Getting Emotional While Presenting
Let me tell you a story,
A few mother’s days ago I had the opportunity to speak about the influence of Mothers to a church congregation. What an honor this was! There is nothing more important than family and no one I admire more than my wife - because of the Mother she is to our sons. Yet, when speaking to a diverse group the role of a Mother can look many different ways, some very good and some very bad. I was specifically asked to address the two extremes and everything in between.
I looked for weeks for stories I could use, but they were all exclusive in one way or another and none of them spoke of the core lessons of Motherhood. I wrote my own. It took me days and days to write the story and when Mother’s Day came, I would still tear up every time I read it aloud.
My time came to take the stage and as I read the story I had to stop twice to try and breath through the suffocation that comes from fighting back tears. (BTW - does that seem like an evolutionary issue to anyone else?) I was emotional, and I saw the emotion in the eyes of the audience. I can still see my wife’s face as I read it and I can still hear my aunt’s smile when my wife shared it with her. Few things are as special as that.
What would have happened if I would have let my fear of crying during a speech stop me from sharing that story? I would have missed out on so much for myself and the audience if I had not shared that story. I learned an incredible amount that day about myself and about the power of showing my emotions in a presentation.
On this site, we talk all the time about the transfer of emotions that needs to happen when presenting. This topic is different. The emotions I am talking about here is the tidal wave of your own emotions about a subject. Often, that tidal wave conflicts with the emotional journey you are trying to create for your audience.
In my Mother’s Day speech I wanted people to be proud of all Mothers and Motherhood. Yet, I was crying. How many times have you gotten angry at someone for not being motivated by their potential? There is a conflict in how you feel and how you want your audience to feel. That is the situation I want to address here because there are simple ways to both embrace your emotional tidal wave and keep your audience on the right emotional journey. It’s true, you can cry, and they can cheer. You can get angry, and they can get motivated. You can be speechless, and they will still hear the message. Follow these three tips to make it happen:
- Know your emotional capacity. It is OK to get emotional during a presentation, but if everytime you try to tell the story you fall into complete emotional disrepair, you should wait. Tearing up on stage is OK, ugly crying probably isn’t. Getting angry is OK, boiling over isn’t. Know your limits and if you cross the line in practice, give things more time to heel.
Tell your audience why you are emotional. In my story above I get emotional about Motherhood because of the greatness it represents, not because I had a sad experience. I needed to help my audience translate my tears to pride. In business we tend to squash emotion, so help your audience understand why something means so much to you. It might seem obvious to you, but chance are it is not apparent to everyone.
Share the message of your emotion. In my story I wanted everyone to see the beauty in biological Moms and always-there-for-you Moms. I wanted the Moms who have had a tough go at things to know they still bring great lessons to their biological sons and daughters as well as their informal sons and daughters. The message of my emotion was that Motherhood is everywhere and always needs to be celebrated. If you are angry with your team for not achieving their potential, be sure to tell them that you are angry not just at the performance, but because not exploiting their talents is average and you know none of them are average. Don’t make the mistake of letting anger equal poor quarterly performance - be sure they know you are angry at being average.
I have not met many people who are comfortable being vulnerable. Crying on stage is a pinnacle of vulnerability. Follow the tips above to ensure your audience knows how to translate your emotion into action.
Here is to great stories,