Remember the presentation I had to get over with last week? Well the results are in and my professor thinks I need to work on being more professional. Obviously, I did not present in a clownsuit…but I intentionally tried very hard to not to be professional. Its just not me to read a script off a paper and project information at people in a stable and firm tone. I speak in fragmented sentences full of excitement; my pitch is comparable to those in Clueless; and my mannerisms….well….
But I like the way I am. I embrace my flaws and wear my vulnerabilities on my sleeve because they help me really connect with others. I find that when I sound more like a human and less like a robot, people listen more to what I have to say. I strategically choose to act like myself because it’s the only way I know how to excite others about what I am talking about. And it works most of the time. If you’ve ever attended a meeting I’ve chaired, or an event I hosted or a tutorial with me, you know I try my very best to present information in an accessible, human and friendly manner. It works with my classmates, my employers and even some of my quirky professors. But quite a few of my profs are just not feelin’ it. They tell me I have to lower my pitch to be taken more seriously because the way I talk makes makes me look less intelligent than I really am. I don’t care how smart I look. I’d rather be super smart on the inside and stupid on the outside than vice versa.
Don’t get me wrong, I love constructive feedback and have improved my public speaking skills. I’ve learned to control my nerves, maintain eye-contact, exude confidence in my body language and speak in a slower more stable manner. But I just don’t know how to look professional while staying true to myself. If I was to put a suit on and start speaking like I have authority I would come off even more like….
I am having a hard time figuring out how to be both professional and engaging while not coming off as pretentious and authoritative. One time in tutorial, I decided to be “more professional” and I swear my voice became Arnold Schwarzenegger. SO AWKWARD. But I know that the time to act like a grown-up is upon me and I need to tweak some aspects of my presence in order “to be taken more seriously.” I don’t want the way I speak to be a hindrance to my ambitions of practising law or becoming an academic (still indecisive).
I am going to start with body language and the way I construct my sentences. I know there’s a way to channel all my excitement and personality in a professional manner. I just haven’t found my rhythm yet. Maybe I should ask my Rotman friends for help in this department. So if you see me around this week in my Hillary Clinton power-dress and hear my voice awkwardly shifting tones, please refrain from giggling.