Congruence in public speaking is a simple concept and extremely important when speaking and presenting. Simply put, congruence is when you are in agreement or in harmony; when what you say is aligned with everything that you do. Being congruent is an essential component of public speaking if you wish to be able to influence, persuade, educate and change people thinking. When public speaking, there are several aspects of congruency that we need to be aware of and if we are incongruent in one aspect, then people may not believe or accept our message.
Amy Cuddy talks about being calm and composed when walking on stage, even if you are nervous. She believes in faking your confidence and the Power Pose. So you adopt the stance, physiology and expression of someone who is calm. You breathe deep, you smile and you focus on being present and doing a good job for the audience. If you appear jittery, uncertain, panicky or uncomfortable, then you may lose trust from some of the audience. Nerves are OK, but pretend that you are confident.
Do you believe in your own story, do you buy your own message? If you are talking about a new policy or a change management process that you yourself don’t truly believe in, then your audience is unlikely to believe you and your message. As a speaker we always say that the “First sale must be to yourself”.
Non Verbal Alignment
Your gestures and body language are also speaking on your behalf. If the words you say, that perfectly scripted presentation, is not matched by your body language, then the body language will override what you say. The classic is when a speaker stands up with no emotion, no smile, no energy and declares that they are “really pleased to be here”. They are telling the truth, but the body language that suggests otherwise will lessen their spoken message and may even override it.
Your Actions Are Congruent
In other words, you walk the talk. Don’t be the sales person who powerfully and effectively sells an idea, a message, but does not follow their own rule. If you promise to follow up, then you must follow up. If you promise some free resources, then you must provide them. And if you are suggesting a new strategy or a new policy, you must embrace that policy yourself. Classic incongruent actions include the time management trainer who goes over time and the investment advisor who teaches never to loan money for a depreciating item, as they drive away in their brand-new Mercedes. Ensure your actions are congruent with what you teach.
Authenticity is when who you are on stage is who you are off stage. The person they see speaking is exactly the same person they see when chatting with you over morning tea, or lunch or walking back to the car. Some speakers do a performance on stage and prance around and change their voice and persona, yet when you meet them off stage they are a different person. Now I understand that we need to amplify ourselves on stage, but not in a fake way. We still need to be true to ourselves and authentic.
Congruency is so very important in public speaking. Audiences will pick the fake easily and will reject your message. So before you speak in front of an audience, before you go on stage, make sure you are congruent in all areas.
If you would like to learn more about congruence in public speaking and become more effective in your presentations, Peter has an upcoming workshop on Winning Presentation Skills.