When a speaker is telling a story to an audience, the story’s only boring when the speaker hides from the audience. When we’re allowed to see who the speaker really is, the story becomes fascinating.
The last statement might strike you as untrue. We tend to judge certain types of material as inherently boring, and other types of material as inherently fascinating. Have you ever seen a passionate, engaging presenter bring (what you assumed be) a boring topic to life, leaving you with an entirely new, exciting point of view about that subject? Have you ever seen a presenter take what you thought was going to be a fascinating presentation and drain every bit of life out of it?
It’s likely you’ve seen both, which pretty much kills the idea that dry, technical material makes for a boring presentation, or that fascinating material promises an engaging presentation. What makes a subject come to life is a presenter’s willingness to let the audience see who she really is, without hiding or holding back. This willingness unlocks the element most likely to connect you both to the material you’re presenting, and to the audience. It unlocks your passion.
If you think back to the presentation you expected to be boring, the one that turned out to be fascinating, I’ll bet it was largely because the speaker had a passionate connection to his material. If that talk is really lodged in your memory as something wonderful, you’ll be able to remember the level of passion of that speaker, and how he wasn’t going to stop until the audience felt that same level of passion. It’s passion that carries the day.
The only problem is: when we hold back our true selves in front of an audience, attempting to protect ourselves, we smother our own passion – and when we do that, we’re leaving the most valuable tool we have in the toolbox. You need that tool to connect to an audience and spread your passion to them. When you’re trying to protect yourself from rejection, from lack of approval, from fear of not being good enough, the channel for your passion to be communicated and transferred to the audience is shut tight. Passion can only express itself when you’re willing to open-up and let the audience see who you really are.
Here’s how it works: your willingness to just be who you really are when you’re speaking to an audience, without hiding, or holding back, lets the audience mentally put themselves in your place. At that point, the story you’re telling, or the point you’re trying to make becomes about us, the audience. The story may have happened to you, but now it feels like it’s about us. Your passion has engaged our imaginations, which makes us completely receptive to what you’re offering. If it doesn’t feel like it’s about us, we’re not really in your story. And if we can’t find ourselves in your story, you’ve essentially lost us, and lost the opportunity to influence us in a positive way. In other words, the audience feels the same, and has the same beliefs and perceptions at the end of your talk that they had when you began.
That’s not the only damage done. When you hold yourself back, in other words, when we can’t see ourselves in you, it can feel like you’re being rejected, or negatively judged. It may feel like that, but think about it this way: you don’t really reject someone if can’t tell who they are. You just sort of pass them over. Frankly, you and the effort you’ve put into your talk are worth more than that.
I invite you to give yourself what you’re worth. Let us see who you are. Share your passion with us. If you do, you’ll set us ablaze with that passion, and it will become our passion.