Courtesy of Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

“Now I’m going to give a speech.” Is this what you’re thinking as you walk up to the platform to deliver your message? Maybe you’re not aware of it, but this is the very thought that moves many of us into what I call “speaker mode.” You’ve heard people in speaker mode. They sound stilted, scripted and awkward. And, it happens to the best of us.

It’s also the reason some people hate the idea of writing out their speeches. “I don’t want to sound scripted. I want to sound spontaneous and authentic and conversational.” Of course! All good things. It’s also the reason I sometimes hear people say, “I’m better when I wing it!” Okay. Maybe in short spurts. But, if you have to speak for more than five minutes, I don’t think so. Winging it does not mean you’re going to necessarily show up as spontaneous, authentic and conversational. It might mean you appear disorganized, unprepared and, worst case, boring. Yikes!

Yup, I said it. I went there. Wanting to speak from the heart and be yourself does not mean you don’t script your speech. It means you stay out of “speaker mode,” and “drop in” to your authenticity. As many of my clients will attest, this is when you feel truly masterful because you can be purposeful with your content and your delivery, while speaking authentically from your heart. When you do this, you create real audience engagement with your audience, and yourself!

The big question is how? I am sharing some insights with you here. The second question is, how long will it take until I can do this on a regular basis? I don’t know. Each individual is different. What I do know is it does happen if you keep at it.

Here are the keys to “dropping in” so you too can reap the rewards of greater authenticity:

1. Rehearse your material until you know it.
I know. I sound like a broken record, but it’s true. I’m not talking about memorizing all of your material, although many do and that’s great! There are some parts of your material you do want to memorize. I’m talking about learning it. The difference? You know what you want to say and in what order. You know the points. You know what they mean to you and what you want them to mean to your audience. You just know it. Just like song lyrics. You’ve sung the song so many times you know it. You didn’t set out to memorize it, but now you know it.

2. Get present.
Dropping in is a kinesthetic experience. You feel grounded in your body. You’re not in your head. It’s that feeling when you take a deep breath in, then exhale while dropping your shoulders and truly relaxing. Yes, it’s like that. I take my clients through a process I call “get present” and suggest they use that before each presentation (and throughout the day). Then, during your presentation, when you notice you’re in your head, pause, take a deep breath and drop back in. Once you’ve experienced, this you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is how you begin to develop “presence” — that special connection with your audience that is palpable and fulfilling for everyone.

3. Listen to what you’re saying as you’re saying it.
It’s so easy to go on autopilot. To drop in, pay attention to what you’re saying. What does it mean to you? What do you want your audience to understand? What is the emotional content within your language? Speak words you mean and allow your audience to feel that meaning within you. That is what will create credibility — the congruence between your words and your expression of those words.

4. Take your time.
Use a pause to get into the moment with your message. When we’re in speaker mode, we often speak too quickly. Sometimes it’s because we’re nervous. Other times, we’re just not connecting with what we’re saying or with our audience. So, slow down. Give yourself the time to really consider what you’re saying and why and bring that meaning to your audience.

5. Have fun.
Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your speaking. When you enjoy yourself, your audience will enjoy themselves. Bring lightness and laughter into the room. Life can get very serious, especially when we take ourselves too seriously. Remember, you’re the messenger, and being you is completely sufficient! Imagine you’re having a conversation with your friends over coffee. That’s the energy. You’re just having a one-on-one conversation with lots of people at once. All you have to do is be human, and you’ve got that!

Dropping out of speaker mode and dropping in to your authenticity seems like it should be easy. What I’ve experienced personally, and seen with my clients, is that it can be challenging. It is, however, very possible and likely if you practice these techniques over time.  When you do, you create real audience engagement. I’d love to support you. I can be reached at