Can I tell you a quick story?
I was at a wedding on the weekend with my girlfriend. She was the MC. I was the +1. She knew everyone. I knew almost no one.
We’ve all been there. Awkward… right?
The night before, I started chatting with an older chap at dinner. And it turned out he was the father of the bride.
We began joking around. A couple minutes later, he asked what I do for work. I said I am a speaker and a storytelling coach.
He said, “Crap, you’re a speaker? That freaks me out!”
“Why?” I responded with a grin.
“Because my speech tomorrow sucks. And now I’ll have some speaker guy in the audience watching me!”
“Can I suggest something?” I said, leaning in. “The real thing you gotta ask yourself is this: Does what you’re saying feel right?”
He paused for a moment and replied, “I thought so initially. But as I prepared this week, it feels fake. It feels like I am saying what the father of the bride should say rather than what I would say.”
I looked at him and said, “Screw that. This is your moment too. Throw out what you have. Start over.”
And to my surprise, he did.
Instead of giving a conventional speech, he read three excerpts from his favourite poems. (It turns out he’s a notorious poetry lover). After each, he explained how that line moved him and captured the essence of his daughter’s wedding day.
There were very few dry eyes in the room. He spoke from the heart. He was true to himself and, in turn, to the audience. In short, he nailed it and made a way bigger impact than he would have otherwise.
Now, why do I tell you this story?
Because this is a struggle we all have. So often we feel like we need to play a role that is cast for us. We feel like others have a set of expectations of who we should be and what we should say.
When really all our audiences want is a dose of… us. They want to see our flares, flaws, beliefs and emotion.
A friend of mine said recently that, “We are drowning in content, but dying for connection.”
How can you possibly connect with your audience if you are giving them only what you think they want?
Screw what you think they want. Who are you? Give them that, warts and all. And you’ll win them all over time and again.
That’s the important stuff.