How Often Have You Hear Imitation is The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

No, it is NOT!

How often have you heard, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and believe it or questioned it?

Comedian Jack Benny’s classic pose

This is only the first part of a quote from Oscar Wilde.

It’s absolutely clear what Oscar Wilde meant (so many forget the second half of the quote) when he wrote “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

As a speaking coach and professional speaker and long-time member of the National Speakers Association, I strongly advise against the practice of imitation in your public speaking.

Please be inspired by great public speakers. Learn to analyze what they do well and adapt to your own style and message. While it may be tempting to try to replicate the message, style, or mannerisms of a successful speaker, doing so will definitely be detrimental to your own growth and development as a speaker.

First, imitation can be inauthentic.

When you try to copy the style of someone else, you risk coming across as insincere or even fake. Your audience will be able to sense that you are not being truly you. This can undermine their trust and confidence in you as a speaker. To truly connect with your audience, you need to be genuine and authentic in your content and delivery.

Second, imitation can stifle your creativity and originality.

When you focus too much on trying to be like someone else, you may overlook your own unique strengths and talents as a speaker.  As a speech coach, my job is to help you maximize your own style and message. When you tap into your own creativity and originality, you can develop a speaking style that is truly your own and that sets you apart from others.

Third, imitation can limit your potential for growth and improvement.

If you are constantly trying to copy someone else, you may not be open to new ideas or approaches that could help you become a better speaker. I tell my executive clients, “When you embrace your own style and message, you can experiment with new techniques and strategies to expand your impact.

Fourth, imitation may seem like a shortcut to success in public speaking.

I have met new speakers who learn somebody else’s speech. They repeat another speaker’s unique story as if it were their own. Hopefully, they learn early on this will hinder your growth and development as a speaker. To truly connect with your audience, develop your own authentic style and message. If you need help, you have a new best friend who is a great speech coach.

Patricia Fripp as Jack Benny. The pose, not his content.

If you want to be a brilliant, original-thinking speaker, let us have a conversation.

That said, this is me imitating the famous Jack Benny pose. Not his comedy routines.

“Thank you for making this the best presentation ever.  Also, for decades of teaching and coaching which has been incorporated into my leadership style and presence. You are a gift to the world and especially to the PayrollOrg and the thousands of lives you have touched.  We are blessed to have you in our lives and do not take your generosity for granted!” Linda Obertin, Senior Director, Human Resources, Global Payroll Lead, President 2023 PayrollOrg

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