I wondered what happened to his personality? This normally vivacious, energetic man traipsed on-the-stage and when he began his presentation, the most boring NPR host in the world possessed his body. His normal va-va-voom was va-va-gone. He wasn’t being himself on the stage.

Speakers need to be transparentSpeakers have a strange notion of what is means to be a speaker. You try to emulate others or be something you are not. At the end of the speech, you impress no one because you are not REAL. Instead of embracing your unique gifts and speaking strengths, you put those aside.

Life coach, Martha Beck espouses a TAO principle in her coaching that applies equally well to presenters. TAO stands for Transparency, Authenticity and Openness which are 3 proven strategies to help you connect with your audience. Here is what presenters can learn from adopting TAO mindset.


There is enormous pressure on presenters to be the expert, to be perfect, and to know all the answers. This pressure is typically self-inflicted. When on the stage take the pressure off of yourself especially during Q&A sessions. You never know what kinds of questions you are going to get asked. To be transparent speaker should:

  • Admit what you don’t know. It’s ok not to know the answer to every question, but try to find out who might have that information. Follow-up with the asker of the question. It establishes rapport and allows you to build a relationship with the people you meet while speaking.
  • If a question is outside your expertise, say so! You know what you know. If someone is better equipped to handle a query, let them.
  • Mistakes happen. Own them. They make you human in the eyes of the audience. Remember, mistakes are larger in our own brains then they are in the mind’s of our audience.

In this video, I discuss what happened when I royal screwed up during a presentation. It might surprise you!

Watch this video on YouTube.


Speaker and coach, Craig Valentine, tells a story about after he won the World Championship of Public Speaking going to his hometown to deliver a talk, and he was being introduced by one of his idols. Craig approached the man said kind words, and the dude just blew him off. After the man introduced Craig on stage, he shook his hand and whispered in his ear, “Sorry, I didn’t know who you were.” Clearly this guy was inauthentic jerk.

Who you are on stage as a speaker is who you should be off-stage as a person.

If you are warm, gregarious and approachable on-stage while selling your product. You better be that same person off-stage when you run into an audience member in the elevator.

There should be no difference between who you are as a speaker and who you are in life.


Presenters must be open. You must be open to feedback both positive and negative. It’s the only way to improve.

You must share yourself on the stage. Stories are the best way to engage an audience’s heart and mind. Don’t just speak – create an experience for the audience that they will always remember.

You must be open to people approaching you with questions and there own stories. To me the best part of speaking is after I step-off the stage, and I hear stories from audience member’s about how they personally related to the speech.

Last spring, when I appeared on the District stage (Toastmasters know what I am talking about for non-Toastmasters appearing on the Disrict is the step before going on to the semi-finals of the world championship of public speaking), I had a speech where I talked honestly about loneliness and my journey to discover that home is anywhere you are not alone. After I gave that speech, I had so many people who told me their own stories of loneliness and how brave they thought my speech was. It was an amazing experience that my words resonated with so many. I would have missed the experience if I was not open to it.

The TAO of speaking will make you a better speaker and a better person. You need to be transparent, authentic and open every time you take center stage, but also in your every day life when you are not on stage.

The TAO of speaking is the best way to connect, engage and improve.

Need help finding your authentic speaking voice to connect with your audience? Find out about how to get coaching.

photos by: half alive – soo zzzz & tribalicious