5 Times When ‘Faking It’ is Better Than Authenticity


There have been times when I have put on an act for my clients and audiences. And, contrary to the conventional NSA wisdom about always being authentic, I contend that faking it in those moments was the absolute best thing I could do to serve my clients.

Here are five times when I’ve faked it in front of a client:

  1. I have been scared about my business. You’ve been there, right? You can’t remember the last time you had a prospect or lead. You show up for your one date this quarter. The worst thing we could do for that client or our long-term prospects for getting additional clients is admit how scared we feel.
  2. I disliked the audience and the audience disliked me. The client booked me for a 45-minute talk after a short dinner with a 15-minute open bar. I took the platform 60 minutes late after a 90-minute open bar in a room with terrible lighting, sight lines and sound. My introducer said, “They booked a speaker tonight, so here is Randy Pennington.” The feeling wasn’t personal, but it was mutual. And, I faked it. The audience finally liked me when I asked after 15 minutes, “I think I’m about done. What about you?”
  3. I was so tired that I couldn’t think straight. Imagine doing 29 two-hour presentations for a single client over 10 days. That’s stupid, right? But, we’ve all done stupid before. My client actually appreciated the fact that I faked my energy when I could have been authentically tired.
  4. I wanted to be anywhere but on the stage. The world doesn’t stop with the death, illness, or significant event of a loved one. And, there are times when canceling or finding a replacement isn’t an option. We do what we are hired to do, and recognize that it isn’t always appropriate to share our authentic pain with the audience.
  5. The show had to go on. We have all told an audience that we will never forget them. When it comes to my audience on May 3, 2011, that is absolutely true. While walking into a manufacturing plant for a presentation, I tripped over a crack in a sidewalk and did a face plant. Forty-five minutes later (and 10 minutes late from the official start time), I took the stage with a huge knot on my forehead. I probably could have canceled, but there were over 100 people in the room waiting for me, and the client had gone to considerable expense capture the engagement on video. Authentic would have been okay, but faking it was better.

There are things that you never fake—like your integrity and belief in your message. But, there are times when you are paid to be something different than your completely authentic, in-the-moment self. The mark of a true professional is having the audience think that your world is fine even when it isn’t.

Randy Pennington

Randy Pennington

Randy Pennington, CSP, CPAE, is an award-winning author, speaker and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change.
Randy Pennington
Randy Pennington
Randy Pennington