Just Do You: Preserving Authenticity In Your Next Speech
Think about how many times you’ve heard someone give a speech that feels disconnected or just doesn’t hit the mark. You might describe the person as insincere without really being able to explain why the speech wasn’t compelling. Chances are it was because the speaker just didn’t seem authentic.
When you’re asked to give a speech, particularly for a special occasion like a wedding or Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you want to make the best impression possible. You want to do right by the guest(s) of honor and leave the audience talking about your speech—for all the right reasons. But even if the words you choose are perfect, if you fail to make a meaningful connection to those words, your audience will know instinctively. That is why the best thing you can do is BE YOURSELF.
Preserving authenticity can be challenging, but these tricks may make it easier to stay true to yourself:
Know your personality
To let your unique personality shine, you need to have a solid sense of who you are. Are you naturally funny? If so, then jokes (so long as they’re tasteful) are more than appropriate. But if humor is not part of your M.O., leave the jokes for the comedians. If you’re a straight-shooter, then your speech should reflect that. Don’t use flowery prose or quote Shakespearean literature if you’re not that type of person.
Make it your own
Many people have a tendency to look at other people’s speeches—both famous and everyday—and try to emulate them. There’s nothing wrong with looking at speeches you’ve heard on TV or in movies for inspiration, but when you start trying to recreate it for your own purposes, things may get a little sticky. It’s best to stay with material from your own experiences.
Mimic your speaking style
The best speeches—particularly those for special occasions—should sound like you’re having a polished conversation with the audience. Since life’s celebratory milestones do carry more significance, your speech should have a bit more gravitas than your everyday conversations, but not so much that you sound overly rehearsed. Although your speech will be written out beforehand, it should be spoken. Therefore, the words you choose should sound like something you would say and follow your natural speaking pattern.
Don’t overthink your gestures
Gestures tend to speak louder than words, so it’s important to think about matching what you’re saying with your body language. However, you don’t want to come across as overly choreographed. The key is to focus on realizing your feelings in the speech and your body language will naturally take care of itself.
Use real-life stories
The speeches that foster the strongest connections are the ones that use specific, personal anecdotes. Speaking in general terms and using cliché expressions is a trap many speechgivers fall into. But weaving real-life stories throughout the speech will provide your audience with a clear picture of the guest(s) of honor and why they matter.
Speak with passion
Remind yourself why you’re giving the speech and how you feel about it. Allow the underlying emotion and passion to emerge throughout the speech. Speak with energy and passion and the audience will likely sit up a little straighter and want to hear more of what you have to say.
I love these lyrics from singer-songwriter India Arie:
Just do you (somebody's got to be your star) Just do you (somebody's got to raise the bar) Just do you (somebody's got to change the game) Just do you (today)
When you act like yourself when speaking to a crowd, you will be that much closer to being an authentic speaker.