How Are You Perceived? - The Unfiltered You
This is Part 1 of the “How Are You Perceived?” series.
Public speaking has a lot to do with how people perceive you. Ideally, we want to come across as approachable, charismatic, and authoritative. Not only do we want this while at the podium, but we want this in our daily writing and on our social media profiles. This is why we use spell check in our emails and add filters to our selfies.
Unfortunately, we can’t copy edit our speeches as we give them, and we probably won’t be able to deliver presentations in sepia tone until 2028. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have control over how audiences perceive you.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your public speaking skills is to film yourself. Yet, when I suggest turning on a camera, my clients universally recoil. Why? I suspect it’s because they are nervous about seeing their unfiltered or unvarnished selves. But it’s their unvarnished selves that need polishing.
Most of my clients, men and women alike, first critique their bodies or outfits when we play back recordings of their speeches. They declare they hate their haircut or that they need to lose 10 pounds. Imagine if a public speaking coach said that to you! Not only are those comments rude and likely untrue, but they are unhelpful. Critiques that are irrelevant and not quickly fixed are what we call punitive feedback. Imagine if your boss critiqued your height during a yearly review! Not helpful.
So, what should you look for? First, you should look for the good. Look for what’s working in your presentation. Maybe you have a lovely speaking voice—not too fast or too slow. Maybe you have great posture. Applaud yourself if you pause at all the right times or really nail your closing remarks. It’s so easy to breeze by what you do well. Make sure to stop to appreciate what you’re getting right.
Once you establish what’s working, only then you can look for what you can improve.
When we film ourselves, we are able to see habits that usually go unnoticed. You might move away from the audience when you speak, like one of my clients did, silently telegraphing, “I don’t want to be here!” Or, you might trail off at the end of your sentences, unconsciously signaling, “I’m not confident!” Becoming self-aware of these bad habits is half the battle.
Practicing and improving your speaking skills is like adding a filter to your living self. How can you practice, though, when you don’t know what you need to improve? Give yourself an advantage and turn that camera on.