I love empowerment events and conferences.
I recently attended a women’s conference. The event was divided into two major parts: the first one was called “Smashing the Glass Ceiling,” and the second one was “Transformation.” I was highly attracted to the idea behind it, which carried some substance in the name. I was excited to listen to the panelists who were about to share their stories of success and valuable teaching lessons. To tell you the truth, I am a very hard to impress kind of person, having high standards and high expectations from all aspects of life, and I am especially demanding when it comes to transformational/empowering/inspirational conferences. So, again I wasn’t placing any high expectations, but I didn’t want that conference to be a complete waste of my time. Turned out, it was and it wasn’t. I will explain.
What I didn’t like about the conference and why?
While listening to the “Smashing the Glass Ceiling” speakers, the ladies of high ranking positions with incredible achievements, I could sense there was something off. Obviously, they were well-spoken, intelligent, poised and were saying the right things, but the more I listened to them, they were getting ‘bigger’ and the audience seemed to get smaller. They were trying to impress the audience and compete with each other for the non-existent Miss Best or Miss Perfect Prize. They were trying to ‘out-success’ each other. I was wondering if it was only me who felt a little bit uncomfortable (by no means did I ever consider myself worse than those ladies), but I could sense that palpable gap between the speakers and the audience. I looked around in the audience and I was not a bit surprised that half of the people were looking at their phones, obviously finding them more interesting and valuable.
I asked myself: ‘When you are a speaker, is it about you impressing the audience by how special you are, or about the audience feeling special about themselves, because you make them feel this way?’
If it is about you, how awesome, special, super achieving and God’s given gift to this earth you are, you will never connect with people. What value is there for the listener? As a listener, I invested my time and money to learn how I can advance in life, not to be impressed by how advanced the speaker is in her life. Right?
Being a speaker myself, I know what it takes to create a transformational, empowering message. You cannot just win the stage because you are so awesome (or at least it has never happened in my life). Besides a lot of work and life experience, it takes your ability to connect with the audience. John Maxwell says, “Everyone communicates, few connect.” Isn’t that true? How do you connect with the audience? One of the many ways to connect is by being vulnerable and open in your life’s shortcomings. What works really well in my speaking experience is when I share my numerous mistakes and dumb things that I’ve done. It disengages people’s judgment by exposing my human nature and revealing I am capable of failing. I place myself at the same level with other people, showing them that I am just like them who has screwed up many times. Let’s be honest, we all have screwed up at some point, many points.
Everyone wants to succeed but you cannot succeed without failures.
People usually don’t like talking about what has gotten them to the top, what obstacles they had to overcome, because they worry about their self-image and being impressive. The fact that you are a high achiever means that you have gone through many challenges. Share those challenges with the audience or people you are talking to, and you will connect with their hearts. I love authenticity. So, feel free to share your success with me in a way that is going to assist me in my achiever’s journey. People listen to you with interest if they can relate to you.
The first three speakers were highly successful but they were not empowering or inspiring. They have smashed the glass of the ceiling in their career, but they failed to smash the wall between them and the audience. In speaking, it’s never about the speaker, it’s always about the audience.
However, I cannot say that it was a total waste of my time. Everywhere I go I am open and willing to learn. I heard somewhere a great expression about the mind, which is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it is not open. As soon as I shifted my attitude that way, the second round of speakers came on who were sharing about transformation. During the second part of that conference, I could feel that the speakers were present with the audience, they were sharing their authentic self. And in many ways, I could relate because it was more directed to the listeners.
Don’t try to impress the audience, work to connect and win their hearts.