TED Commandments III and IV: Keep It Real


I was chatting with a friend just last night about how important it is to keep it real. He was telling me of a colleague of his that was unfamiliar with this concept. This colleague is a nice fellow, but his conversation choices are altogether too serious. Playful banter isn’t something he’s used to.

It’s a pretense that isn’t altogether uncommon. Part of what keeps people living in fear of taking the stage is that they are afraid of looking bad. It’s hard to keep up a façade when hundreds of eyes are on you.

However, one of the best ways of capturing your audience’s attention is to open yourself up, make yourself vulnerable, and truly keep it real. The next two TED Commandments speak to that very need.

Commandment the Third: Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion

Why are you on stage? What brought you here? What is it that so moved you, you felt it had to be shared? You have time, space, and an audience. It is absolutely necessary that you justify your claim to those things. So, open up. Show us what ignites your passion. Share with us the curiosity that drives you to pursue your interests.

Revealing your passion and your curiosity helps your audience to connect with your message. At some point in our lives, we start acting as though the answers are what is really important. Answers are easy, straightforward, and clear. However, what really gets us excited, and what has excited us since we were children, is the questions.

That’s where the concept of keeping it real comes in to play. Adults hide their curiosity, because it reveals that we don’t have the answers. That, we fear, makes us look weak. We operate on the pretense that we need to look authoritative. If we drop that pretense, and show off that we are indeed capable of that sense of childlike wonder, we get back to keeping it real.

Commandment the Fourth: Thou Shalt Tell a Story

I’ve written before about the importance of being a good storyteller. In fact, part of the reason that I pursued a career in coaching public speaking was because of the powerful impact that my grandfather’s storytelling had on me. Granddad was an excellent storyteller. During the last few years of his life, he committed a number of his stories to paper, and wrote a book that told his history. That book is one of the greatest gifts I ever received, because it tells me who I am, and where I come from.

Storytelling opens a powerful connection. It gives emotional credence to your message. It relates a shared history. It provides a clear example or illustration. It makes you more personal, more relatable, and more real. Telling the story of your work, your curiosity, your topic–all of these are ways to engage your audience, and bring them the message you want to relate.

Telling a story is the key to creating authenticity in your presentations. Even if the story you tell is just the story of the monthly financial data you’re presenting, it is still the thing that will result in the greatest success for your presentation. Storytelling is the best way to guarantee that you’re keeping it real.

What other ways do you keep it real when you’re on stage? Share ‘em in the comments!

Next Up: Commandments IV, V, and VI: Get Engaged