In 13 years of coaching speakers I have studied the difference between speakers who are marginally successful and those who gain remarkable success. There are many differences and most of them can be categorized as whether or not the speaker is authentic.
There are many aspects of being authentic as a speaker but the starting point is finding your authentic message. There are 2 ways to look at the message you share as a speaker. One is the message that you choose and the other is the message that is chosen for you. I am a proponent of speaking the message that was chosen for you – this is your authentic message. Let me explain the difference.
Just like many people choose a career or job because of the income they feel can be made, likewise some speakers choose a speaking topic based on the income they feel it can generate. Rather than looking at their personal passion, experiences or expertise from which to draw their speaking message, these speakers look at what the market is paying and use this as the barometer to determine their message. This causes their message to be lackluster and not draw excitement from their audiences. Or it clearly shows a mismatch, like speakers who are most appropriate for a church audience but market themselves to a corporate environment because they feel the money is there, even though they have no passion for it.
Are you making your message decision based on financial motives or based on the message that lives inside you? Authenticity puts purpose over profit. You cannot be an authentic speaker if you are choosing your message solely based on the income it can potentially generate.
The challenge with determining your topic from your authentic voice is that it often takes time. Getting to your authentic message is an evolution. It reflects your growth as a person and as a speaker. The path to your message is like unraveling the thread that runs through your experiences and thoughts. When you are able to find the thread and identify it, you have found your authentic message. For some it comes easily, for others it takes a while.
For me, it took a while. I think I was always destined to be a speaker but it took decades for me to find my message. I remember when I started my first job as director of a child care center in Detroit, Michigan. I had a fleeting thought that I could become a speaker but I said no because I didn't know what I was to talk about. And then when I coordinated the teen ministry at my church the parishioners told me I should speak and I asked, about what? Over the past 13 years people have asked me to speak about speaking and I have done this but it was not my passion. It wasn't until I uncovered authenticity that I identified my passion and my authentic message.
Actually, when I look at my life in retrospect, my interest in authenticity has always been there. So much so that in teleconference calls I hosted two years prior to my naming my message as authenticity, I used the word regularly. And in hindsight I see that I was focusing on authenticity when I questioned the motivation of the employees of the Head Start programs I had directed two decades prior. It was also an unspoken question that I asked myself as I met people who seemed to be masking their true nature and not being themselves. I can even trace the thread of authenticity back to my mother. At her funeral last November I spoke on behalf of the family and referred to my mother as a lady who lived life on her own terms. It was while I was speaking at the church that it struck me that my thread of authenticity came from her. Living life on one's own terms – being authentic. I was destined to speak on authenticity and it is obvious in the thread of authenticity that runs through my life – loud and clear.
What is the thread that runs through your life? Identifying that thread is the key to identifying your authentic message – the one that speaks within you and the one that is confirmed by the Universe. Are you aware of it? Are you listening to it? Are you allowing it to evolve? Are you nurturing it? Are you ready for it?
If you are unclear of the thread that runs through your life that is the foundation for your message, then start listening. First, ask your inner voice to give you direction and unfold for you, a clear indication of your message. Then keep paper and pencil nearby at all times so that you can record the messages that you will begin to receive. Listen to the voice within you. Write down what it says.
Then listen to the voice of the Universe. Watch the people who come into your space and what they say to you. Write down anything that seems unusual or otherwise noteworthy in the things you are led to read, listen to or watch. Keep paper and pencil near your bed and near your shower. Write your thoughts and how the Universe confirms your inner thoughts through people and events.
Then when your list of thoughts gets several pages long find a quiet time and review the list. You may want to rewrite everything and sort them into categories. Identify any threads that may be obvious. You may find several threads and this is OK. Meditate on this for a few days so that you can “feel” the thoughts within yourself. It's like trying them on to see how they fit. Some will “fit” and “feel” quite good. Others will not. When you identify a few threads that fit, consider your passion for the topic, examine your level of experience and the degree of your expertise. Determine which feels most appropriate for you.
Direct your inner voice to provide the confirmations that will let you know which of the threads that you identified are the most appropriate for you. Look for the people and experiences that the Universe puts in front of you to confirm your message. Once you have gone through this exercise you will have greater clarity about your message. You have used your intuitive nature to uncover your message. You have had it confirmed by the Universe. You are ready to develop it.
Finding your message is both an intuitive and a practiced experience. Allow yourself to embrace your message with the passion of the lifelong experience that it is. Take the time you need to be certain. If you are serious about speaking, then be serious about your message. Taking the time to make the right decisions early in your speaking career will pay off tremendously as you move forward.
Norma T. Hollis is an authenticity expert who is a professional speaker, author, entrepreneur and mentor. She is the author of “Ten Steps to Authenticity: Creating a Rewarding and Satisfying Life” and “The Process to Become a Professional Speaker: A Workbook for New and Emerging Speakers”. Learn more about her authenticity platform, take her Authenticity Assessment, examine her speaker development products and services and register for her Live Events held across the country at www.normahollis.com or call 323-734-7144.