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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.

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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I almost lost my wife, Clare, twice in the last two years because of internal bleeding, which we later found out was a result of H Pylori. The bacteria was causing large ulcers to eventually burst and drop her hemoglobin so rapidly that she would pass out and stop breathing. Each time, I was there with her – forced into the fragility of life – caught between getting her to breathe again and realizing that she may not breathe again. It’s not a place any of us want to be – where we are watching our partner slip away. At one point her hemoglobin was a 4.4 and her BP was 55/27. She was barely alive. I was terrified.

We were lucky. Clare recovered both times. And we got answers.

After ten years of being in stomach pain off and on, after two years of a roller coaster ride that consisted of that “always in the back of your mind” worry, and after round upon round of antibiotics, treatments, and testing…Clare is H Pylori negative!

The other day Clare shared with me that her dad came to her during one of those in between moments when she was passed out and not breathing. He told her it wasn’t time for her to leave her body and he told her to go back. She didn’t remember this experience initially, but it forged its way to her memory right before she heard the news that she was negative.

She remembers feeling so expansive in those seconds…seconds that felt like hours to me. She wanted to remain in that feeling but her dad told her that she could find a way to feel that expansive here on Earth. Hearing that has made me think about how I can feel expansiveness in this life. We have both been pushed to dig deeper into our spirituality through all of this.

We live a world that is at war with itself in so many ways. We’ve forgotten the part of us that is expansive and free. We've forgotten how to accept. Not just others, but more importantly, ourselves. I believe that our expansiveness lives within.

I’ve struggled with my own expansiveness lately. Maybe because of all that is going on the world. It’s impossible to not be affected by the tension, the hurt, the pain, the loss. Quarantines, fear, and arguments galore - we’ve got to find a way back to what makes us expansive…connection and communion with one another. I’m starting by making a conscious effort to really be with those I love and want to build relationships with. I’m pushing myself to expand by reaching out more. Will you join me?

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