Hey speakers and presenters! I've noticed that there is a growing discussion around the difference between authenticity and vulnerability and why to use them when we are presenting.
First, let me start by saying that I encourage speakers to share their own life stories because it elicits a deeper connection with your audience members and it makes you more memorable.
When you are sharing your personal stories, there is a difference between being authentic and being vulnerable. Being authentic is about connecting with your audience by being honest about who you are. Being vulnerable requires authenticity but it's a deeper experience that exposes you emotionally. Many people confuse the two, and so while one might be being authentic they aren't necessarily being vulnerable. Therefore, they are missing a chance to connect with their audience on a deeper level.
Example of authenticity: I came out of the closet over 16 years ago in Mississippi. My coming out experience was tough, but it made me the person I am today.
Example of vulnerability: When I came out of the closet over 16 years ago in Mississippi, my spiritual community rejected me. It made me feel worthless and I suddenly felt like I didn't matter.
As scary as it is to be vulnerable when you are standing on stage, the outcome can be very rewarding. As the speaker you have a chance to tell a story in a way that leads to healing and greater happiness for you. As an audience member, when we get to hear about the internal struggles and the transformation of a speaker, then we feel connected, less alone, and inspired to look at ourselves and life in a new way.
The trick to not being overly vulnerable can hang in the balance. I often tell the speakers I work with that stating a single feeling (from one experience) can be enough to gain a deeper connection with yourself and the audience. Including moments of transformation where your internal self shifts and you start to see things differently because of the emotional journey you have been on can also be a very powerful way to reach your audience.
If you are worried about oversharing or not sharing enough - there are a lot of speaker coaches out there that can help you find a balance and still be powerful. Remember, you get to choose what details you want to share.
After years and years of sharing my stories on stages and in my books - I can tell you first hand that I am where I am today because of vulnerability. Allowing myself to be seen has always been scary, but worth it.