February 20, 2013

Are you too perfect?

Photo Credit: Whitening On Wheels via Compfightcc
I know this couple. Let's call them Harrison and Isabella (glamorous enough names for you?).

They're both young, attractive, tall, athletic and well-spoken. They both have successful businesses that continue to grow. They're go-getters who make things happen.

Most of us would look at them and think, "They're so perfect."

And then... "I can't relate to them at all!"

This, of course, is their public persona. I have no idea what their private life is like. And they rarely give a glimpse into their private life -- unless it's a glimpse of their perfect pet or their perfect cocktail at the end of a perfect day.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

I've written before about grabbing your audience with enthusiasm, not perfection. In this case, I was comparing a polished, well-organized and well-rehearsed speaker with one who was a little discombobulated, got off track at times and was a bit disheveled. The difference was the second speaker's excitement and enthusiasm for her topic, which was absolutely contagious! In a moment, I felt connected to her and felt that if I were to choose between the two as coaches, I would choose the second. She was human and real, not putting on a show.

We have the opportunity every day to portray ourselves as bigger and better than life, both onstage and in social media. On Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ -- we have the option of posting only very carefully edited and curated content, so we come across as smart, witty, happy, lucky, successful, fit, healthy, wealthy and popular. Many of us are trying too hard to show the world how fabulous we are. Instead of just being who we are which, let's face it, is not fabulous all the time. And that's okay!

And this is the same for speakers. If you expend so much energy trying to portray the carefully crafted version of yourself that you neglect to show the audience who you really are, you will find yourself exhausted. You will find it harder and harder to keep your facade from cracking, especially once you're off the stage and out in the world. It's a lot of pressure to maintain the facade of perfection. Let go.

I'm not necessarily saying that Harrison and Isabella AREN'T the perfect couple. Maybe everything about them really is as fantastic as they portray. They certainly come across as authentic and sincere.

But what's missing for me is the rest of the picture. Does he ever make a mistake? I wish he would share in one of his presentations his own difficulties in maintaining the practice he teaches about. Has she ever failed at anything? I'd love to know how her failure made her stronger and better at what she does.

This is the kind of speaker most of us can relate to -- we see that they've learned from their mistakes, they're human, and we can learn from them too. Someone who came out of the womb blessed with perfection and who's led a charmed life since day 1: How can I relate to that?

Whether it's a speaking engagement, social media, a networking event... whenever you're with people and presenting your professional persona, remember this: No one expects perfection from you. No one even wants perfection from you. They want to relate and connect. Let them see the cracks, the flaws and the imperfections -- let them see how you've learned from your mistakes or the distance you've traveled to get to where you are today.

Teach by example: Prove to your audience that if you can do it, they can do it! 

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3 comments. Please add yours! :

Sebastián Lora said...

I know what you mean... I started public speaking as a "pose" of myself, always trying to impress, and got used to that persona. It's taken me a lot of effort to start being myself on stage, but it's paying off. Thanks a lot for this post!

Michelle_Mazur said...

This reminds me of a recent discussion I had on Facebook. We only get other people's highlight reels on Facebook. They don't post about their struggles or hardships. In presenting, this works against you. Imperfect = awesome. It makes presenters human in the eyes of their audience. Loved this post Lisa!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Absolutely, Michelle. I actually wrote about that in a previous post, too. The carefully curated Facebook and Twitter stream that makes us all look oh-so-cool. Doesn't work in social media and it doesn't work in public speaking!

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