Is it better to be the “natural” me or the “performing” me when presenting?

When giving a presentation, is it better to be the natural you or the “performing” you?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself this question after noticing how an extrovert gave a speech in school–louder and bigger. Or…maybe it was when someone told you that you needed to seem “happier” when you spoke in front of a group but you felt like that wasn’t the real you.

Let’s start by determining what you think natural and performing means. If you think natural means “real” & performing means “fake”, then I see why you have a resistance to performing.

But, performing is a good word.

                 Perform simply means: to entertain an audience. To complete set of tasks often with care and diligence.

To be natural, in the context of speaking, is also good…basically!

                  Natural: true or closely imitating a natural state.

There’s lots of versions of you.

You are a dynamic human being. You do not behave one way exclusively. You know how to adapt for different situations. That’s helpful!

Imagine the different behaviors you take when you shift into…

  • Kid friendly you.
  • Family you.
  • Workplace you.
  • Meeting a celebrity you.
  • Theme Park you.
  • Party you.
  • Library you.
  • Fearful you.
  • Angry you.
  • Sad you.
  • Morning you.
  • Etc.

It doesn’t mean your a fake person for behaving differently, It’s REAL you…tackling different challenges and scenarios. (Now, if you aren’t comfortable with who you are…and you are putting out a phony persona, then yes…you are in a  fake funk.)

In your daily life, you perform all the time!

Meaning, you pull out the needed parts of your dynamic personality or talents specific to the situation.

Daily Life Examples you perform at least a little:

  • Dating or Meeting new people
  • Interacting with people in power or higher status
  • Doing a Job (esp. Customer service)
  • Doing a sport
  • You’re mad with your friend forgetting your birthday
  • Don’t want to talk about painful things
  • You have to give bad news to a loved one
  • You babysit (or parent) an high energy child
  • You meet up with someone from Craigslist

Speaking in public is a performance

In front of an audience, you’re presenting a polished version of yourself.

You’re not acting like or imitating someone else. You aren’t playing a character. You’re trying to be comfortable just being YOU.

Don’t be “natural”…be real

Aaahhhhh! How can Lindsay tell me to NOT be natural?! Is she telling me to be fake? (No. Have you read the earlier part of  article?)

Remember the definition of natural?

               Natural: true or closely imitating a natural state.

Who are you normally without trying?

If I was truly “natural” for you, many days I probably would show up in front of my audiences with low energy after missing out on sleep (I’ve got a baby at home.)

  • I would slouch in my seat.
  • Not smile much.
  • Rub my eyes.
  • My voice would be mono-toned

The reality is, you are performing. You’re there for your audience—often to entertain them. To connect with them, you still should be a real version of yourself, as it relates to your topic.

Do things that help the Real You to Perform honestly

You now know not to be strictly “natural” but that presenting a real & honest version of yourself is important. What can you do to do that?

I’ve made a list of things you can do to PERFORM as a REAL version of yourself:

  • Look and be clean (showered)
  • Dress correctly
  • Warm up your voice and body before you speak
  • Mentally focus (meditation or alone time)
  • Listening to audience feedback in the moment
  • Share personal stories that relate and help support your topic’s message
  • Tell people “I don’t know” when you don’t know
  • Look people in the eyes
  • Smile
  • Use body language that shows your open–and want to have a conversation
  • Have energy
  • Know your content really well/prepared –so you can stay in the moment (rather than in your head)

When you speak, you may not feel comfortable. That’s because it’s new. You can adapt and grow. (Hey…another version of you might be Speaking You.)

Real you isn’t Comfortable Speaking (But you can be over time!)

I know when you are working out the nerves and fear of failure that strange un-you things can happen. But, you can grow and adapt with experience. You just have to decide you are willing to work for it.

As a new parent, years ago, I thought it was so interesting watching my son try things for the first time. He didn’t like ice cream. He didn’t like Koosh Balls (remember those?). He didn’t like pizza. He didn’t like swings at the park. He didn’t like to sleep. Now, he loves all these things!

You evolve.

What feels odd at first, might eventually feel normal.


Is it better to be the “natural” me or the “performing” me when presenting?

The answer is: It’s better to be performing an honest version of you.

Remember what you learned today:

  1. There’s lots of versions of you.
  2. In your daily life, you perform all the time!
  3. In front of an audience, you’re presenting a polished version of yourself.
  4. Don’t be “natural”…be real.
  5. Do things that help the real you to perform honestly.
  6. “Real” you might not be comfortable speaking, but you can be over time!

Take action! Pay attention to the different versions of you and other people. When they switch into another honest version, take note of how they behave. What feels good about this? What feels weird about this? Then record it in your journal.