It’s not just about authenticity any more.  As readers of this blog will know, I’ve been arguing ever since 2008 and the publication of my book on the subject, Trust Me:  Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, that authenticity is table stakes for professional speakers today.

But I think it’s more than authenticity that is required now.  Attending a conference today, and listening to the speakers, I realized that one of the effects of our 24/7, always-on, Twitter-mad world is that home life and work life have blended.  As a result, people (especially millennials) have a new view of the world of work.  On the one hand, most inhabit some sort of surreal no-escape cubicle nation space – but they long for the connection and humanity of the home space.  If work has infected the rest of your waking hours, then the casual, real, and connected feel of home life should infect the world of work too.

I see many workplaces trying to create a more home-like atmosphere.  There’s more color, more casual clothes, more air hockey – the superficials.  Of course, the emotions are much harder to get right.  But companies still try.  They attempt to add the “why” to the “how” of the workplace, training their employees in the worth of what they’re doing as well as in the details of how the work needs to get done.

Mostly, companies fail.  The slogans and the faux-warmth are poor substitutes for real feeling — and a smokescreen for working employees harder and harder for less reward.  But some get it better than others.  And speakers seeking to make a connection with audiences in this new world of home-like workplaces need to do the same.  They need to go beyond authenticity and create something even more difficult to get right:  intimacy.

Once we achieve connection, whether it’s at home, or at work, we want more of it.  It’s hard to take fakery when we’ve had the real thing.  To be successful, speakers are going to have to learn to create intimacy with their audiences – even if there are thousands in the hall.

Intimacy is the new table stakes for speakers.


  1. The old George Burns quote came to mind reading this post. It was something along the lines of “Success in Hollywood requires sincerity – if you can fake that you’ve got it made!” I love the distinction you make between sincerity and intimacy. It may likely be possible to have sincerity without intimacy, but I wonder… is it possible to have intimacy without sincerity? I don’t think so, which means we get a two-fer….

    1. Hi, Andy —

      Thanks for the comment. Interesting, and I don’t think anyone but a psychotic can pull off (real) intimacy without sincerity.

  2. Engaging the audience and being “real” is so important for speakers. Everyone is looking for what is in it for them, a quick fix to some problem, because with all this social networking and attachment to phones we lack time. SO audiences are listening and need a nugget of wisdom for themselves.

    Great to make the office homey or casual. But the leaders need to be sincere and create intimacy. They want things and they want the NOW, which take the intimacy out of it. I hope more employers “get it” along the way. If the personal text messages were not coming every few minutes, most employees could leave work with their work completed and enjoy their home. This constant chatter means many are not focusing. Employers lose production, so the intimacy gets tainted by what needs to be done to move business forward.

    1. Thanks for your comment and insights, Debbie. I agree completely; it’s very difficult to get leadership right in our always-on era.

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