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I still get really nervous before I go on stage. Even if my preparation is on par, the nerves only start to shake out once I start talking to an audience. Until then, I am terrified that I am not prepared enough. I get scared that I will forget something, or go blank, or mess the words up on the one line I want to get perfectly.

I specialize in working with people who want to share personal stories when they are giving a speech or presentation (TEDx, professional presentation, etc.) I help speakers get comfortable with being vulnerable in front of an audience. Being vulnerable on stage makes presenting even more nerve-racking because of the fear of not being accepted.

What I have learned over the years is that proper preparation is the key to having a successful speech that flows - the goal is to be so prepared that you are able to let go while presenting and ad lib as you read the audience's energy. Speakers need to be able to go with flow. Knowing the components of a speech like the back of your hand is the biggest gift you can give yourself.

I didn't say you wouldn't still be nervous - but the nerves will wash away once you start talking because that is what preparation gives you.

Here are a few tips to consider when using a personal story in a presentation or speaking engagement in order to make a greater impact on your audience:

1. Choose a story that is meaningful for you - a story that will personally shift something for you if you share it.

2. Write your story into your speech and start your preparation of practicing your story two weeks before your event (sooner if you'd like!)

3. Break parts of your story down into one to two words and write them on sticky notes. You can do as many as you want. Paste those sticky notes on the walls around the room you are practicing. As you practice, move from one sticky note to the next (while standing) and practice your story that way. This helps you learn how to visualize your story instead of memorizing it.

4. Practice your story (at least once) with a group of peers whose feedback you trust.

5. Crush it!

If you are using a PowerPoint to assist in telling your story it is best to use images only. I find that images are great "cues" for the next part of the story that is being told. Images can often set a visual and deeper emotional tone that an audience often needs to connect to you even further. Also, people can't read words on a screen and listen to you at the same time - at least, not well.

Don't be afraid to share a part of yourself in your next speech or presentation - we all crave connection and connect through emotion. You will be changed and so will your audience.

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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.

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A few weeks ago, I was hired to do a storytelling workshop for an organization based in Brooklyn. We spent almost two hours going over these topics:

  • Why your stories matter and why they are worth sharing

  • The power of storytelling

  • What authentic storytelling is and why it's important

  • The authentic storytelling formula

  • How to collect stories

Throughout the workshop people shared their own stories of struggle and transformation, lessons learned, and what they want for their lives going forward. Storytelling isn't just about telling your stories, it's more about allowing yourself to move from where you are to where you want to go.

I have a group coming up that anyone can join that mirrors the workshop I just talked about but gives you an opportunity to learn it in much more depth. My group meets twice a month as part of the Speakership Collective, a program for speakers that gives you the following for just $75/month:

  • Weekly Live coaching meetings facilitated by TED X Boulder speaker coach Margaret Watts Romney

  • 2x monthly meetings with authentic memoir story expert Meagan O’Nan

  • 2x monthly meetings with camera, voice inflection, and body language expert Megan Heffernan

  • Complete library of virtual courses

This group and the other offerings are for:

  • Speakers who want to step up their speaking game through support, live feedback, and great content

  • Business owners who want to grow their business by honing in on their speaking and communication skills

I have been a part of the Speakership Collective for most of this year, and the groups have pushed me forward into creating a new brand and new content, along with awesome connections. I highly recommend any of the courses that are being offered to anyone who has an interest in pushing themselves to become better speakers and storytellers.

Check them out here:

If you are wanting to finetune a speech by including a personal story, you can always hire me to work with you one-on-one:

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