The Authentic Speaker

In his HBR article, “How to Become and Authentic Speaker,” Nick Morgan (founder of Public Words, a communications coaching firm) writes:

We have all heard…presentations in which the speaker is apparently doing all the right things, yet something–something we can’t quite identify–is wrong.

If we ask about these speeches, we might describe them as ‘calculated,’ ‘insincere,’ ‘no real,’ or ‘phoned in.’  We probably wouldn’t be able to say exactly why the performance wasn’t compelling.  The speaker just didn’t seem authentic.

In light of Morgan’s comments, watch again the first five-minutes of the response-speech given by Louisana Governor, Bobby Jindal (not what he is saying…but how he is saying it.)

A few key points from Morgan in regards to authentic communication follows:

  • New brain research is showing us that natural body language conveys an emotion before we’ve expressed it in words.  So the timing of practiced gestures to accompany a speech will make them seem artifical.
  • Instead of rehearsing gestures to make a speech feel authentic, you should tap into four fundamental aims or “intents,” of good presentation:  1) be open to your listeners (like speaking with friends), 2) to connect with them (think about needing to capture their attention and then keep it), 3) to be passionate about the topic, and 4) to listen to messages from your audience, whether spoken or unspoken.
  • In practicing a speech, work to get into the mind-set of each of these aims and you’ll achieve the perceived and actual authenticity that creates a power bond with audiences.

Though I hesitate in applying a formula for authenticity, Morgan has some interesting points and research that all communicators should consider.

So, forget what political party you represent and “what” was being said…but in “how” it was being said, what this an effective speech?  If so, why?  If not, how could it have been?


~ by Dave Smith on February 25, 2009.

4 Responses to “The Authentic Speaker”

  1. Jindal’s comments exactly illustrate what I’m talking about in my article and in my book, Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma. His gestures occur just a split-second too late; he’s thinking about them consciously, rather than at the level of emotion and intent. Far from using a formula, I coach people to focus on their own emotional relationship to their words. How can they be open and connected with the audience? How can they be passionate? If you work at that level, you will avoid looking fake like Jindal.

  2. Thanks for the deeper insight on how the coaching goes beyond a formula but strikes the core of a great communitor: the ability to emotionally connect with one’s audience.

    In noticing how Jindal then interacted with follow-up interviews, it is obvious he somehow needs to transfer his relaxed, conversational and genuninely passionate interview presence to his more formal speaking opportunities.

  3. i stayed up to watch Obama, but then had to hit the hay, so i didn’t see Jindal’s speech – i only read snippets this morning on NPR. i thought the quotes from it were great. but watching it just now was painful. i couldn’t even make it through the first 5 minutes. i’ve heard a lot of good things about Jindal, but he’s gonna have to work on his speeches a lot.


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