A recent speech by Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson was lauded for its authenticity and effectiveness. During the speech, which lasted less than six minutes, Sorenson detailed the impact that the pandemic has had on Marriott’s staff and business. This brief presentation earned praise and admiration for Sorenson not only as a leader and presenter. Why? Because he showed his human side. He demonstrated empathy and sincerity.
As a public speaking coach, I have asked people to tell very personal stories, forcing them to dig into their hearts and memories to share intimate pieces of their lives. And when they do, they absolutely shine. They succeed because what they’re saying is deeply important to them, and these speakers have the credibility of a lived experience.
Often, speakers worry that they’ll become emotional while presenting, as Sorenson does. To some, they feel they have failed as a presenter. They believe everything has to be perfect and that becoming too visibly emotional will make them vulnerable. I remind them that it’s okay.
Some topics are just harder to talk about than others. If you’re sharing an emotional story or presenting about a topic that makes you sad, wistful, angry, regretful, or any other emotion we don’t often share with a room full of strangers, remember this: Emotion connects us in powerful ways. Your audience will relate to you on a new, deeper level, and the people who hear your story will remember it.
These tips may help the next time you tackle an emotional topic:
- Take a moment if you become too emotional while speaking. Breathe. Then keep going. Don’t let emotion cut your speech short.
- Realize we all feel these emotions; it’s not just you. Your audience relates to what you’re saying.
- Practice several times to prepare for the more emotional moments in your presentation, and work on delivering those messages powerfully and at a reasonable pace.
- Bring tissues. You may not need them, but it’s good to be prepared.
You got this.