The key to authenticity starts with I

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

One complaint that I hear the most often about speakers from audience is, “he was fake”, “she was acting”, “they were NOT AUTHENTIC”.

Authenticity as a speaker means, being true to yourself, speaking about things you really care about and speaking with sincerity and with vulnerability. In a truly authentic speech, you will be sharing a part of your soul and in the process will connect to your audience at a level that they will remember for a long time. OR at least, that has been my experience and my thought.

I joined toastmasters exactly 2 years ago in August of 2016. Since then I have attended about 90% of our club’s weekly meetings. On average in a month, I hear 20 speeches, so overall by this time, I must have heard 480 speeches.. This is a LOT of speeches and I am not even counting the speeches I heard elsewhere like Toastmasters conferences, Tech conferences or TED/TEDx.

But, how many of those, do I really remember?

It turns out, very few.

I remember, when M. talked about his very close friend of many years who had just passed away couple of days earlier. I will never forget the emotions painted on the face of M. while he talked about their shared love of Monty Python.

I remember, when K. talked about her mother who had recently passed away after a fight with cancer. It was her mother’s birthday. The love and saudade in her eyes as she talked about her childhood memories with her, is an image permanently engraved in my heart,.

I remember, when S. talked about meeting a depressed teenager and power of sharing your story, his story, of overcoming a cancer which had 60% survival chance. His story was not only responsible for nudging that teenager back to light but is a constant source of inspiration for me and many others who were present in the room that day.

I remember, when M. talked about his feelings on the day of 9/11. Only 4 years earlier he had visited the world trade center with his parents while living in US and now he was seeing it burn on TV, his thoughts on the people that went to work that day and never came back. This brought the same feelings I had many times before, while watching the news on tv about my country burning under constant terrorism for years. That day, I knew M. is like a brother. Not by blood, but by shared experience and feelings, a bond that can be stronger than anything else.

I remember, when N. talked about his mom, who came from a deeply patriarchal society in India, yet through the support of her father became a successful woman and caring mother. I remember the long pause he took, to recover himself, as he got overwhelmed by his own emotions of gratitude and admiration for his mother.

All these speeches had one thing in common. The speaker was not speaking to an audience, it was a person having a conversation with close friend. Sharing a part of their soul, laying it bare, with a small fear of judgement, but a strong desire to connect.

The key to authenticity starts with I. When we share our story, our dreams, our failures, our doubts, our fears, our own inner demons. That is when we connect.

The only TED talk, that I never get tired of watching, was not even delivered at a TED stage, but they still thought it was an idea worth spreading.

I remember, when Steve Jobs, told 3 stories from his life about adoption, about loss and about death. How it is not possible to connect the dots looking forward but only looking back. Every time I watch that speech, it hits me like a lightning strike and pushes me to do what my heart has always wanted. The only reason it happens, is because, Steve is not talking as a tech billionaire, but as flawed human being.

Your audience remembers you when you connect with them.

You connect with them when you are authentic

You are authentic when you start with I.

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