Communicating with Authenticity

Barbara De Angelis, author of 14 bestselling books and a popular American television personal-ity, has earned Toastmasters International’s most prestigious honor, the Golden Gavel Award, in recognition of her influence as a teacher in the field of personal transformation. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear her speak at this year’s International Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 16!

Dr. De Angelis recently took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions about communication.

The Toastmaster: As an expert in human relations, what aspect of communication have you found to be most challenging for people?
Dr. De Angelis: “The main reason many people have a difficult time communicating with others is that they are not communicating with themselves! They are disconnected from their own truths, emotions, needs and dreams, and spend a lot of their energy attempting to not feel, not see, not know. No wonder we don’t express ourselves clearly to other people.

We worry more about what we think we should say or [how we should] look rather than being authentic.... Communicating with authenticity means that how you present yourself to others is who you really are.

What is your advice to anyone wanting to become a better communicator?
Be authentic and focus on connecting with the audience. I often work with speakers who can’t understand why they aren’t more successful, or why they become so anxious in front of others. Often, they make the mistake of trying to imitate other speakers who they believe are more powerful or more skilled, or they mechanically follow learned formulas for successful public speaking. However, by doing this, they are unintentionally disconnecting from one of their greatest assets – and one of the secret ingredients for being successful: their authenticity.

The irony is that none of these behaviors actually work. People can sense when we are trying too hard, or faking confidence, or projecting an image that doesn’t feel natural. When people see us appearing inauthentic, it makes them uneasy. And we actually appear awkward or nervous.

As a speaker and media personality, you are used to facing large audiences. Do you still get nervous?
I actually experience the opposite of nervousness – a tremendous surge of blissful energy! Even in the days leading up to a presentation, I can feel this energy building, and by the time I get on-stage, I am just buzzing with an excitement that others can apparently feel. I believe speakers often mistake that energy for anxiety, and they resist it rather than opening even more fully to it.

How do you prepare for a presentation?
For weeks before a presentation, I consciously tune in to the audience to which I will be speaking. I think about them, imagine them, feel them. In a sense, I begin a relationship with them. By the time I arrive at the event, I feel I am greeting old friends. I approach them with a caring and familiarity that they aren’t used to experiencing from speakers – an intimacy – and a true belief that our meeting is meant to be.

In the hours before my presentation, I briefly look over my notes, but this is really just an exer-cise. The real preparation is happening on the inside, as I open up to the powerful surges of energy that begin to build inside me.

What do you consider your greatest strength as a speaker and communicator?
I believe that when I speak, the message doesn’t come from me, but through me. This may sound esoteric, but it is my direct experience. There is a powerful energy that comes through me and out to the audience. It is an energy of love, of inspiration, of healing. Whatever words I may use are secondary. It is this energy that is the true message and what ultimately impacts the audience the most. I am not in the business of dispensing information; I am in the transformation business.

How do you define success?
To me success is fulfilling my purpose here on earth, and doing what I came here to do. That has nothing to do with money, fame or outer achievement. It has to do with becoming the best human being possible, and sharing as much light and love as I can every single day.

If we think the purpose of life is to do or get or accomplish, we will always feel like a failure when things don’t turn out as planned. If we look at life as a classroom in which success means growing into the best human being possible, we can begin evaluating ourselves and our experiences from a totally different point of view.

If you could improve one aspect of your speaking style, what would that be?
On a practical level, I would have a photographic memory so that I never had to refer to my notes or books for anything! It actually doesn’t bother me to use notes, but it would be great to be able to remember every quote I want to use.

Is there a speech you’ve delivered that you are especially proud of? Why?
Anyone who has ever heard me speak knows that I’m not a traditional or conventional speaker by any means. So much of what I do is about connecting with the audience, tuning into their needs and being with them in the moment. For this reason, I don’t give “speeches.” In fact, I never make the same presentation twice. I also don’t “write” speeches. If you looked at my notes, you would see a few words or phrases, but never full sentences. I do have certain things I plan to say, anchor points so to speak – concepts, quotes, stories. I use these as starting points or springboards, and then I take off from there. As for my best presentation? Hopefully it is always my most recent one.

Have you ever “bombed” in front of an audience? Want to tell us about it?
No, I actually have never bombed. That would be impossible for me, since I believe my job is to offer love, inspiration and motivation to my audiences. I can do that no matter what their reaction might be. I’ve also been blessed to always be received with great enthusiasm. However, I have spoken to people who were “bombed” from too much celebrating. If I could reach them, I suppose I can reach anyone!