Authenticity and Risk

Authenticity creates risk.  And with it comes magical moments.

I’ll share a video segment from a Michael Buble concert where we witness one of those magical moments.  Michael Buble, in the middle of a concert chose to lower the shields, be authentic, and let the magic happen.

As speakers and performers, we have shields which keep us from touching our audience.  We have control of the stage.  We have the authority of the microphone.  Our position as speaker and performer defines our role in the power structure.  We need to choose to lower some of the barriers which block us from making an authentic connection. 

We’ve seen it before.  The Pope goes into the crowd and takes a child in his arms.  He’s taking a risk.  He’s connecting with the faithful.  The Obamas get out of the limo on inauguration day and walk the parade route.  They are taking a risk and they are connecting with the parade watchers.

The first thing we see in the video clip is that a woman in the audience starts talking to Michael Buble.  She wants to talk about her son.  His first reaction is to be annoyed.  He uses blunt words and tone of voice.  While that is an authentic reaction, it’s not what we normally think of when we hear the phrase “be authentic and connect with your audience.”   Just as arrogance blocks connection so does annoyance.  We have barriers and shields which are designed to protect us but they also can block us from being authentic. 

Michael Buble drops his first shield when he makes the decision to engage the woman in conversation.  The second shield goes down when he moves from standing on the stage to sitting on the edge of the stage.  This allows him a more positive, authentic communication position with the woman.  Standing on a podium or behind a lectern puts a barrier between you and the audience.  The third shield goes down when he lowers his tone of voice to a conversational register and he starts using softer words.  The fourth shield is lowered when he chooses to listen and let the woman talk.  The fifth shield goes down when he invites the 15-year-old boy (Sam) to join him at the front of the stage, letting him inside the security ring.  The young man joins him, sitting on the edge of the stage.   The sixth shield, he invites him to sing.  Michael Buble cues the music, and the seventh shield drops as he makes physical contact by giving the boy a one-armed hug, encouraging the boy to relax.  Michael begins singing and then places the microphone in front of the boy.  After only four words of the song, everyone knows that the boy CAN SING.  Michael and the crowd are electrified…a magical moment happens. 

The eighth shield drops, the boy is invited on stage.  The ninth shield falls when Michael lets go and shows his excitement by trying to pick Sam up, discovering that the boy is too heavy.  Michael starts singing again.  The tenth shield drops when Michael hands the microphone to the boy, giving him control of the song.  Note that Sam did not reach to take the microphone, Michael picked up Sam’s right hand and put it on the microphone.  Michael then backs away giving Sam the spotlight.  When Michael sends Sam back into the audience, he drops his eleventh shield by praising the boy, even using a little self-deprecation humor. 

This sequence shows us how a performer or speaker can move from annoyance to positive authenticity by permitting the magic to happen.  He had to take the risk of lowering the shields which were preventing his authentic self coming from coming out and making a positive connection with the audience.  Sometimes the shields are lowered a little at a time.  The boy wasn’t immediately invited onto the stage and handed the microphone.  Lowering the shields were done in a stepping stone manner.  And that allowed the authenticity to come out and for the magic to happen.

Sometimes we have a moment which presents itself in the middle of a program: A chance to be sincere, honest, genuine.  The risk may keep us from being authentic.  What if they don’t like me?  What if it happens to be bad judgment on my part to say or do something? What if I try to be funny and they don’t laugh?  What if I take a risk and lose control?

The next time a magical moment knocks, take a chance and answer the door.  It may involve some risks, but the reward of authentic connection and a magical moment are worth it.  Here is the link to the Michael Buble video clip.

Here is another video clip on Authenticity.  It received the biggest response of all my posts in the past seven years.  It features Mr Rogers testifying before a Senate Sub-Committee.  It’s worth watching.