Richard Turere was a young boy whose family raised livestock in Nairobi, Kenya on the edge of an impressive national park. The biggest challenge they faced was protecting their animals from attacks by lions in the night.
Richard tried placing lamps in the field, but the light did not stop the lions. When he lit a torch, however, the lions stayed away.
Eventually, using a car battery, solar panels and a motorcycle indicator box, Richard created lights that went on and off, and scared the lions.
His invention made him famous in his village and farmers from all over came to see him to learn how to install his light system.
Richard was invited to give a TED talk as many illustrious people such as Bill Gates have done. But he was only 13 years old when he went before the microphone and his English was halting.
Yet when he finished his talk the audience rose to give him a thunderous ovation.
How did he manage to evoke such a response?
People were moved by his authenticity. He wasn’t trying to be someone he wasn’t. He had a simple, basic story to tell, and that story meant a great deal to him and his neighbors, and with a little advance coaching on how to carve out his story line, he gave his presentation and nailed it.
When you are authentic, when you allow the real you to shine through your presentation, people are more interested in you, they trust you more, and they remember you.
You may have the most profound message in the world, but if you stand before people and they can’t see that you believe passionately in what you are saying, and that what you say is what you really stand for, you will never be a successful speaker.
Instead, you create a gap with your audience that is difficult to close.
So how do you let your authenticity shine through your presentation?
Tell your unique story in your own words
As the youngster from Kenya did, tell your story in your own words with candor. Talk about the challenge you had to overcome, and how you came upon your beliefs in life. Talk about your values and how they have guided your actions.
All of these things require sharing and to a degree, a sense of vulnerability, but that is how the audience sees the real you that shines out from the traditional formula for professional public speaking.
Don’t try to be a chameleon, changing yourself into what you think each different audience wants to see and hear.
Oprah Winfrey, who consistently scores high in the public opinion court on being authentic, explains that what we all seek is a spirit-to-spirit connection and that is why authenticity is so valued in our culture.
In this video Oprah shares her views on what constitutes authentic power.
Be disarmingly honest, even brutal if necessary
Audiences are tired of canned speeches and are quick to disconnect from speakers who use the same tiresome catch phrases and clichés.
Business leader Jack Welch sees being authentic as delivering a message that people can sense and believe is true and it is imperative if you want buy-in from your audience.
Welch, who prior to his retirement shook up the culture at General Electric and became one of the most admired chief executive officers in the world, was known for being authentic. In his autobiography, Straight from the Gut, this son of an Irish-American railroad conductor talked about how early in his career he learned how important it was to speak with authenticity.
For an example of his straightforward, authentic speaking style, watch how he communicates on this video in which he discusses “What is the role of a leader?”
Welch is one of the great pioneers of authentic management whose genuineness shines through whether he is speaking one-on-one or before an audience of 1,000. He proves consistently that when people are connected to you, they will listen harder and be more inclined to believe what you are saying.
Let the real you shine through
Being authentic in your presentations means speaking as the real you, not the person you think people want you to be. That can be risky, because there is always a chance that some people will dislike you.
But weighed against the number of people who accept that you are speaking straight from the heart, you will still emerge a winner.
When you are real, you are also less boring. You may present a good idea in a contrived fashion, but it will not connect with your audience as passionately as if you speak from a place of passion within you.
You have to stand there and tell your incredible stories even if it means that sometimes you break a few of the generally accepted rules of public speaking.
It would be hard to find a more authentic presentation or a presenter who was as comfortable with his real persona shining through.
The next time you stand on a stage to address an audience, ask yourself if the stories you are telling are your stories, and if the beliefs you are discussing are your beliefs, and if the actions you are advocating are ones you are passionate about. If the answer is yes, you will be an amazing authentic speaker.