How to be authentically YOU on stage AND grow as a speaker

December 6th, 2018

“But it doesn’t feel natural! It doesn’t feel like me. It feels awkward, inauthentic, yucky. NOT ME!!”

I hear that all the time from my clients. When I ask them to do something that they haven’t done before, or try something different with their arms, or their focus, or their body language, or their voice. Or to tell a different kind of story than they’re used to telling, one of the biggest objections I hear is “Why would I do that? That’s not natural. That’s not me.”

Of course I want you to BE YOU on stage.

Of course I want you to feel confident and comfortable and natural. I want being on stage to be your home territory, where connecting with your audience and sharing your message is totally your natural habitat. Where you know just where to get nourished, just where to get safety, just how to shield yourself from the storm. Where you feel alive and AT HOME.

Yes! Sounds great, doesn’t it? But, um, it’s not yet, is it?

Even if it is, I bet there are places you want to grow and stretch.

There’s a vision of the speaker you want to be, but you’re not quite there yet and you might not even be sure how to get there.

Yesterday I had the privilege of working with a client who was prepping a 5 minute pitch for a $10,000 pitch contest. He had a great idea, was building a product that would make a big difference in the lives of his customers, and was clearly passionate about the product he was building. But when he got up to speak about it, he dove headlong into a monotone, memorized drone.

Cracking those patterns open is pretty much what I eat for breakfast, so together we dove into the playground to help bring more of his passion to his presentation.

I invited him to go waaaaaaay out of his comfort zone and try stuff with his body and voice and face that was definitely not what he eats for breakfast.

As he stepped into these exercises, can you guess what he said? “This is unnatural. It’s not me. It feels awkward. I can’t do this.”

He said “I’m an engineer. We don’t learn how to be expressive in engineering school.”

He said it as if that was the end of the story. As if because he didn’t learn it in engineering school, it was unlearnable.

Well here’s the thing: If it feels unnatural, I say OF COURSE it feels unnatural. But let’s change the language.

It feels unnatural because it’s not habitual. Our habits feel reeeeal comfy. We fall right into our habits with ease. We go into that groove and want to stay in that groove forever and ever. When we’re in our habits it can feel like a warm bubble bath. Because it’s so familiar. So habitual.

So that thing you do with your hands? Habit.

That way your voice lilts up at the end of each sentence? Habit.

The way your eyes graze love the entire audience without really connecting? Habit.

It could be you’re not aware of those habits at all, but I bet they feel natural. I bet they feel like you, because they’re so deeply engrained you don’t even notice you’re doing them, and they kinda become you.

If you want to expand and grow as a speaker, you’re going to need to create some new pathways, carve some new grooves, get used to new habits. Those new habits definitely won’t feel natural.

They’ll feel awkward, uncomfortable, NOT YOU.

But if you stop there and don’t do the thing because “it doesn’t feel natural,” then you’re pretty certain to stay right smack dab in the center of your comfort zone, doing fine with your unconscious, comfortable habits, but not growing and changing and rocking the house as a speaker.

Because “feeling natural” is not really what we’re after.

Connecting with your full range of human expression, and doing it in a way that is authentically—not habitually— you is what we’re after.

Ultimately, sure, once you’ve integrated your new habits, those new habits will feel like home, and feel natural, and feel like you.

But while you’re carving those new pathways, you gotta go through some discomfort, some awkwardness, some new sensations—that don’t feel natural.

When you stick it out through the discomfort of NEW HABITS, that’s when you connect with all the power that is within you—not only to share the message you want to share, but to feel right at home and 100% natural when you do it.

And my client? He was indeed profoundly uncomfortable. But he also had some big fat fun.

My goal with him was not to make him uncomfortable, but to support him in cracking his natural habits and express more of his fervor and passion for his product–which he did.

How bout you? What habits feel natural that you know you probably need to crack? I’d love to hear!

(And P.S. My client won the $10,000 pitch contest!) 

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