Anyone with a passing interest in the race for the Republican presidential nomination can see what’s troubling Mitt Romney. Voters cannot trust his position on any issue. Once a pro-choice Governor who was on the forefront of universal healthcare, who stood beside Ted Kennedy when he signed the Massachusetts healthcare legislation, now hopes to convince voters that he is pro-life and against “Obamacare.” And those are just two on the list of flip flops.
The problem is not the change in position as much as it is his failure to convey authenticity. People are not buying it, period. And when a candidate’s demeanor triggers our B.S. Meter, well… game over.
Every speaker needs to be authentic and credible. Only then will your audience agree to listen to you and even consider your call to action. Based on my experience coaching fledgling public speakers and seasoned executives, I offer the following three guidelines to ensure that your own authenticity shines through:
1. Don’t try to impress everyone. Leave the popularity contest to Miss USA. You will only spend the entire presentation worrying about the Russian judge. While there may be someone in the room who is very important to your career or your goal (for example, fundraising), trying to appear smarter, funnier, more adorable, or more compassionate will likely backfire – not to mention the amount of energy it takes to keep the charade going. Use that energy to prepare a great presentation and to practice your delivery.
2. Let your confidence shine through. I don’t mean confidence in your flawless delivery skills. I mean the confidence that comes from your convictions and the depth of knowledge you bring to the subject. That kind of energy is more powerful and will resonate better with your audience. Think of Steve Jobs when he introduced the i-Pad2 even though he was on medical leave. His confidence out-shined his ailing health.
3. Connect with the human beings sitting in front of you. The audience is not one big blob of carbon dioxide molecules. They are individuals who have given you their time and attention. If you want them to remember you and if you want them to think differently or do something as a result of your speech, then connecting is essential.
The other day I was asked to observe a speaker who was giving a presentation to potential customers. I was part of a three-person team. We were to identify strengths and weaknesses and then report back to the V.P. of sales about our findings. During the debrief, one of the observers said about the speaker, “He mostly talked about himself,” to which the other observer added, “Definitely. His speech should have been called ‘The Wonder of Me.’” Ouch. I agreed completely, and added that as a result of this constant self-referencing, the speaker failed to connect with the audience and never noticed that they mentally checked out ten minutes into the presentation.
Time will tell whether Mitt wins over enough voters to get the nomination. Until then, let’s all learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being sincere.