Public Speaking — The Power of Authenticity

I’ll give you a link to a terrific video which is a study of the power of authenticity.  The link is provided at the end of the post, because I’d suggest that you read the entire post before watching the video.  The video segment is about 6 minutes in length.  This post is only 500 words and will take you only two minutes to read.

In this video clip you’ll see the late Mr Rogers (creator of children’s TV programming) speaking before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications and Chair, the late John Pastore (D-RI) in 1969.  At stake was a $20 million grant for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.  In the video, Mr Rogers was 40.  Senator Pastore was 61.  The clip shows the impact of authenticity.  While the effect of authenticity is not instantaneous, it is powerful.

In this post, I will not examine the content of the testimony; word choice, metaphors, comparisons, poetry and more.  I offer the segment solely as a study in style.  Observe how Mr Rogers sticks with his authentic style.  Study the change in body language of Senator Pastore.

Also note that I’m not suggesting that anyone’s specific style is universally appropriate for all people and all circumstances.  I would encourage you, however to study the style of someone whose style may not be a fit for you and ask yourself, “what is good about this style and what can I learn from it.”  And I would suggest that you develop your own authentic style which represents the real you.

Right from the beginning, Mr Rogers begins with his authentic Mr Rogers style.  And he maintains it.  Gentle and deliberate pacing.  Soft-spoken.  Non-threatening.  It’s clear during the testimony that Senator Pastore had not previously known much about Mr Rogers.  His opinions are totally being shaped by the content and style of Mr Rogers in a six minute testimony.

Mr Rogers testimony begins with the Chairman Pastore (a self-described tough guy) playing the role of Guardian of the Public Money.  The spotlight is given to Mr Rogers with “All right Rogers you’ve got the floor,” spoken by Senator Pastore in an impatient tone that almost said “OK let’s get this over with.”  That introduction by the Chair is accompanied by light snickers from some of those in attendance.

Mr Rogers does not match or mirror the tone of the Senator and within the first 20 seconds essentially says “I trust you.” Thirty seconds into his testimony, Mr Rogers is interrupted with an almost sarcastic “Will it make you feel better if you read it?”  More snickers.

Mr Rogers sticks with his steady, non-confrontational style, “I’d just like to talk about it, if it’s all right.”  He continues in an effective conversational style.

About a minute later, Senator Pastore’s attitude begins to shift as his body language says “OK, I’m listening.”

Less than four minutes after his gruffly spoken “feel better if you read it?” comment, Senator Pastore admits to having goose bumps.  And in less than six minutes he’s totally sold:  “I think it’s wonderful.  Looks like you just earned the 20 million dollars.”

This clip is a powerful example of the disarming power of authenticity.  Click here to watch.