Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How Authentic is TOO Authentic?


"I didn't expect an answer like that from you."

My answer was to a question on a speaking page on Facebook, asking what our biggest challenge is as a speaker. I answered: "Finding people to pay me" - the truth.

The conversation on my answer thread went down an interesting path. My fellow commenter was surprised I would have issues finding paid speaking opportunities. Apparently, my social media makes me look more successful, financially at least, than I am as a speaker.

I replied that I never say I am a high paid speaker. A great speaker? Yes. I'll say that - I'm at least above average! A fun speaker? An inspirational speaker? Yup and yup. I always have a place to speak, as well...in Toastmasters. But getting paid? Nope. Not often. Not yet.

I went on to explain, as I usually end up doing once a month to various people in various circumstances, that I actually hold down a J.O.B. Yep - I sell advertising - newspaper advertising. It's right there on my LinkedIn profile for all to see. In fact, I've sold newspaper or magazine advertising for years in Utah, Washington, and Colorado.

On the SIDE - I'm a presentation consultant. Speaking coach. I help professionals discover, develop, and deliver their best message. Emerging keynoters, entrepreneurs, sales people, or poor Joe whose boss told him this morning he's giving a 45 presentation at their industry conference in two weeks. I've worked with engineers, nutritionists, accountants, politicians, marketers, even ex-convicts to help them build their message for maximum impact on stage. But it's a SIDE job - I don't market it as much as I could or should - and it doesn't regularly pay the bills.

Also on the SIDE - I'm a speaker. But I don't actively seek paid speaking opportunities. Yet. I get them every now and again, but it has not been a focus.

These leaves two WHY questions:

  1. WHY am I NOT a full-time speaker/speaking coach?

  2. WHY would I publicly ADMIT it - isn't that marketing suicide?


  1. WHY am I NOT a full-time speaker/speaking coach? I got married before either of these side jobs were even a glimmer. We had two kids from day one from her first marriage, and had four more within seven years. Three of the six had major medical issues, one requiring chemotherapy over a couple of years. The full story is complicated - a roller coaster that would scare the bravest amusement park goer - but to put it simply, financially and logistically, becoming a full-time entrepreneur, being absent as a working speaker, didn't make sense. Now, hindsight is 20/20, and maybe I could have made something work - but we make the best decisions we can at any given time. Today, I still have two kids at home, life is different, and I'm expanding what I allow myself to do - even while continuing to work my day job.

  2. Why ADMIT any of this on social media? Two-fold answer, I suppose. First, I don't go out of my way to explain myself (this article is a rare exception) - but if you piece together my speeches - when I talk about my daughter's tumor, our three kids with Neurofibromatosis, my own below-the-knee amputation, and combine it with various Facebook posts and twitter tweets, you'd have the full story. Because my life is my life, and I don't hide it. I just don't negatively linger on it. Second, I'm always fascinated that people see me as a financially successful person online, despite the fact that I never claim that I am. I'm not curating posts to deceive - no pictures in front of corvettes or private planes, and any travel I've done has been for Toastmasters or, in the case of DisneyWorld - Make-A-Wish. But I don't go out of my way to post about being at the end of my money before the end of the month (as most U.S. residents tend to be, by the way). I don't complain. I stay upbeat, try to avoid public controversy, and usually brush my hair before posting a picture. Usually.

I think I could be accused of being both TOO authentic, and not authentic ENOUGH. I never lie, but I do try to lead with positivity and professionalism. Doesn't always happen - especially on Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter - but I am who I am. If that costs me customers, so be it.

Ultimately, you have to decide the level of authenticity you want to put out into the world. What are you comfortable with people knowing about you? Are you determined to put just one side of who you are out into the world, to ensure you get or keep your job? To impress your friends? Hey, no judgment here. The crazy thing is this: no matter who you paint yourself as in the world of social media, people will still form their own opinions based on their own place in the world, and their personal and/or virtual interactions with you. They may be spot-on, or totally wrong, or, more likely, somewhere in-between. Different platforms can lend themselves to different parts of your personality, and you can build different audiences. Whatever you do, be intentional about doing it, and prepared to deal with the consequences, bad or good.

Of course, the authenticity question isn't new with social media. People have always had their split personalities - there's the family you, the work you, the dating you, the church you - all different, whether you admit it or not. Now there's the online you - which is more all-encompassing, more complex, more risky, and more public. Which is why I'd rather err on the side of TOO authentic - without giving out my social security number, at least.

If people think I'm wildly successful, wealthy, and the owner of six-pack abs, so be it. Someday, maybe all of that will be as authentic as what I'm authentic about: Husband. Father. Speaker. Coach. Consultant. Author. Super-hero fan. #WinAnyway

Want to set up a free 30 min presentation consult with me? Message me, and we'll make that happen - and start you on your way to delivering your best message.

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