I’m Doing Everything Right, So Why Don’t I Stand Out?! Three Tips for Rule-Followers

Last post we talked about rebel speakers and ways for them to meet audience expectations without sacrificing identity. Today we’re talking about rule-followers.

Meet my rule-follower. (You’re going to love her. Everyone does!)

She is smart, stylish, sassy, and stunning.  She follows instructions to the letter and does everything that’s asked of her. Not surprisingly, she’s a straight-A+ student and a super competent team leader.

She’s also a perfectionist. She labors over draft after draft, practices endlessly, and listens intently to constructive criticism in pursuit of delivering the “perfect” speech.

She does everything “right.” And she is very successful.

Doing everything “right” has propelled her into the upper echelons of high school speakers. She is recognized as one of the best speakers at her school and she routinely wins trophies at speech competitions.

So what’s the problem?

Rule-Followers Fit In

Rule-followers and people-pleasers have no problem fitting in. They pay careful attention to the expectations of others and diligently strive to meet them.

Their hard work and conformity is often acknowledged and rewarded more than the individuality of rebels.

But, in complying with formalities and meeting expectations rule-followers tend to lose the spark that sets them apart.

Rule-followers create generically impressive, professional, competent, bland presentations.

They look and act just like every other rule-follower: perfectly polished, perfectly prepared, perfectly perfect.

Problem is: perfect is BORING. Perfect isn’t memorable. And perfect isn’t personal.

My rule-follower wants to be recognized as more than just an accomplished speaker. She wants to be recognized for being herself.

How does a rule-follower soar above the crowd?

Rule-Follower Tips for Standing Out

1.  Break Some Rules.

I know it’s scary for rule-followers to contemplate deliberately breaking rules. And I’m not suggesting that you toss the whole rule book away.

To stand out, people-pleasers need to ignore just a few not-so-important formalities … especially ones that force you to check your personality at the door.

Wear tennis shoes with a business suit, ditch the slides, or turn the expected format upside down. Strategically break rules and take risks that let your personality shine.

2.  Find Your “Thing”.

Are you the one that always makes corny jokes? Do you quote The Holy Grail incessantly? Can you relate everything to sports or Star Wars or Russian literature? Do you like to dance, or do martial arts, or paint?

Your hobbies, your passions, and, yes, your secret obsessions make you interesting.

Start your presentation with a quick tap dance routine. Use your own artwork in place of standard transition slides. Replace safe and stale examples with fitting illustrations from your favorite activities, books, experiences, and movies.

If it makes you excited and energized, use it!

3.  Embrace Imperfections.

Rule-following and perfectionism go hand in hand. But trying to be perfect at everything, all the time, is exhausting. It keeps you focused on yourself instead of on others, preventing you from really connecting.

More importantly, perfection is off-putting. It makes others feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, and unable to measure up.

Imperfection is humanizing and endearing. Letting your hair down a bit and laughing off little mistakes or slip-ups creates a connection with your audience. It makes you relatable, and relatability distinguishes you from a sea of unnatural perfection.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article about Kate Middleton’s perfectly imperfect smile to see what I mean.

Break the Mold

Rule-followers excel at working hard and fitting in. Their communication challenge is finding ways to be authentic and stand out.

Strategically breaking rules, showcasing passions, and embracing imperfections allows rule-followers to meet audience expectations while incorporating some of their own personality.

My rule-follower broke with the familiar structure, used illustrations from her favorite televisions shows, and let some of her endearing neuroses hang out. Now, that her uniqueness is more visible, audiences fall in love with her just like everyone else she meets!

Learn more about how public speaking and presentation coaching can help you stand out in interviews, on the job, and while giving speeches!

What do you think of these suggestions? Do you have any of your own? Sound off in the comments below.

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