Is It Ever OK to Cry When You’re Presenting? It Depends.
I watched a TED Talk recently in which the speaker, Dr. Peter Attia, choked up. His throat caught as he appeared to be fighting back tears. The emotions which surfaced were a mixture of regret, remorse and shame. He came across as sincere and committed to the topic of this talk – challenging the way we think about diabetes and obesity.
Here’s his TED Talk.
Is It Ever OK to Cry When You’re Presenting? It Depends
While this ultimately has to be a question that each presenter must answer for his or herself, here are some rules in making the decision in touching on an emotional topic.
When It’s NOT OK to Present on an Emotional Topic
A presentation is NOT an appropriate substitute for therapy. If you cannot talk about the subject without breaking down and sobbing, you’re not ready to present on the topic.
If your emotions come from unresolved issues, work through those issues first. See a therapist or talk to your clergy. Write as a way to work out the emotions. Don’t the speaking platform to air your grievances, resentments or shame. Work through it privately first.
If you haven’t resolved you personal feelings about issue, imagine how your audience will feel. At best, they’ll be uncomfortable. At worse, they’ll want to distance themselves from the uneasiness and your message. They will discount your message because your emotions will appear to be ruling you without consideration for logic or the bigger picture. Don’t present on a topic if you still have unresolved issues.
Maybe time doesn’t heal all wounds but it does make it easier to discuss painful memories.
Perhaps the reason you’re not able to discuss an issue is that it’s still too fresh and your emotions are too raw. What you have to say may be important but give yourself some time. No one is expecting you to talk before your ready. Give yourself some more time.
When It Is OK to Present Emotionally
Obviously, the prerequisites are the opposite of what is mentioned above – when you’ve worked through unresolved issues and can speak without sobbing and when enough time has passed when you can discuss without totally breaking down. But there’s more that needs to be present to make it OK for you to present when you may get choked up.
Maybe this goes without saying but if you’re getting choked up, it better be genuine and not contrived to persuade your audience.
It’s OK that Dr. Attia got choked up because he was authentic.
Audiences can tell when you’re faking it.
Be in the moment and be sincere.
Include Logic within Your Presentation
Notice that Dr. Attia’s appeal wasn’t purely emotional. He included his story but he also spoke using logic to explain his change of perspective and his approach. While emotions may persuade us, facts and logic help us justify that we’re on the right path. Give your audience logic along with your emotions.
Cover an Important Subject when Your Vulnerability Can Influence Others
Dr. Attia could have spoken unemotionally about his ideas lone. His ideas had merit. But what he’s done by being vulnerable is help us to open up to his ideas and to our own emotions. He helps us to feel what he feels — and maybe even identify with him for having similar thoughts. While people may not have the same emotional attachment as you, be willing to be vulnerable so they can relate to you and better relate to your point.
You Have to Decide
I’ve never understood how family members and close friends can deliver a eulogy. It doesn’t matter how much I love public speaking — and I do — I know I could have never delivered a eulogy at my mother’s funeral. Yet, I have seen others deliver wonderful, loving eulogies for their loved ones. Ultimately you have to make the call as to whether or not you’re in the right place mentally to talk about an emotionally charged issue. Only you can decide if you’re willing for all the right reasons. It all depends.
Did I get it right? Wrong? Add your comments below — even if they’re emotionally charged!