Emotion: the salt of your talk


Why is it that some speakers come across as authentic, whereas others, even though they are doing everything right - and sometimes actually better - simply don't touch us in the same way? The answer is right there in the question : they touch us, they move us.

Your true job as a speaker is to make your audience feel what you feel about your subject. To achieve this, speak directly to their hearts. NOT to their heads - which alas is what most speakers do in the hope of getting their audience to think as they think, especially if the talk is professional. It's understandable as one of the most important things in a professional setting is to be perceived as credible. Also, many are afraid that if they show emotion, they won't be taken seriously, so they end up giving flawless, serious, but dry and boring, presentations (and sometimes seriously boring ones) that only address the intellect. Please, credible doesn't mean stiff and dry, and it doesn't mean you come from planet Vulcan - even Dr Spock slips up sometimes and shows human emotion !

In fact - and this may seem counter intuitive - if you want to make your audience think what you think, first make them feel what you feel.

Emotion is the salt of your talk, and as with salt, too little makes your talk bland, too much makes it unpalatable.

So, don't be heavy handed! Unfortunately, this is what I am seeing happen more and more, as if overdoing an emotion should make it more moving: no it doesn't, it makes it embarrassing...I'm recalling here a speaker I saw recently who was sharing his life story, and how he went from being homeless to being a success. Great story, likeable guy, but the overacting of emotions was excruciating. What a shame! He was so intent on making a moving speech that he focused all his attention on the task, switching into performance mode - totally losing us on the way...

Tips to salt up your talk with just the right dose of emotion:

The main difference lies in your intention: intend to share with your audience, to have a common experience with them. This intention to share will be your guiding principle when you prepare your talk, as well as when you give it.

When preparing, ask yourself: what are my emotions on this, how do I feel about that? How can I convey authentically, sincerely, what I feel? To help you with this, think of how you would share these emotions with a friend.

When giving the talk: live it, feel it, share it, and BE totally present with your audience. As if you were having an captivating conversation with a friend.

The right dose is the one that fits your personality. If you are naturally expressive and demonstrative, change nothing (but don't be tempted to overdo it!). If you are naturally reserved, don't try to act as if you were an extrovert, simply be genuine in the expression of your emotions - Nelson Mandela was a great example of being naturally reserved yet deeply moving.

And last, forget about performing: your best performance is when you are truly connected to your audience and make them feel that they would looooove to have you as a friend.

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