May 5, 2011

Can your audience feel you?



Last night's performance of "Without You" by James Durbin on American Idol showcased one of the aspects of performance that speakers might not only overlook, but consciously try to avoid: Emotion.

There's something embarrassing to adults (especially in a business environment) about showing too much joy, too much sadness, too much quirkiness, too much anything that might reveal a crack in the exterior of the finely crafted and orchestrated "professional" public persona.

Don't make your gestures too big. Don't smile too much. Don't let your voice be too colorful. Don't draw attention to the fact that you are human. Because audiences want to see a flawless, restrained, professional, serious, business-appropriate presentation. Right?

Wrong.

Your audience wants a connection. Sure, they want and deserve good content, but there's no reason you can't give good content and also help your audience relate to you better as a person.

When you hold back part of who you are, the emotional part, the audience only gets a part of the picture. They feel that something's missing, they feel that something's incongruent. What's missing is the rapport, the relationship, the part where the audience feels a little of your pain, your joy, your silliness, your concern, your anger, your disappointment, your pride, your uncertainty, your wisftulness. When you feel it -- and show it -- they can feel it, too. It's a gift from you to them, and it's a gift your audience appreciates and cherishes.

James' performance was not without mistakes, but perfection was not the goal. James told a story with his song, of personal sadness and feelings of loneliness.

Randy Jackson called the performance "Emotionally perfect."

"This is a mark of truly a great performer. I could feel your emotion when you started that, as we were watching the package and you thinking about your family and the journey that you're on here. And I tell you man, just fighting back through the emotions, for you to give a vocal like you gave -- no, it wasn't perfect, but it was emotionally perfect.... And that's what the audience really feels."

After James' performance, he had this to say:

"Every single week, I leave everything on this stage. Everything."

Can you say that about your presentations?

Watch James' performance below:



http://www.americanidol.com/videos/season_10/performances/

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