Monday, March 31, 2008

Fight the Authenticity Fight

Authentic presenters must constantly fight to be real. There are always enemies just waiting to seige your authenticity. This is why I am going to spend an entire chapter on knowing your enemies in my upcoming Authenticity Rules book.

An important concept I will spend a future blog post outlining is that being yourself up front is not something you fight to get. It is something you fight to keep. Effective presenters don't need to learn anything to be real. However, they spend a lifetime learning how to be real AND really good. They also spend a tremendous amount of intellectual energy fighting to keep their authenticity.

The greatest fight is between two forces...

1. I have to spend a load of time getting ME right.

(i.e. - you must know yourself, you must be ok with yourself and you must be comfortable with who you are, how you look, your content knowledge, etc.)

2. I have to then get my mind off of me and put it on the audience.

(i.e. - thoughts about you and your content have to be in your subconscience when presenting to make room for one singular conscience thought - your audience.)

This is a perfect example of the difference between just being a real presenter and a real AND really good presenter. Since the end goal of any presentation is to move the audience forward in some form or fashion, the presenter's focus can not be on self. It must be on others.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Finding Your Authentic Style: Intentional Observation

How do you find your authentic style? Here is the four-part, one-time formula...

1. Seek out effective presenters in your discipline. If you are a teacher, sit in on the lectures of great teachers. If you are a professional speaker, attend conferences where your heroes or other highly successful speakers in your "market" are speaking. If you are an executive who gives presentations, ask the peers you admire for their presentation style if you can sit in on a few of their meetings/presentations.

2. Watch for what speaks to you. What resonates with you? What do you like about what they are doing? Take a ton of notes. Intentionally observe their content, their flow, their style, etc. Look for what you personally like. You aren't writing down their material. You are writing down why their material worked. If you can't naturally see it or if you can't put language to it, ask them personally to explain it to you. If they truly are a professional, they should be more than willing to share the psychology, the dynamics and/or the guiding principles they employ to effectively present.

3. What you are looking for and what you need to capture is their template. What is at the core of their "goodness?" What are the basic ingredients? What comes first, then second, then third, etc.? How did they create the response in you that you want to create in your audience?

4. Now comes the hard part - the creative part. Take their basic template and fill it with your stuff. Your story. Your material. Your experiences. Your expertise.

Legendary Nashville songwriter Harlan Howard suggested a similar guide for writing a hit country music song. His advice was to find a popular song, copy down the chord progression (i.e., G-D-C-D-C), the tempo and the rhythm. Then take that template and put your own melody and lyrics to it. If you do it right, you have the makings of a hit song.

If you do this right in the presenting world, you will have the makings of your authentic style. You have adapted a professional's flow that connects with you as an audience member (huge personal authenticity test) and then you fill it with your story. It takes a tremendous amount of purposeful work, but it is well worth it.

Hat tip to my mentor and master presenter, Bill Cordes, for inspiring this post.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Authenticity Rule #3 - Know Your Audience

Authenticity Rule #3 is Know Your Audience.

(Review AR #1 - Know Thyself and AR #2 - Know Your Content)

Why is knowing your audience so important? Well, unless you are a "one-act presenter," you need to vary what you do and what you say based on each particular audience. Tony Bennett doesn't need to change what he does each night because he is a one-act presenter. These songs. This voice. This band. And his audience wants exactly those three things. Save a few comedians and magicians, presenters need to adjust their "act" each time to serve the needs and expectations of that particular set of humans. Zig Ziglar prepares three hours for each presentation. He invests this time to get intimate with that event's audience members, their company, their expectations and the content he will deliver.

The more familiar you are with your audience's challenges, questions, needs and expectations of you, the better equipped you are to help them move forward, to give them value and to connect with them.

When you are preparing for your next presentation, ask yourself a list of audience-focused questions...

What will the audience expect to learn from me?
What type of mood will they be in?
What questions will they potentially ask me?
What will they absolutely not want me to do?
What barriers will they have up?
How can I connect with them at the very first?
How will they be dressed?

