The great Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” Emotion is one of the greatest tools a public speaker can use to captivate his or her audience. In fact, it could be argued that without emotion, your message will likely fail.
It makes sense, we’re emotional beings. We make decisions based on emotion – yes, we want facts, but ultimately, our thoughts and choices are driven by emotion. Perhaps then, the next time you’re up on a podium, consider the spirit of Angelou’s statement; remember that people won’t be able to recall the precise words you deliver or the exact way you present your ideas, but they will reflect on the way you make them feel.
How do you do this in a professional setting? To make an audience feel your emotions, give them some part of yourself that is authentic and real. Peel away your mask, especially if you want to make your mark in the corporate world where everyone is expected to wear a facade of some kind. And then show them who is behind the veil. Offer your audience authentic emotion and vulnerability.
A Knight in Shining Amour
I often encourage my clients to think like a medieval knight. During the Middle Ages, when knights jousted, they wore helmets covering their faces. Before they jousted, dueling knights would lift their visors and expose their faces to the crowds. This move gave birth to our modern-day salute, in which we raise our hands above our eyebrows. But what it really did was show onlookers who the man behind the mask really was.
The most successful communicators in the corporate world are those who can remove their masks. They show who they really are and relate to their audience by revealing their humanity. One way of doing this is to share your failures. Revealing vulnerabilities is an effective way to strip away your mask and help people understand that you’re just like them. You’ve had challenges. You’ve tried things. You’ve failed.
In other words, it’s not always a straight line to the top. On a climb in the Andes, my team and I were on our ninth day of climbing. Less than four hours from the summit, I fell through a crevasse. While everyone on the team was safe, this eliminated our opportunity to reach the summit and caused us to adjust our methods to continue climbing safely. Not unlike careers, we sometimes fail to reach the goal despite our best efforts. We are vulnerable to events we can’t always control. Also, it’s the great leaders of the world that can show some vulnerability and say, “It hasn’t always been easy.”
Don’t be afraid to remove your corporate mask. If you can help an audience member see you as just another regular Joe or Jane who faced challenges, overcame them, and found success, you increase the chances to make a personal and lasting connection.
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