What cultivates trust with listeners when we express ourselves as public speakers or storytellers (or both)?
It’s common for answering this question in context of ‘to entertain is better’ vs ‘to offer teachable perspective is better’. At least this was a common way to frame said debate when I was a coach to storytellers way back when!
I believe authentic clear perspective as speakers moves trust forward with audiences much more so than a dominant focus to only entertain. The “I only have to entertain” mindset is a common misconception that often creates big psychological barriers when folks including myself prepare to publicly speak. This outlook when preparing can cause many presenters (and even seasoned storytellers) to think they are inadequate since they are not sure how to entertain in the first place.
A myopic striving to only entertain an audience can so often lead speakers to indulging their ego — to be that ‘hilarious charming speaker’ — vs to be that timely source that satisfies an audience’s need for real perspective. Our audience needs and deserves the latter.
Here’s what I see about an exclusive desire to entertain audiences. It stifles many-a-speaker when preparing. It happens a lot. Their expectations to be entertaining dynamos like Meryl Streep (…sprinkled with a Sheryl Sandberg or Gary Vanerchuck quality) often inhibit their ability to establish an accessible point of view. Their clarity of mind usually suffocates under the self-imposed pressure to be funny enough, riveting, fascinating, provocative, etc.
So when preparing content and point of view, I suggest looking first at the teachable truth in your fund of knowledge.
Decide a few topics and then consider:
- How are these topics teachable from your point of view?
- How do these topics relate to and benefit different segments of people?
- What three problems can you solve?
Is it human to want our audiences to crack-up from welcomed laughter at our stories and overall presentations?!
Sure, it’s understandable. But I invite us to ask one question first when assessing a speech’s entertainment value: Does the content entertain while supporting a core idea?
Any wit, story, or piece of content needs to explicate a usable idea or perspective.
Our teachable experience is what we have in common with our audiences. As in, they want it and we’ve got it. No perfectionism or entertainment hoo-ha… just some usable, human truth and clear point of view.
Another tip: conquering leery self-confidence
Should you ever suffer from low reservoirs of self-confidence (ah we all do one time or another) – this mental exercise below may liberate you when preparing to engage audiences.
1. Mentally embrace the fact you have insight, which could help at least one person on this planet.
2. Then consider two people, then a room full of people, then maybe a whole department.
3. Believe that something useful and teachable exists in you, even if it is not clear to your self-confidence right this very minute. Assert this possibility in your mind as a meditative exercise for a good 10 minutes. Just sit with it.