Be Yourself — Everyone Else Is Already Taken

Members of my career mentoring site tell me that presentation anxiety is one of the biggest career challenges.  I was thinking of this the other day.  A group of my University of Denver students was participating in a national case competition.  They asked me to sit in on one of their rehearsals.  They had great ideas with terrific research to back them up.  They had very good slides.  But even presenting to me – a friendly audience of one — they were nervous – and it showed.  My advice to them was “relax and be yourself.”

When I returned to my office after working with them on their delivery, I came across a Fast Company article called “7 Habits of the Best Public Speakers.”  I sent it to the students to help them on competition day.  You can see it here.

If you don’t want to read the entire article, here’s a summary…

  • Get in the zone.
  • Nail the first and last 30 seconds.
  • Tailor your message to your audience.
  • Center yourself.
  • Use silence to your advantage.
  • Vary your presentation style.
  • Be yourself.

All of this is great advice.  But, as you might imagine from the advice I gave to my students, I particularly like the last tid bit – be yourself.

When I first got into the training and development business, I had this idea that I needed to be very serious in my presentations.  As a result, my talks came off a little too formal and not engaging.  I had a conversation with my boss and mentor who told me to loosen up and be myself.  She said, “You’re an interesting and witty guy Bud.  Use that to your advantage in your training sessions.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

I took her advice and loosened up.  I still prepared like crazy, but I was started letting the fun and interesting Bud take precedence over the staid, serious Bud.  And my training courses got better.  Being myself gave other people the permission to be themselves.  This led to better dialogue.

Today, the talks I give to corporate audiences are even more fun.  I pace.  I joke a bit.  I wave my arms and hands.  I let my genuine enthusiasm show through.  This works for me.

But it might not work for you.  If you are more serious by nature, your delivery should reflect that.  I have seen many speaking disasters where bright people blew it by scripting their jokes and off-the-cuff remarks.  That just doesn’t work.

“Be yourself” is great public speaking advice.  Before you can be yourself, you have to figure out exactly who you are.  To do this, I suggest you think about the social interactions in which you feel most comfortable.  That’s when you’re being yourself.  Incorporate those behaviors into your speaking repertoire and you’ll be knocking ‘em dead in your presentations.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.


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