I will not lie to you, I did not see it coming.
I had delivered my presentation which I had entitled “Stand Up and Speak, Sit Down and Smile” and I was responding to questions from the appreciative audience.
All of a sudden, a well manicured and bejeweled hand shot into the air. As I inclined my head in its direction the equally well-dressed owner rose from her seat and in a pseudo-American accent intoned:
Is it okay for a public speaker to lie to the audience?
“What! Is this woman mad?” was my first reaction. Then I thought she was as they say in my country “pulling my legs” but as I look at her facial expression I realized that she was as serious as a heart attack.
Absolutely not! I said to her and I’m saying to you, absolutely not!
You see, for the most part, public speaking is about winning friends and influencing people. You tell me, how can you do that if you’re insincere?
Apart from the outright lie that will force me in this medium to remain silent on such a person’s value system, there are many ways that public speakers can lie to their audiences. Allow me to share some of them with you so as to prevent you from being inadvertently guilty.
Purpose– if your purpose is to sell something, please do not pretend that you’re providing information for the spiritual enlightenment of your audience. Sooner or later your true purpose will become obvious and they will spot you for the fraud that you are.
Sincerity – Recently I watched a spokesperson for an organization articulate a position that clearly he was not in support of. His body language and his words were definitely out of sync, his insincerity was obvious and as such he was lying as a public speaker. In circumstances such as this, he would have been better off asking someone else to deliver that speech so that he could keep his reputation intact.
Enthusiasm– Pretending to be enthusiastic about the presentation you’re making when you’re not is another way to lie to your audience and is similar to being insincere. Once, in my younger, wanting-to-play-the-office-politics days, my boss at the time wrote a speech and asked me to deliver it at a function. Happy for the trip and the opportunity to shine, I consented. When I read the speech it was not me in tone or content, but I was committed. When I delivered it I felt my own lack of enthusiasm, heard my insincerity and knew that I had cheated an eager audience. I decided there and then “Never me again!”
Approach– I see it far too often. A speaker delivers a presentation ‘by the book.” What I’m talking about is when they seem to have prepared a speech from a manual that says “place humour here” or “lean head at a 55% angle to appear intelligent.” This results in a generic speech minus any of their personality and is as exciting as sticking stamps on email. When you prepare your speech like this, not only will you lie to your listeners, you will not connect with them, an important vehicle for communicating your message.
Pretending– pretending that the material is yours, pretending that you’re an expert on the topic, pretending that you’re a Stand-up Comic…none of this is necessary. Furthermore, your audience will see right through you and when they leave the room in the middle of your speech, they will not be pretending.
So, my advice to you: first stay away from lying as a public speaker. Lying has no place in public speaking and if it’s not in your life in the first place, it won’t appear in anything that you do.