Perfection vs. Authenticity: Which One to Choose in Public Speaking?

Nobody's perfect, right? I think we can all agree with that, but so many people feel that they have to appear perfect when they're on stage or on camera. Particularly now, when we're surrounded by videos of these perfect influencers who speak perfectly, look perfect and dress perfectly. It is just so stressful for the rest of us to try and match that perfection. But how important is it to actually be perfect in public speaking? How important is being perfect when you are speaking to your audience on stage or on camera?

If you prefer audio only, you can listen to the full episode on my podcast below or on iTunes.

Today, let’s talk about perfection. As Mary Poppins famously sang in the musical on Broadway, “I am practically perfect.” Well, for the rest of us, can we be practically perfect, and how important is it to be practically perfect in public speaking? We've all seen those people who create a front of being extremely perfect on stage or on video. They carry themselves perfectly. They look very polished. They dress perfectly; they speak perfectly. They're this picture of perfection. However, a lot of times when we watch those people on stage or on video, they're so perfect that they either seem fake or they're no longer relatable to us in any way or form. And one of the most important things in public speaking is being relatable.

I’ve definitely met speakers who were perfect, but I’ve also met speakers who were extremely unperfect. One example is Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is as far away from polished and perfect as you can possibly get. If you ever see him on stage, he dresses very, very casually. He throws F-bombs around, and he talks like he talks in real life. If you ever see him on video, in real life, or on stage, he's exactly the same. He does not adjust himself to be perfect or polished or to be something that he's not just because some other people are trying to be perfect. His message to his audience is to be your authentic self, live your life your way, don't listen to what other people say, and be you. And he lives his own advice because he is as real as you can get. Because of that, audiences around the world adore him. He's so engaging, he's so captivating, he delivers exactly what he promises to deliver and people are in love with him. Nobody sits there thinking, “Oh well, I wish Gary was a little more perfect, I wish he was a little more polished. My goodness, Gary is in that torn T-shirt again on stage.” Nobody's thinking that because he is a total package of being genuinely him.

In fact, if anything, I think he's trying to be imperfect. I don't know him personally, but I almost think at some point in his life, way back when he was younger, he was probably watching some speakers on stage who were perfect and he probably thought to himself, “Uh-uh, that's not gonna be me. I'm not gonna be like that.” That's probably when he decided to be himself, to be as imperfect as he really is in regular life and just go and be himself, and that is exactly what you need to do.

Honestly, maybe way back then, you really needed to be perfect when you were on stage because if you were not that picture of perfection decades ago, you wouldn't be taken seriously. But the times have changed. Right now, it is all about being yourself. It is all about being truly authentic. When you are trying to put up that perfect front, you very often appear fake and your audiences can spot a fake. To be truly engaging, to truly talk to your audience, not to just to talk to yourself on stage, but to truly talk to your audience, and have a real, meaningful, genuine conversation with your audience, whether on stage or on camera, you need to be totally you.

As Dr. Seuss said, "There is nobody who's Youer than you." I just love that quote. There is really nobody who's Youer than you. When you're on stage, your audience wants to see the real you. When you project you to your audience instead of some perfect front, they respond to that, they connect to that, and they love you for that. They don't need you to be perfect. All they need is for you to have a real, true conversation with them. They want you to touch them in a way that is going to transform their lives, their businesses, their souls. They want you to make a change in them. They want you to not just be that perfect creature who's standing there in the glory of being perfect, but to be real because this is the only way your audience can truly relate to you.

So next time you step on stage or turn on that record button on your video, forget about trying to be somebody else. Forget about mimicking some people that you think are perfect and you want to be just like them. Forget about trying to be somebody else. The only thing you need to think about is what you, as yourself, can do for your audience, what you can give in the most authentic, genuine way. If you care, they will know, and they won't care if you're perfect or not as long as they know that you care.

I wish you all the best. Take care!

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