Public Speaking – Do you need to TONE IT DOWN

This is an AI generated transcript so please forgive any errors and spelling mistakes.

A question for you: is it time for you to tone it down a bit for your audience? Interesting question, right? I’m going to explain a little bit more what I mean in just a moment.

First of all, my name is Shola Kaye. I’m a public speaking coach and also a professional speaker based in London. I have clients all around the world.

Now, just recently an agency contacted me, they’re based in Miami, and they asked me if I was available to do a professional speaking gig. I was available so I said yes, I was. And they took some content of mine and they put me forward for this opportunity. A couple of days went by and eventually the agency came back and said “sorry, you’ve not been shortlisted in this particular instance”.

Public Speaking – understanding the target audience will help you decide what strengths to highlight

I thought “okay, why is that? what’s wrong here? what do I need to change?”. And I have another video (it may not come out before this one but if it hasn’t done then look out for it, it’s called the food of champions which is feedback) and in the spirit of wanting as much feedback as I possibly could I emailed the agents and I said “can you tell me what it was about me that they didn’t want or why they rejected me and chose somebody else instead?”.

The agent very quickly came back to me and he had cut and pasted a section from an email that was sent from the client to him and the section said – we didn’t feel that Shola would be the right speaker for our audience because she comes across as being too – and the word they used was folksy. And the agent then said “what does folksy mean?”, I’m not sure what they mean by that.

Thinking about it after the little sting of rejection had subsided (and you’ve got to expect that little bit of aargh), but after that subsided and I was ready to ponder what was going on I think that folksy meant relatable. As in too down-to-earth, too friendly and possibly too accessible. In a way I once I pride myself on having a sort of very relatable personality but if I had to look at what my strengths are as a speaker, I would say that’s probably one of them.

I like to empower my audiences. I like to let people know that they can get up on stages and speak. They can develop the confidence to speak up in a big meeting that would otherwise be intimidating to them. For me it’s all about showing people what they can do. I tend to feel that if I’m very relatable and they see me doing it they then understand that it’s accessible to them also.

Public Speaking – know when to tone things down or dial things up

So that image, that personality persona, has worked for me very well in the past. However, this particular audience were audiences of CEOs and business leaders. In their case (or cases) I would imagine they don’t need somebody to make them feel empowered and to make them think “oh, I can do this” because they’re already running organizations, running companies. They already probably have quite a lot of confidence.

They are wanting somebody to come in with that same level of gravitas that they have. And in a very kind of straight and matter-of-fact and not necessarily empowering way share content with them. I think that’s where I lost out because in the materials that we put to the clients I was in my normal, very relatable, very relaxed friendly state, and it probably came across as not having enough gravitas for that audience.

I share this with you because I am all for being an authentic presenter and an authentic speaker. However, there are times where we have to tone things down a bit or maybe we have to dial things up. For example, if you were speaking to a group of children or to a group of maybe young people, if you come out with this I’m super serious and very full of gravitas mode of expression you may not grab them. Likewise if you come out like Tigger the tiger and like oh… and you’re speaking to a group of CEOs, that may not go down very well.

There’s a lesson for me in this which is if I had to do this again I would ask the agent very carefully who is the audience because I wasn’t fully aware of who the audience were. That is on me to ask. I would have asked the agent who are these people? OK “it’s a bunch of senior executives that have come together for a weekend summit”. Then at that point I think to myself “what are the best materials for me to put forward to that group?”.

Because I have a whole webpage on the work that I do with STEM, with tech with professional services, which presents my services in different way than they’re presented in, for example, my demo video or my speaking page. So, lessons for me here first of all, who is it that I’m presenting myself to? What is it that they’re looking for? Thirdly, have I got tailored materials that I can present depending on the different groups?

Public Speaking – get together the materials to impress and make yourself the ideal fit for the gig

So now what I’m going to do is go away and possibly create another, just a short demo real, with me in a more teaching mode than a speaking mode and with me demonstrating a lot more gravitas than I typically would do in a presentation. To show a potential client this is the range of what’s available from Shola. It doesn’t all have to be happy clappy. Likewise it doesn’t all have to be super serious and just teaching.

My takeaway for you from this is: think about the range of clients or the range of audiences that you would like to get in front of. Think about what they would expect from the ideal speaker or the ideal presenter. And then think about how you can get together the materials that you need so that depending on who you need to impress or to win over, you have the right package or the right content for them.

I urge you to go off and do that now. I’m going to go off and do my own and I wish you all the very best!

If you are interested in more information on how to have a little bit more gravitas, how to work on the voice, then there is a whole module on that in my speaker’s toolkit course. The speaker’s toolkit is a part of 6 Weeks to Speaking Success which you’ll find in the work with me section under the mentoring on my websites or you can just go to I’ll be revising that myself, especially the bits on gravitas as I go forward. I’m still smiling, rejections stings but sting doesn’t last forever.

That’s it from me. Have a wonderful day and I’ll speak to you soon.

Take care. Bye bye.


P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you improve your speaking or grow your business:

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