That's what a politico who had just lost an election asked me. Unfortunately, public speakers don't give that enough attention before they embark on a major initiative.
The answer is that there is no one way to be authentic. That essence gets communicated in almost an infinite number of ways.
A ruppled-looking Ralph Nader exuded authenticity as he turned the nation upside down pursuing consumer rights.
A cagey Hillary Clinton transmits an aura of authenticity because she's always made it clear that she is a brilliant politico. That means she will adopt the persona and stance which is the shrewd thing to do.
Betty White staged an amazing comeback being an old lady who wasn't defensive about aging.
So how can you find your path to authenticity as a public speaker? Here are six tips:
Figure out your best presentation style. That doesn't necessarily have to represent all of you or be the person you think you are or would like to be. It might take trial and error to find that out. Accept low-risk invitations and experiment.
Leave the past behind. That's usually framed as not carrying forward what's unnecessary. Ronald Reagan had been a mediocre actor. The only piece of that he allowed to be in his role as president was understanding the importance of the performance persona.
Stay in your part. People don't want to be confused. That's why brands like Coca-Cola keep their identity clear. Who you are off-stage is not of interest to your audience. If you commit the sin of presenting a self they're not familiar with, they will punish you. Yes, they will label you "inauthentic."
Let others in. The best speakers are the best listeners. That's Sales 101. The more access you give, especially by simply being open to hearing people express themselves, the more you will be perceived as "authentic."
Show gratitude. Really let the audience know that you appreciate their coming out to hear you. Give back to the community is ways in which you interact with the most people. A good example of that would be to participate in a fundraising bike ride for the shelter for homeless animals. Then if that resonates stick with that cause. A grateful heart is one which rings true.
Admit when you're wrong. Since all of us human beings are essentially screw-ups, it touches us when someone else publicly admits he or she is also in that category. After the mea culpa, let it go. Begin putting together fresh accomplishments.
Authenticity is what we create. It isn't innate. And it isn't you. Practice.