“That doesn’t feel like me.”
Those are the words of a CFO of a software company. I was coaching him recently in preparation for a presentation to an industry trade group. I had just had him present on camera and I had been urging him to “ramp up the energy.”
And it felt strange. He said he didn’t feel “normal.” He was worried that I was asking him to change his personality for the purpose of the speech.
So the question is this: Do you have to change your personality to be a great presenter?
But you do have to learn how to “be yourself” in a setting that is uncomfortable to most of us.
The question is what does it mean to “be yourself.”
I think “being yourself” means learning how to turn on your own “best style” at will. Your “best style” is that energetic style that you have when you’re speaking to a close friend, you’re relaxed, and you’re speaking with high energy about a topic you’re passionate about. For most people that is a very nice and attractive style.
The problem is that it is hard to turn on that style when you’re standing in front of a group of people. You don’t feel relaxed like you do when you’re speaking to a close friend.
So how do you turn on that style when you’re speaking with a large group? You exaggerate. You crank up the energy intentionally, forcing yourself to smile and gesture in the same way that you would if you were relaxed.
I’ve seen this work over and over again.
Let’s go back to our CFO. I had asked him to exaggerate his energy as he delivered the presentation he was planning to the trade conference. He said he felt awkward. “That doesn’t feel like me,” he said.
“Remember that you said that,” I said.
Then I played for him the tape of him delivering the presentation.
“Wow,” he said. “That doesn’t look as awkward as it felt.”
In fact he looked great. He admitted that was how he spoke to his friends when he was relaxed.
You don’t need to change your personality to be a good speaker. Rather, you need to exaggerate your style so that your listeners can see your true personality.