What does it take to go from being a pretty darn good speaker – well organized, prepared, on point – to being a great speaker? To being someone who is compelling, thought-provoking, thoroughly engaging, and memorable?

It takes getting naked. Yep, baring it all. Opening up. Sharing. Being vulnerable. Being real.

Audiences crave earthy, gritty, revealing, personal. They want to be drawn in, they want to see and know. Let’s face it, it’s what we’ve become accustomed to in our digitally oriented lives [think: social media]. All that openness and sharing – even the cringy oversharing – has created an expectation and an appetite for not just the what, where and how, but also for the how does it feel.

It’s perfectly acceptable and more than adequate to speak and be organized, prepared and totally on point. In fact, it’s way more than adequate (since too few speakers are!). It makes you good, really really good.

But to be great? That requires you to open up. Connect with your audiences, let them see and know you. Share your failures as well as your successes, share your fears as well as your hopes, share your vulnerabilities as well as your strengths and passions.

Share what makes you doubt yourself and what makes you tick, what scares you and what excites you. Share what you regret as well as what you are proud of. Share what gets you motivated in the morning as well as what you dread. Be relatable.  

There’s a lot to be gained – and nothing to be lost – by connecting with your audiences on a deeper level. Make a note of the reactions and comments you get from people after you bare it all. I’m willing to bet it will result in more robust feedback and far greater buy-in and engagement. And that’s the difference between good and great speaking.

Beth Levine