If we tell a story we don’t believe in, our audience will sense it immediately.

Like intention, authenticity and energy can’t be faked.  

This week we are looking at how to best deliver our message utilizing best practices from Tell to Win, Peter Guber‘s book about storytelling.  Peter quotes Williams College professor George Marcus who has studied the role of unspoken communication in the success and failure of politicians: “If we sense the other person is phony or distracted, we’ll automatically put up our defenses, either by tuning out entirely or listening with suspicion.”  

The moment we see someone, our ancient survival system kicks in and deciphers whether this individual is friend or foe, authentic or fake, trustworthy or dangerous.  “If we see a frown or can’t meet the other person’s gaze, our guard goes up and we feel anxiety, anticipating emotional attack or rejection,” George tells us.  

The reverse is also true.  Our subconscious picks up on genuine enthusiasm and conviction.  

The lesson for when we are presenting?  

We need to let ourselves feel it instead of suppressing it  Instead of telling ourselves to relax, philosopher Brian Johnson suggests we say, “I’m excited!”

“Our success or failure is determined by our level of energy,” says television mogul Mark Burnett.  “I tell my people, ‘Much more than our creativity, our level of energy inspires the people around us.'”

When we smile and look directly into someone’s eyes, the other person begins to relax and feel more trusting.

Our body language also sends messages.  When we stand or sit up straight and look our audience in the eye, we communicate we are alert, aware, and excited.  When we slouch in our chair or lean on the podium, our audience senses we are tired.

Does this mean we can only tell an effective story when we are feeling upbeat and happy?  Not so fast, Peter tells us: “Energy takes on many different emotional forms and it’s often most compelling when combined with vulnerability.”

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone tells us, “Vulnerability is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today.  Everyone has something in common with every other person.  And you won’t find those similarities if you don’t open up and expose your interests and concerns, allowing others to do likewise.”


Reflection:  Reflect on a time when being vulnerable allowed me to connect with another person or larger audience. 

Action:  Prior to my next presentation, tell myself I’m excited!

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