Dr. Brene Brown, a renowned social psychologist and author of Daring Greatly, a New York Times #1 best seller, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She elaborates by noting that “vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.” We know that when it comes to presentations, emotions and feelings are a driving force of information retention and engagement. According to Dr. Brown’s findings coupled with our knowledge of presenting, if you can open yourself up to being vulnerable on stage, your audience will connect with you emotionally and be that much more willing to buy into your message.
We live in a culture that tends to be terrified of vulnerability. Technology has allowed our culture to photoshop the highlight reel of our lives into the spotlight rather than risk showing the real versions. Which is why as a presenter, you have the opportunity to tap into this desire for authenticity and vulnerability and leverage it to draw your audience in and show them your humanity.
The team at Ethos3 has put together 3 tips to embrace vulnerability so you can add this secret weapon to your presentation toolbelt.
As a presenter, you take time to practice your presentation, delivering your speech 10, 20, sometimes even 30 times before you ever step on a stage or in front of a boardroom. But when it comes to vulnerability, we usually expect to write it in and have it come out on stage. But if we want our real selves to come out in front of our audiences, we must be willing to let our real selves come out in front of friends, family, and coworkers. You must be willing to take off the mask in front of those you trust if you ever hope to in front of those you don’t know.
Prepare to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is not natural for most of us. That’s why often times when we are standing in front of an audience, we will default away from vulnerability. But that doesn’t have to be the case if we take the time to prepare ahead of time to be vulnerable. This could be something as simple as making a note in your outline of times when vulnerability needs to break through or as in depth as writing out a vulnerable story word for word prior to delivering your presentation. Regardless of the way you prepare, be sure to do it so that it’s no longer intimidating or uncomfortable once you’re on stage.
In the words of one of the greatest sports brands of all time, vulnerability: “Just do it.” It’s not always fun, and more often than not, it’s uncomfortable. But you must be willing to step into the uncomfortable to unlock the hearts and minds of your audience. As presenters, we must become masters of vulnerability. We must do the hard work of wrestling down our reality and facing some of our struggles so that we can then expose them to our audience. When we become masters of vulnerability, we bridge the gap between the head and the heart, helping our audience not just understand, but experience the presentation and emotion with us.
Vulnerability is tough. For most people, it’s the hardest part of presenting, because you’re taking on “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” But it is also a beautiful and powerful experience. Whether you are presenting a venture capital pitch or a keynote speech, vulnerability will not fall flat. Instead it will elevate you to a place of authority and connection, leaving your audience ready to join your mission.
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