Speech of the Month, November 2021 - Adele
Authenticity is a killer weapon in Adele's dazzling performance arsenal. Here's what we can all learn from her...
Did you watch it? I’m referring to ‘An Audience with Adele’. What better way to pass a long, autumnal Sunday evening than being sang to by a woman whose talent and longevity (which is bizarre given that she’s still only 30) run deep? But, in a similar way to Sinatra, her audience isn’t just there to hear her sing; they want to hear her speak too. They expect to enjoy the talky bits between the numbers as much as the numbers. And if they weren’t there, if she bounced from hit to hit and cut the chat, they’d be disappointed.
Interestingly, like Sinatra, Adele’s spoken voice is as distinctive as her singing voice and, like Ol' Blue Eyes, she is completely authentic. She’s not trying to live up to a showbiz persona, rather she’s happy to share the life she’s living with her audience, warts an’ all. If you didn’t get to watch the show and you’ve a spare 90 minutes, then make yourself a brew and visit the ITV Hub.
Authenticity, when public speaking, is a quality that all leaders want to project. An authentic speaker always appears confident (well we don’t want leaders to look like a bag of nerves, do we?) and because of their charisma, they – and therefore their message – become memorable.
Now I appreciate that it’s easier for Adele to be authentic when she’s presenting her own product that just happens to be a proven commercial hit. But how can you be equally authentic when you’re trying to persuade a client to overhaul their health and safety procedures and your heart isn’t particularly in it? Well here’s what I think we can learn from Adele:
Give a warm welcome
Adele walked onto stage singing Hometown Glory, a fabulous love letter to London if ever there was one. When I heard it, I thought, ‘perfect choice.’ By singing it, what she was telling her audience was, ‘It’s lovely to be home and I’ve missed you.’
Authentic speakers give their audiences warm welcomes too. They’re comfortable in their own skin and this comes across from the get go. I always advise my clients to see themselves as a dinner party host when giving a presentation, not a teacher. Welcome the audience into what, for the next 20 minutes anyway, is your home. Make sure it’s ok and settled. Look like someone who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Tell stories, even personal ones
On stage, her 'Adelity' never shies away from telling a person story, and you should do similar when presenting. Nothing is worse than a presenter who force-feeds his audience data. Our minds store separate pieces of information as a list - and we quickly reach the limit of what we can store. It’s then that we turn off and start daydreaming about where we’d rather be - St Kitts, Rome, the M&S foodhall….
Authentic presenters speak from experience. Some speakers think they shouldn’t inject themselves and their own stories into their speeches, but they should. Agreed, a presentation isn't the place for an indulgent trip down memory lane, but well selected stories allow you to tell the audience why your information or arguments are important in your own mind; and that in turn will make you authentic. Plus, if your story moves your audience – and it’s a rare one that won’t – then you’re also building rapport.
Not constantly, though. You’ll look like you’ve got a self-worth problem and no audience wants to be lumbered with that.
But now and then a bit of self-deprecation can help you feel more human and perhaps, depending who you work for, less of a corporate robot. But also, the person who can laugh at themselves is usually perceived to be a confident person. And additionally, it makes you more relatable which boosts your ethos appeal.
After being asked the question, “If your exes were to write a song about you, what would it be called?” Adele charmingly and wittily came back with, “No-one like you” which not only made the audience laugh, but made it like her all the more.
“This was an excellent event, very well presented and professionally put together. It covered practical, actual and hypothetical situations including projection and voice control. Would definitely recommend this to other members.”