Be Yourself—And No One Else

Sometimes, there’s nothing tougher than being the real you.

Maybe it’s fun for actors to play a character role on stage because it’s such a departure from real life. An acquaintance of mine, the most soft-spoken and gentle soul you can imagine, had a blast recently at a Halloween party where he appeared as Walter White—the Walter White after he broke bad from selling all that meth.

In making business presentations, you don’t have the luxury of hiding behind the mask of a character—or trying to copy your favorite speaker. Your audience wants to see and hear the real you.

“Don’t announce,” said the late David Candow, “Talk. Don’t act. Be yourself. It’s a very hard thing to be yourself in front of all those people. But if you can be yourself, you’ll sound like no one else, and people really hear what’s real.”

Candow, a longtime broadcaster and consultant to National Public Radio, was known as the “host whisperer” at NPR. And his advice is just as valid for live presenters as it is for radio reporters: avoid trying to sound like someone else; just be the “best prepared you.”

Candow counsels his clients to write for the ear, not the page. Too often, he says, his clients respect the written word at the expense of the way real humans talk. He hates it, for example, when he hears a host or forecaster tease a weather report by saying, “You’re going to get two inches of the white stuff tonight.”

” ‘White stuff’?” he sputters. “It’s snow! And ‘you’re going to get’? Where does the weatherman live? He’s going to get it, too.”

So the next time you are working on a presentation, prepare. Keep it real. Read your message out loud and fix the words and phrases that don’t ring true. But most importantly, don’t try to be anyone else. Your audience wants the real you!

(Some excerpts from The Washington Post)