The answers to some of these questions will be event-based and some of them will be audience-based. If you are speaking at a conference, the event will drive most of the answers because everyone will have more in common (at a once-a-year event, away from home environment, by myself or with only a few peers, expecting to be entertained, looking for next-level information/inspiration/ideas, etc.). If you are speaking to a group in their home element or at a very regular meeting, the answers will be driven more by individual needs, small group dynamics or whatever the focus is of that particular meeting (new employee training, monthly leadership meeting, weekly staff pow-wow, etc.)

The Geniune Gem - By investing a large amount of time focusing on the audience and thinking about their world you are able to be more authentic because you will better understand how to bring value to that particular group using your expertise, your experience and your style. Your authenticity is layered. There are many real parts of you. Once you understand your audience, you will know which layer(s) they will best connect with their genuine needs.

BONUS - Another quick AR #3 tip is to mingle with your audience before the event/meeting to learn names (that you can reference in your presentation) and to ask "in the moment" questions (what are you expecting, what challenges are you facing right now, what needs to happen in the next 45 minutes for this meeting to be a 10 for you, etc.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thoughts From An Expert on Authenticity

Norma Hollis is the recognized expert on authenticity. Her web site has a number of relevant and actionable tools for developing your authenticity as a presenter. Here are her overview thoughts on what authentic communication means:

You are speaking or presenting from the deepest part of your being – not simply reciting words.

You present your ideas in a way that others can understand and find meaningful.

You connect with your audience, staff, or customers in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

Your message is credible because it doesn’t hide the truth – it is comprised of facts, not hype.

Your presentation is designed around your audience’s needs and not your personal agenda.

Your communication style is transparent and believable.

You walk your talk.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Listen Like a Leader

Today, Thursday March 13, at 1 pm Central Time, you will have the opportunity to learn more about my Personal Leadership Insight blog post on Listening Like a Leader via a live teleconference featuring yours truly.

The following link will take you to the Kevin Eikenberry Group's teleconference page to learn how to listen in - no charge.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Complete Authenticity Rules Collection

The Authenticity Rules book is in the works.  Each chapter will focus on one of the seven Authenticity Rules.  The current version of the book cover and the full rules list are below...



(Thanks to everyone on Facebook for voting on their favorite.)


Authenticity Rule #1 - Know Thyself

This chapter is about the basics of why authenticity as a speaker, trainer, teacher or executive presenter is so powerful.  It outlines ways to know if you are being authentic and how to leverage it when you are.


Authenticity Rule #2 - Know Your Content

Effective communicators bring tremendous value to the table when they are real experts in their topic area.  This chapter is about how to reach expert status.


Authenticity Rule #3 - Know Your Audience

You have to spend a large amount of time not thinking about yourself if you are going to be your true self as a presenter.  This chapter covers how to better understand your world by getting into your audience's world.


Authenticity Rule #4 - Know Your Tools

Tiger Woods would be just another Joe if the 6-iron didn't exist.  Yet, Tiger can do things with his 6-iron Joe can only dream of doing.   Know Your Tools is about mastering the tools at your disposal as they relate to your unique style.


Authenticity Rule #5 - Know Your Flow

Genuine communicators understand human nature, the inner-working of the human brain, learning theories, crowd think, etc.  Chapter 5 breaks these down into tangible, relevant, and actionable strategies.


Authenticity Rule #6 - Know Your Enemies

The evil forces working against you being an authentic communicator are addressed throughout the book, but they are tackled individually here.


Authenticity Rule #7 - Know the Rules

I have coached speakers for over ten years.  This chapter is dedicated to the truck load of tips, strategies, suggestions, ideas, concepts and stories I have that will help you be a more authentic speaker, trainer, teacher or executive presenter.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Great Communication Strategies Book for Women

Click here to buy it directly from Amazon. Great $7 investment for any woman interested in developing their communication skills.