My wonderful home state of North Carolina has a motto, “Esse Quam Videri”…“to be rather than to seem”. It comes from an essay by Cicero on friendship. Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue, rather than to seem so. See when it comes to character or friendship, we want people to have it, not act like it. We don’t want friends to just fake being friendly, we want them to be friendly. But when it comes to speaking, this is actually bad advice, mainly because we don’t possess what it takes to be what we want to be most of the time. And the audience isn’t likely to know, unless we tell them.
For instance, we’ve talked in this forum many times about confidence. Confidence is a slippery slope – sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you never have it.
People want confidence, they want to be confident. But what if they can never attain that, what if they’re always going to be nervous. I still get nervous, I’ve been doing it for three decades. But we can seem confident. Seems fake when we try, but by being still, using good eye contact, having great posture, those things can give the image that we’re incredibly confident speakers. Even though our heart might be beating 140 beats per minute. It’s the way that we behave that drives those impressions. Perhaps then, our focus should be on how we act, not how we feel.
I remember the first time I was asked to be a keynote speaker. I had never done it before. The guy said “Hey, I watched you just give that lecture, I think you could come be a keynote speaker for our conference,” two totally different forums and methods of speaking. He didn’t know I had never done it, he felt that I could. I didn’t lie to him or tell him anything that was even remotely untrue, I told him I could do it. And I did. And now, over a decade later, I’ve done it many times, and don’t have to pretend. I am, not just I seem.
But back to speaking, those skills, those behaviors, that’s what we should focus on. Executing the behaviors that drive the impression we want our audiences to have. We may not be happy, but we can seem happy. For those of you that think it’s fake, let me just direct you to your bedtime storytime with your young children. I’m sure you read The Three Little Pigs in the happiest voice there is. You may not feel that way, but that’s what your audience needs you to do. Same is true with adult audiences. We need to act in a way that gives the impressions they need us to have. Perhaps the speaker’s motto should be “Facere Quam Videri”. I stole that from google translate, and my pronunciation may be off because I don’t know Latin. But it means “to do rather than to seem.” No matter how you feel, practice and execute the behaviors that make you look like a world-class speaker.
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As a high-stakes communications expert, Alan motivates individuals and teams to build their confidence and professionalism and trains them to seamlessly handle the unexpected in ANY communications setting.
Alan is an International Keynote Speaker, Coach, Trainer, and Author who has delivered keynotes and training workshops to thousands on the impact of powerful, persuasive communication. Alan is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer of MillsWyck Communications. He is the author of Presentation Sin: The Practical Guide to Stop Offending (and Start Impressing) Your Audience and the co-author of Silver Goldfish: Loud & Clear: The 10 Keys to Delivering Memorable Business Presentations.
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