Issue 10 of The Art of Keynoting
No-one wants to highlight their weaknesses. In fact, a key reason why so many people fear public speaking is because they fear that being on stage will show off exactly this. As a result, many beginning speakers do their utmost to hide away or polish whatever perceived flaws they have. The result? Bland, inoffensive, and utterly forgettable speeches and speakers.
I already mentioned how Tom Peters, one of the greatest keynote speakers of all time, uses atrociously ugly presentation materials. This might not necessarily stem from a weakness, but still shows the core logic of how you can use idiosyncrasies to your advantage. Instead of trying to do what everyone else does – crafting more and more professional decks – Peters went in the other direction, and his speaking was elevated as a result.
This, however, is not the whole story. Another side of Tom Peters is that he isn't always the smoothest presenter, and his logic can at times seem disjointed. In fact, there are times when he sounds a little less than coherent. Does he hide this? Hell no. He revels in it, and the audience loves him for it.
Me, I have a tendency to ramble and to rant. Do I hide this in my keynotes? On the contrary. It is part of who I am, a genuine part of my being. So I let myself be angry, or lose myself in a story, and I never apologize for this. I don't need to, because the audience can connect with this. Each and every person in your audience is an individual, and like all individuals, they seek a connection.
Flaws and foibles show us as human, and enables people to connect with us on a deeper, more genuine level. Are you shy? Tell people. Blush, and say how you're about to wet yourself. People will understand. Are you confused by something? Own up to it. With the world today, everyone gets confused. Did you do a flawed prediction a few years back. Highlight it, in detail. You'll come off as honest.
Your weaknesses are part of what makes you into you, and are as such a source of strength. A strength you can use.