Here in the UK we’re one week away from a General Election. Once every five years our politicians down tools for six weeks, leave the running of the country to the civil service and get out on the election trail, desperate to retain their seats and increase their party’s margin. Regardless of your political inclination this is a fascinating time and one where the ability of each party’s leader to connect with an audience can have massive implications for the future of the nation.
Back in 2010 the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg delivered massive gains for his party following his performance in the country’s first ever live leadership debate and was praised for his ability to connect with the TV audience down the camera lens. The recent 7-way debate on Sky News was less of a game changer but from a performance perspective it highlighted the importance of authenticity. Whilst none of the leaders were able to land any killer blows, all of them had moments where they seemed truly connected and engaged with what they were saying. At these moments they shone. During others they appeared lacklustre at best. Tonight the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties will take part in a special edition of Question Time. Who will stand out as authentic and who will be criticised for being “out of touch”? Only time will tell…
Whilst authenticity is increasingly seen as a must have quality in politics, it also has massive implications in a business context too. So what are the elements that make the difference between authentic and inauthentic and how can we apply them in the “real world”?
Connect To Your Subject Matter
It goes without saying that when we talk about things we are passionate about we are more engaged and more engaging. Often when I’m coaching I will ask a client to tell me about their kids or a recent holiday they went on and all of a sudden, the dull, lifeless person sitting in front of me becomes an animated ball of infectious energy! Their voice goes from flat to colourful and their gestures and body language come alive. Why? Because they care about what they are talking about. Our challenge when talking about work related topics is to find the thing that we connect with. If you challenge yourself you’ll always find something that resonates with you (or makes you angry) and this is the thing to focus on. When you connect to it you’ll be speaking from the heart.
Don’t Hide Your Emotions
People are often scared of emotions in a business context. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for one second that you should aim to get teary-eyed or start shouting with rage. However, personal emotion is irrefutable and if it is used genuinely it can be extremely powerful. If you say “I feel really proud of what we have achieved” it’s very unlikely that anyone will challenge that sentiment. Instead your audience will actually feel a collective connection to you and you will instantly build rapport. Emotions, both positive and negative, make us human. They help us break down barriers with our audience and in our search for authenticity they help us to build trust.
Dare To Be Yourself
It’s all to easy to blend into the crowd but it’s more exciting to stand up and be counted. If you want to be remembered for what you say you have to be prepared to stand out. The word authentic and the word author have the same origin, coming from the Greek word authentikos meaning “original”. Ask yourself this question: Are your prepared to pick up the pen and write your own story? Or would you rather let someone else provide the narrative? “Fortune favours the brave” – It’s time to get authentic!
How do you authentically connect with your audience? What do the people that you trust have in common? I’d love to hear your comments in the box below.