting a standing ovation, so if she gets one, that's great, but she knows that she has more important goals for her presentation than getting the immediate satisfaction of a standing o. Furthermore, she's gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years on her warm, accessible presentation style. She has strengths already; she just has to appreciate them.

Focus on your own strengths and your own challenges as a speaker; comparing yourself to others just leads to disappointment. You can't be someone else. You have your own unique qualities, just as they have theirs. Appreciate your own style, your own voice, and learn how to improve on the you that is already great -- in your own way!

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