In my years of studying communications and teaching public speaking, I’ve learned that the best speakers are typically those who speak from the heart. When you tap into something you are passionate about and communicate that passion in an authentic way, you have a real chance at leaving your audience forever changed. You can go from conveying content, to connecting emotionally and compelling action.
Audiences today value authenticity and are keen at sniffing out the fakes in seconds. Most of us would take an honest, authentic speaker over someone polished yet insincere.
With this in mind, let’s cover six tips on how you can speak from the heart:
1. What’s in your heart?
The first step in speaking from the heart is knowing what’s in it. What are you passionate about? Why do you care? Why should your audience care? And if you are assigned a subject matter that you don’t particularly care about, there are two options: 1) turn it down; or 2) find something in it that you can connect with.
2. Clarify your purpose.
What is it you want your audience to think? What perceptions do you want to change or reinforce? How do you want the audience to feel? What specific emotions do you want to elicit? And what do you want your audience to do? What actions do you want your audience to take – do you want them to change their mind about something, to vote for something, to stop doing something?
3. Be yourself.
Your audience came to see you. Not someone you are pretending to be. It sounds ironic, but delivery that’s too polished and perfect can actually backfire. Audiences love compelling, effective speakers, but people who are “in character” turn us off. So I coach leaders to be who you are. Your voice. Your style. And yes, even your speaking idiosyncrasies. Of course, if there’s something in your speaking that becomes a distraction for your audience (or a crutch for you), we’ll want to work on those. So I guess, what I’m saying is be your [best] self!
4. Tell your story.
Personal stories help your audience connect with you on an emotional level. We get to learn a bit about who you are. Magic happens when you’re able to connect a personal story to the topic at hand. That’s when we realize that this isn’t just “content” but something you are personally invested in. Go a step further and show photos or mementos to help bring your stories to life.
5. Listen while you speak.
People who speak from the heart are also listening with their heart. As they speak, they tune into what is happening in the moment, listen for cues from the audience, and react accordingly. Those who are “over-rehearsed” (and perhaps very nervous) freeze up and go through their content quickly to get it over with. Seasoned speakers are able to speak and listen at the same time, and in doing so, they demonstrate to the audience that they are in the moment, alert, awake, and in it wholeheartedly.
6. Be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable with your audience feels risky. Who wants to share weaknesses, struggles, mistakes, and bad decisions with a bunch of people? But when the moment comes, it also feels right. Be judicious and smart about it, but know that when you show vulnerability, your audience sees the real you and knows you have skin in the game.
When you speak from the heart, people listen. They see who you are, what you’re about, and why they should care as much as you do. As you prepare for your next speaking opportunity, do yourself and your audience a favor and step back and think about how you can tap into the core of why this topic really matters to you. Then let your heart speak.