We live in an era when the demand for authenticity trumps a number of qualities that our society (and others) used to deem more important. Authenticity has always loomed large, in other words, but its stock has risen and fallen depending on the times. Right now it beats out excellence, cool, and artifice; to jump to the top of the charts or the bestseller list, you have to be ready to open up.

But of course the most successful people in any walk of life have figured out the art behind the authenticity. So it may not be that we live in more authentic times, truly, but rather that we live near the end of a number of artistic trends that have exhausted themselves, leaving only authenticity as the last artifice. Authenticity seen in this way is more about shock value than real honesty.

The story of the white women pretending to be black is instructive here.

But it’s good to be authentic, right? A recent study suggests that if you’re not, you’ll suffer. If you violate your values, you’ll feel distressed and morally impure, according to a study published in Psychological Science. According to one of the authors of the study, Dr Maryam Kouchaki, “Our work shows that feeling inauthentic is not a fleeting or cursory phenomenon — it cuts to the very essence of what it means to be a moral person.”

And the study also finds that if we have been inauthentic, we need a cleanse. But not only that. We also suffer lower moral self-regard, less generosity, and less cooperation. Being inauthentic has consequences not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well.

So how do you combine the need for authenticity with a bit of artifice – the best of the times and the storytelling art?

That’s the subject of the online course we’re launching today, Presentation Prep: 10 Steps to Persuasive Storytelling. Authenticity and art, combined. We’ve been working on this course and its predecessor ideas for several years. It was only when we ran across Choose Growth, a specialist company in developing the technology and content for online courses – and possessed of the necessary infrastructure to get the course done – that we were able to get over the finish line in the past few months.

I have a good deal of sympathy now for those professors who have gone from teaching a couple of courses to a few hundred undergraduates per year to becoming the driving force behind one of those MOOCs, or online courses, that the academic world is experimenting with so vigorously.

We’re very hopeful that you’ll try the course, give us feedback on it, join up with other participants in a mutual support community to push us all forward, ask us questions and generally help us make it better.

The stakes are high enough: our goal is to improve the thousands of lousy business presentations given every day around the world, boring audiences, failing to motivate them, and missing out on the possibilities of the improvements that changing the world can bring through powerful storytelling, authenticity, and calls to action.

Authenticity without art is often boring, usually confusing, and frustratingly over-larded with detail. The point of the course is to learn how to take your authentic message and construct it in a way that grabs your audience, moves them to action, and changes the world.

Won’t you join us?

4 Comments

  1. Nick, your opening comment (“So it may not be that we live in more authentic times, truly, but rather that we live near the end of a number of artistic trends that have exhausted themselves, leaving only authenticity as the last artifice”) is so profound that it stopped me in my tracks. I spent a few minutes contemplating it, then had to restart your blog.

    In the interests of authenticity, this happened more than once.

    I like what I see in your new online course.

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