We have all heard the statement “fake it until you make it”. Amy Cuddy in her famous Ted talk said “fake it until you become it. And many coaches will say “just go on stage and fake it until you make it”. So, my question then is, should we just fake it until we make it in the arena of public speaking and presenting? Should we just walk on stage and fake it?
My answer to this question is “it depends”. It depends on the situation and the circumstances that you are trying to address with the “fake it until I make it” strategy.
Here are some situations where I would recommend that you DO NOT fake it until you make It.
- Around your content
When public speaking do not make up your content or pretend you are an expert in an area if you are not. My philosophy is that the collective wisdom in the room is greater than my individual wisdom. So while you may get away with it for some of the time and some audiences, you will get caught out at some stage. So always stick to the facts and what you know.
- About knowing your audience
Do not pretend to know your audience if you have not fully done your homework and research. I will often do an audience audit and do some research on the industry that I will be talking to. I speak a lot within the mining sector, yet I have never worked in that industry. So I need to be humble and accept that there will be some scenarios and experiences that I am not familiar with and I let them know this.
I once went to a financial seminar where a renowned Economist and financial expert gave an overview of the economy and some financial forecasts. In question time, he was asked if he thought Royalties for Regions was good economic sense or wasting WA taxpayer’s money. He did not know what Royalty for Regions was. At the time this was the number one economic question on most West Australians minds.
- Your qualifications
Please do not fake your qualifications. We have had some real doozies where politicians, CEO’s of local Government and Directors of Health services have been found out as having fake qualifications. Your credibility comes from your experience and knowledge and while qualifications are important, generally in speaking they are less important. It is OK not to know everything and you do not need a degree to be an expert, so please don’t make qualifications up.
- When answering questions that you don’t know the answer to
If you get a difficult question that you do not have the answer to, do not fake it or make it up. Instead, take it on notice, defer it to an expert in that field, or find out and get back to them. Most audiences will have their iPad or mobile phones and will be able to Google reputable sites and find out answers to questions. If you don’t know, just say so, and get back to them.
Here are some situations where you SHOULD fake it until you make it.
- Be happy and pleased to be there.
Sometimes I fly over east on the red eye. I arrive in Melbourne at 6.00 am, have a shower and go on stage at 9.00 am with little or no sleep. I need to demonstrate that I am glad and happy to be there. And I am happy to be there and I need to push my fatigue and lack of sleep aside for the moment and be 100% excited to be there. So I will smile, draw on internal energy and be happy that I am there. Sometimes you will have tough audiences and hecklers and naysayers and once again you must show that you are happy and pleased to be there.
- Fake that you are confident and not nervous.
Many people experience nerves and anxiety when it comes to public speaking. It is almost normal, and it is common knowledge that public speaking is considered one of our biggest fears. The thing is that most audiences don’t know if you are nervous or not and they don’t really concern themselves if you have a fear of public speaking.
Most audiences are interested in a solution that you might have to their problem. This means you can walk on stage and pretend to be confident even if not. Remember don’t make up your content or pretend to know something that you don’t know but do pretend to be confident.
- Behave and act in a confident way, even if you are feeling less than confident.
How would a confident person act as they walk on stage. They would smile, make eye contact, stand upright and breathe in a relaxed way. We can all do this. So even if you are inwardly nervous and shaking a little, you can walk on and behave in a confident way. You can fake your confidence merely by the way you behave.
I have chaired many job interview panels and we can tell when someone walks into the room with confidence and we can tell when someone is nervous. Walking, smiling, acting in a confident way can be faked by anyone.
In conclusion, the “fake it until I make it” strategy can either be a good idea or bad idea. You need to learn how and when to use it effectively. Public speaking requires practicing and that includes faking it until you make it.