Clients often ask me, “What is the most important attribute of a great ‘public speaker?’”
I usually say, “Why would you want to be a great public speaker? Why not just talk to people and make things happen?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” they say. “I know, I know, but really, what is the key to having impact in scary presentations?”
The answer is one of those slightly spiritual, riddle-secret-enigma deals because the answer is simply this: being 100% who you are. What’s so tough about that? You just stand up and let it rip…right? Well, not quite. At least not for most of us. There may be an ashram somewhere where everyone is completely authentic and completely present all the time, but I haven’t seen many managed organizations that have that kind of batting average. In fact, most of us mortals are constantly adjusting our own sense of who we are, which is one reason why very few of us are ever really completely comfortable in our own skin.
I mean, I know I’m supposed to be a businessman. My clients are deans of business schools, principals of international architectural firms, managing partners in venture capital and private equity firms, etc., but I love surfing and playing in my band almost as much as I like helping people win in important meetings. Heck, I used to have a “ soul patch” on my lower lip. So, who am I? Soul-surfer/musician, or thought leader/consultant/coach? Of course, the answer is “all of the above.” What that means is that how I am with people had better be informed by all of those parts of me, or folks aren’t getting all of me. And, all of me is what my clients are paying for. All of you is what your clients are paying for, too. It’s also what your employees want to follow, your investors believe in, and your family relies on. Giving less than 100% of who you are is shortchanging all of your relationships, and, maybe more importantly, it’s shortchanging yourself.
By the way, bringing all of yourself to any of these relationships is what being present means. Often, being present as a communicator means listening more than talking. It always means that you are radically aware of the impact you are having on those around you. It kind of puts the “Co” back in “Co-mmunication.” Being present means you’re not simply trying to “remember what comes next.” It means that you are so “in-the-moment” that your ideas are coming from your heart as well as your head. It means that everything about you is working hard to make a connection and make something important happen for the people you are talking to. It is hard work. It won’t come easily to many of us. It takes practice, but it can be learned—and it really matters.
The good news is that being 100% you and present is the only real differentiation you have. In the days of complete access to information, we have lots of choices for just about every decision we will ever make. Even the most rarefied professional services compete. This means that the products and services we offer have all pretty much become commoditized. So, marketing budgets not withstanding, the only real differentiation any of us have is who we really are. Which is great news to me because I also happen to think it’s why we are here on the planet.
Choosing to bring the very best of you to every communication means being fully present. Being present means being fully alive. Fully alive is where the fun is and busts down all the walls. It’s worth the fight.