Some time ago I was enjoying the music of a Singer-songwriter, between songs she spoke so openly to the audience. Her openness seemed to endear her to the audience, it seems that singer-songwriters naturally display openness with their audience.
Although as public speakers we are often not open and thus lose the opportunity to truly engage with our audiences.
It begs the question, How open should be with our audiences?
It’s all about the Audience
Firstly and most importantly it’s all about your audience, it’s not about you.
When deciding whether or not to include personal stories to your talk.
Ask yourself will this story make the talk more engaging or entertaining for the audience?
Does it make the message more impactful?
If you share too many personal stories, the audience can feel its all about you.
Audiences love stories, as public speakers, it’s important that we tell stories and not just deliver talks. Whether you are inspiring your audience to change the world or presenting a technical presentation, stories keep audiences engaged.
Ensure your stories have characters, dialogue, and emotion.
If the purpose of your speech is to inspire your audience to change, share your journey of change and who helped you along the way.
If you want to share a lesson learned, perhaps share the moment your child helped you learn that lesson.
Personally, I like this format.
- I had/have a problem.
- Does this problem currently affect you?.
- I have a solution that may help you.
How much vulnerability should I display?
At a recent public speaking event, a member of the audience asked: “as a speaker how much vulnerability should I display”. The speaker on the night Walt Hampton essentially said be open with your audience but if it borders into therapy, you may be displaying too much vulnerability.
This is good advice for the majority of talks you will deliver as a speaker at social events or work-related events.
As a speaker, you need to choose the level of openness for the context of your talk and the audience.
If you share stories of a sensitive and personal nature, the audience may feel uncomfortable. It can lead to reduced energy in the room and you may find it difficult to regain that energy.
There will be times when you may want to share personal experiences of a sensitive nature that you may find upsetting, make the choice that’s right for you. If you having doubts ask the advice of someone you trust such as a family member or friend.
It’s important that when we are being open that out body language supports our message. For instance, if your arms are crossed and you don’t make eye contact with the audience, your intended message may never land with your audience.
In summary, the next time you ask yourself as a speaker how open do I need to be, remember the following.
- Would the audience enjoy this personal story?
- Is this an engaging and entertaining personal story?
- How much vulnerability am I displaying and am I comfortable with this?
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my current or previous employers.