Get Real – Your Audience Demands It


Over at his Presentation Advisors blog, Jon Thomas makes a great point about how we were all better presenters in kindergarten. The article got me thinking about how it is that kids manage to capture our attention, and hold us so rapt. Why is it that we find ourselves listening to them, laughing with them, enjoying their antics?

What is it that kids have, that we adults don’t?

To answer that question, I want to reflect on Jon’s article for a second. Jon references a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about how our schools kill creativity. Robinson argues that as we grow up, we are steered away from all of the creative outlets of children, and toward the more strict expectations of adulthood. Further, Jon talks about how as we age, we start to worry more and more about fitting in, and gaining acceptance. Our creative energies get re-directed into setting up the appearance that we are part of the group.

By the time we’ve grown up, we have become masters at constructing façades. We sacrifice a little bit of that individual personality each time we find it to be inconvenient for the situation at hand. We are social creatures, we have a need to belong, and we often have to put on a little show in order to fit in to the group.

But that’s not the case for little kids. Little kids hold our attention because they let their creativity shine, unfettered. They are unabashedly authentic. They make no apologies for who they are, or what they think. That un-self-conscious way of being is enchanting to jaded adults, used to throwing up our walls of decorum and the artifice of “correct” behavior.

But, when placed in front of an audience, all of the many masks we wear become obvious.

A couple of years back, I was participating in some personal development courses. Over the course of the seminar series, I saw people confront their façades. I saw quiet, shy, sometimes hopeless people take a long look at where they were failing to be authentic. Nowhere were their inauthenticities more profoundly recognizable then when they stood before the room. Once they took the step of dropping their guard, and stood before the audience with some honesty, they became giants.

When you stand in front of an audience, you put your credibility on the line. Being fake is noticeable. Audiences can tell when you’re being false with them. When you fail to let your real self shine through, you are withholding the best tool you have for creating connections.

Like I said before, we are social beings. We want to create connections with others. But in order to allow people to really reach us, we have to know that we can trust them. When we put ourselves before a group, we have to let that group know that we can be trusted. The way to do that best is not to put on a show of it, and hide the truth of our personality. It is, instead, to let our authenticity shine through. To be, as Jon puts it, more like a kindergartener.

We’ve got to get real with our audiences. Our audiences need us to be real. Our messages demand that we convey them with authenticity. The more real we can be, the more likely our audience is to accept us, and what we have to say.

What do you struggle with when it comes to being real? Let me know in the comments.