During a consultation with a public speaking client, I sensed his hesitation about the coaching process. After finding out that his personal brand seemed to be laid back and a bit folksy, I assured my client that I wouldn't try to turn him into a high-energy, stage-prowling motivational speaker. He breathed the proverbial sigh of relief and the consultation went smoother.
Your personal brand is everything—an expression of your identity and value—so your public speaking should serve as a complement. Without that realization, you run the risk of embarrassing yourself. When I did one of my first Black Greek Success Program presentations, I wanted (too) badly to be profound. I wanted to be taken seriously by the university that booked me so I did my best chin-up, professional presentation seasoning my content with powerful quotes. The students told me they enjoyed my presentation but there was a frat brother of mine in the audience, who knew me well. He simply said, "That wasn't you up there, Ed." Busted.
If you want to really reach an audience, find a way to put your presentation in sync with your personal brand. Let's look at the aforementioned laid back client. To bring out his thoughtfulness and wit, we focused on articulation. One major exercise we did was reciting a sentence that contains every letter of the alphabet as I drilled him on over enunciating every letter possible.
The other end of the spectrum is a personal brand like mine—energy! As I rehearse for my presentations, I pick myself apart on physical and vocal dynamics. I'll study video of my past presentations to make sure I make full use of the staging area, extending my arms to make myself "bigger," and I color my content with rich vocal inflection.
Speakers who want to be relatable are more authentic in their delivery. They speak "naturally" using ad libs, humor, and less formal body language such as their hands in their pockets. Stand-up comedians are the best natural speakers because so much of their content seems organic and spontaneous. The irony is comedians rehearse being spontaneous. When I prepare for a speaking engagement where I want to be more relatable, I go right back to my stand-up days by rehearsing facial expressions, pauses, and maybe even the placement of crutches.
Speaking of comedy, humor is one of the most attractive personal brands to express in public speaking. This can be tricky, however. The very first ingredient needed is confidence because your jokes won't always get laughs (at which point you have learn how to take an "L," recover, and keep your presentation moving all within a couple of seconds). The most important tool you have here is your smile, even if your brand is dry wit (smiling lets the audience off the hook if they don't appear to get your humor). Other useful tools are vocal inflection, friendly eye contact, facial expressions, and lively hand gestures.
What if your personal brand is one of power and persuasiveness? Be deliberate in your eye contact with the audience and use pauses to make everyone feel your points. If you know you will be behind a podium, vocal projection and stern body language will be your best friends. If you aren't limited to a podium, methodically prowl the stage to give your eye contact and vocal projection that much more intensity.
To be certain that you are expressing your personal brand effectively, always remember to do one important thing—PRACTICE. Great public speaking doesn't just happen like a sneeze. It is like any other performance so it is up to you to go over your presentation until you are confident that you will do your personal brand justice.
Originally published on LinkedIn