Being vulnerable is quite difficult for a lot of people. Showing vulnerability, in general, is hard when you add speaking in front of an audience (intimidating to begin with), adding yet another layer of vulnerability…it can seem even more challenging. However, it’s the right direction to move in if you want to create a deeper connection and authentically connect with your audience.
I believe it’s fair to say that the best presentations do one thing extremely well, and that is; create a truly personal connection. The singular thing we all share as human beings are feelings of fear or vulnerability. If you’re willing to open up about yours, it can help people feel a stronger connection with you.
From time to time when I work with my senior management clients, the conversation around vulnerability when speaking is a tough one. Clarity comes when they are able to clean up their misconceptions about vulnerability and acknowledge that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. In truth, the ability to be vulnerable is a sign of strength.
Here’s my own example: At some of my talks I share my story of getting pregnant in my last year of high school, persevering, getting out of my own way, graduating with top awards, getting my BASc and going on to co-lead the community development initiative for Canada’s 1st ever social housing redevelopment project.
I don’t bring it up to impress people by any means, but I mention it to show people that hey — I too just like them have experienced adversity, walked with my head high through the mud and come out on top.
I become relatable. They can identify with trudging through tough times, we have all been there (maybe not pregnant in high school…but you get what I mean). They have something that they too have gone through, that has scarred them, but they have still come out on top.
Hearing about my adversity, keeps my talks “real” and reminds people of the power they have and all of the things they themselves have overcome. That’s where the true connection comes from, we have a connection as real human beings.
I’m not saying every presentation needs a serious, deep issue in it. But don’t be afraid to discuss things that make you feel vulnerable if they’re relevant. It can be a powerful connection and engagement tool.
I have a senior executive client who often shares his ritual with his kids that they do every time he goes out of town for work. No, it doesn’t make him look soft, quite the contrary. It allows him to develop an instant connection with his audience as a human being. He takes off his official hat as a corporate leader and allows for his audience to see him as one of them, which he is. He instantly connects with the parents, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, essentially anyone who has a child in their life in any capacity.
It takes a powerful person to be vulnerable in front of an audience. Being vulnerable comes down to being OK with you, your perfections imperfections and all.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re ready to bring your speaking skills to a new level of great.
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Stay Amazing! — Karen Donaldson