In the midst of AI-infused reality, “authentic” was selected as the 2023 word of the year by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the leading on-line source for word meaning lookups. Authentic landed at the top of the most searched words in the dictionary’s 500,000 entries.
The editors claim the most-searched word designation was fueled by the volume of stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media. The dictionary searches were most often connected to identity, whether national or personal, where the word was used to modify terms like self and voice (authentic self, authentic voice).
“We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at M-W in the announcement of the word of the year. “What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”
Although being authentic is a desirable quality, the M-W editors say that the term is hard to define and subject to debate. For a word associated with a kind of reliability, “authentic” comes with more than one meaning. It’s a synonym for “real,” defined as “not false or imitation.” But it can also mean “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” and, sneakily, “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.”
The high value placed on having an authentic voice underscores its importance to effective public speaking. Being an authentic communicator is fundamental to engendering trust. And trust is an essential ingredient of executive presence and impactful communications.
How do you integrate the concept of authentic voice and personality into your communication style? How does it affect your ability to establish a genuine connection with your audience? How does it elevate your leadership stature?
Here are five tips to help you become a more authentic communicator.
1. Know Your Audience
Remember that it’s about them, not you. What do they want to hear, learn, and take home? What is the itch that you need to scratch? What will make their lives or work better? Understand who you are speaking to and tailor your message to resonate with them. Consider their interests, values, and expectations. Avoid overly formal or jargon-heavy language that may make you sound important but alienate your audience. Use language that feels comfortable and natural to you and that your audience will understand. Your authenticity will help them believe you and see you as a trusted source.
2. Be Yourself
Embrace your unique personality and style. Don’t try to imitate someone else or adopt a persona that doesn’t feel authentic to you. Slay the “dragons” that hold you back from expressing your real self. It’s OK to be fearful; nervousness can be the adrenaline that boosts your performance. It’s OK to have a lisp, a stutter, or an accent. Unapologetically use these traits to your advantage. Work through any dysfluency by choosing the right words and pacing. Focus on your message. The power of your words and your natural style will bring the audience to your side.
3. Share Personal Stories with Emotion
Incorporate relevant personal anecdotes or experiences into your speech. Sharing authentic stories can make your message more relatable and engaging. Messages conveyed through stories are 20 times more memorable than those with mere facts and figures. Allow yourself to express genuine emotions. Whether it’s excitement, passion, or vulnerability, showing your true feelings through words and non-verbal language can create a more meaningful connection with your audience. Staying in the moment, aware of your surroundings can prevent you from getting caught up in nerves or distractions.
4. Speak from the Heart
Love your subject and love your audience. Focus on what truly matters to your audience. Believe in the information you are sharing . Speak about topics you handle with expertise and credibility. Consider what truly qualifies you to address this subject and convey that with confidence and ease. Show you care. Smile and show appreciation for your audience’s attention. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Sharing challenges or setbacks you’ve faced can make you more relatable and human. Your authenticity will shine through and make the occasion memorable.
5. Build Two-way Connections
Establish a connection with your audience by maintaining eye contact, using open and expansive body language, and acknowledging their presence. Building a connection helps create an environment where authenticity can thrive. Invite their evaluations of your performance and apply their feedback to future presentations. Also, ask for honest feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors. They can all provide insights into how your authenticity comes across and offer suggestions for improvement.
Remember that authenticity is about being true to yourself and connecting with your audience on a human level. True connection comes with delivering value and serving the needs and wants of the audience. It takes practice, but the more you embrace your genuine self, the more authentic and compelling your public speaking will become.