|Now is the time to show your personality|
One of the most constantly inspiring podcasts I listen to is Srini Rao’s Blogcast FM.
|Podcast host Srini Rao|
He always interviews the most fascinating people, and I almost always get some ideas and inspiration from each episode. Even when it seems like a subject I won’t be interested in I will sit through it because Srini has a knack for bringing out more universally applicable advice from even the most specialised and arcane subject. Such was the case when I listened to him talking to handicraft entrepreneur Megan Auman, where the designated subject was “pricing strategies for your business.”
Now, despite the dull promise of this title, it turned out that Megan Auman is a brilliant and inspiring woman, and this podcast was an absolute goldmine of really practical and useful information that almost anyone could apply.
I urge you to have a listen to it here.
One of the pieces of advice that Megan gave was to infuse everything you do with your own personality.
Now, this is something that most shy people find very difficult to do, and yet it is a valuable key to creating and performing in a successful manner. Ever sat through a dull and pointless business or academic presentation? The reason you didn’t respond is because the presenter has made no effort to personalise it or to charge it with the energy of their own personality. In every case, attempts to make things seem valueless, objective and universal results in them becoming dull, unconvincing and unmemorable. No-one ever means it when they say they want “just the facts, please.”
One of the great achievements of the post-modern movement was to acknowledge that in everything we do we are, in fact, imposing some kind of personal view. To my mind it is always best to be honest about it – it only becomes problematic if we try to pretend we are speaking for everyone, or presenting some kind of incontrovertible truth.
The ‘fractured age” that has emerged in the last thirty years, which some commentators bemoan, means simply that we are now comfortable with presenting things through our own filter. This is nowhere more obvious than in the world of spirituality and religion.
In many ways our personalities have been liberated, and we are free, perhaps for the first time in history, to write, practice religion, explore our sexuality and express our opinions in an entirely individual way, without having to apologise for it.
Here are some situations where I think infusing your personality makes all the difference:
1. Making presentations – Particularly business or academic presentations. When I was in the corporate world, soulless, corporate-sounding and utterly unmemorable presentations were the norm. At some point I just decided: “I’m not going to be like this. If I am going to use my time and take up these people’s time, I am going to make it fun.” And so I did, and in short order my presentations became popular and sought-after. They were camp, naughty, funny but ultimately inspiring, and I found I could get away with making plainer pitches and more direct appeals for sales because what I was doing was seen as fun, not work. I will admit it was sometimes borderline, and I am certain that somewhere along the way I offended or turned off someone. But these were always in the minority, and the extra sales and “buzz” more than balanced out the risk. I have followed the same path in my academic career.
2. Making public speeches – This is scary, but believe me when I say that by infusing your speech with a bit of enthusiasm and a lot of your personality, it’s going to be so much more entertaining for your audience and therefore less stressful for you. I think that, particularly in a business setting, people feel called to strip their presentation of any kind of personality. A fatal mistake. Play up your personal quirks and you will make your audience love you and listen to you.
3. Blogging – I always think it pays to go out on a limb a bit with your blog, and not to always follow the advice from the professionals. My blog is a hot mess of my own passions and interests, but it seems to be paying off. Sure, it could probably have gained a greater readership in a shorter period of time if it was more focused on a single subject, but it would have been nowhere near as much fun, and people wouldn’t have realised what a complex and contradictory character I am. I always think you’re doing something right when a friend says: “Wow, I wouldn’t have shared that on a blog.”
4. Business writing – Many business emails, letters and other communications are so poorly written and dull that they are left unread and ignored. You can still be chatty, friendly and warm while remaining totally professional. Indeed, a bit of humanity in your communications is more likely to win people over to your product or services. The age of corporate writing is over. Make it sound as though a real person wrote it.
5. Creative writing – I occasionally read something that is perfect in every way but is missing one essential ingredient – an engaging, personal voice. This is far more important in non-fiction, of course, as there are no characters to tell the story except for the author her/himself. Many books on fascinating subjects are spoiled because they are, quite simply, dull. I wish their authors could have been a bit more adventurous, a bit more gossipy and a little bit naughty.
6. Meeting new people – This is so important, and the single greatest source of both opportunity and information. Try being “on” when you meet people and being at your most fascinating. This does NOT mean that you should dominate proceedings – that’s bad. But let people know that you have a personality, that you are a bit quirky and interesting. Let them see the spark in your eye. Always be on the lookout for new friends and interesting acquaintances, but secretly make yourself the most interesting person in the room. People will soon realise it and start gravitating towards you. Wear your heart on your sleeve a little so that people know you are human. And don’t answer in monosyllables or wander off in the middle of someone’s sentence, for God’s sake.