Engage, Don’t Perform: How do you Measure Authenticity?

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re watching a speaker and you’re not convinced they really believe what they’re saying? They just seem too polished, too prepared, too smooth, too “inhuman”. They seem, candidly, inauthentic.

As technology has enabled rapid growth in methods of communication, authenticity is more important today than it ever has been. When it comes to communicating online and over video, we have certain expectations about preparation and polish, but we also expect to see the human faults of each communicator.

Public speaking coaches tell us that audiences perceive authentic speakers to be open, engaged with the audience, and passionate about their topic. They “listen” to their audiences, or take their point of view into consideration when writing a speech. They speak with their authentic voice, they vary their facial expressions and they are natural with their body language. Great public speakers understand that they are not giving a performance. They find a middle ground between a natural conversation and a polished performance – they speak with purpose and organization, but within their own tone, body, and method.

By nature, our authentic self is different for everyone, thus making it very difficult to measure quantitatively. Yet, we immediately know when someone comes across as inauthentic. There are specific characteristics that audiences pick up on that make a speaker appear to be inauthentic and if we turn those around, we can generate a proxy for authenticity.

Now that we have a measure for authenticity, we can turn to our extensive communications analytics database to objectively analyze the impact of authentic speaking. Filtering our database based on our authenticity metric we found that the top 10% of authentic speakers were considered to be 1.3 times more trustworthy and 1.3 times more persuasive than average. It is harder to trust people who are inauthentic and if an audience does not trust you, it is almost impossible to persuade them of your message.

Show your audience you believe in your message and they will be more likely to believe in it as well.