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I just finished watching Rick Warren interview Obama and then McCain. It was fascinating to see the differences between the two of these folks.

Obama was the more thoughtful and “silver tongued.” McCain was clearly quicker to answer questions which MIGHT lead one to assume that his answers were authentic and non-rehearsed or calculated.

Let me start by saying that as a Libertarian, I don’t intend to vote for either one of these guys so I have a dog in this fight.

As a professional speaker, I was struck by the lessons one can learn from watching these two folks being interviewed.

If a poll were conducted and people were asked: “Who do you think was the more authentic or real of the two candidates?” I am certain than McCainwould win the poll.

The question is why? AND, the answer gives us some insights into what YOU as a professional speaker needs to do when you speak. That is of course if you think that being perceived as authentic by your audience is important to you.

Let me analyze what I think are the reasons why McCain would score higher in such a poll. Here are the three reasons why:

1. Quicker to Answer

When people spend a lot of time thinking and pondering before asking a question, they appear to be equivocating. This may not be the case, but I think that people feel that when people take longer to answer they are giving the answer they think people WANT to hear as opposed to what they truly believe.

It’s therefore important for speakers to learn how to be quick on their feet. I run an event called The Speaking School which revolves around this concept. I teach it. The reason why I teach it is because appearing authentic is the single most important characteristic of a great speaker.

Your action point? Make sure and learn how to think quickly on your feet as a speaker. People will assume you are more REAL.

2. Direct Answers

Most politicians spend their time parsing words to make sure they don’t offend anyone. This MAY be a valuable concept to learn as a politician, but it will KILL you as a speaker.

As soon as people get the feeling that you are taking the audiences temperature before you respond, you immediately lose 20 authenticity points. People will perceive you as much less real when you try and answer in a way to make everyone happy.

3. Stridency of Answers

When you answer a question with absolute certainty, people may not agree with you, but they will respect you. The forcefulness with which you express a point helps people to understand that you feel a certain way. Damn the torpedos!

As a speaker, make sure and take a position and stand strong. Just remember that Bill O’Reilly kicks Larry King’s butt in the ratings. Why? Because Bill takes unpopular positions without concern as to whom he might be offending.

If your goal as a speaker is to make everyone happy, then you’ll have to be careful to never offend. If, on the other hand, your goal as a speaker is to get the RESPECT of your audience, you need to take positions and not worry about the results.

When I did a study many years ago, I asked groups what the three characteristics of a great speaker were. Top on the list was SINCERITY. A synonym for authenticity and being real.

As a professional speaker, you would be well advised to consider the three points above.

Filed under: Professional Speaking

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