National Speakers Association convention is where you'll find the top speakers in the world on the main stage. A number of years ago, I attended a convention. One of the keynote speakers gave an inspiring and tear jerking presentation. He spoke about how he and his wife couldn't have children so they adopted a couple of boys. They were brothers who were not well treated and were put up for adoption. He told the audience about how difficult it was to gain their trust and parent them. He recounted all the troubled times. In the end, the little boys flourished and his wife discovered she was pregnant. The speaker then brought the little boys on stage. To say there wasn't a dry eye in the house is an understatement. The tears were streaming down my face. My friend looked over and said, "Are you all right?" I told him "I can't take it." The entire audience was overwhelmed by emotion. This speaker was able to pierce each person's heart and trigger an emotional reaction. It takes skill to tell a story that has so much emotional impact. This is a good thing, isn't it? Well, maybe. But this speaker did the one thing you should never do from the platform...
On Sunday morning I watched Joel Osteen, the motivational speaker and pastor of Lakewood Church. He too, had an emotional story to tell. It was about a country singer.
At a young age this singer, had strayed from his values and started hanging around with the wrong crowd. He got involved with alcohol and drugs. His name was on billboards everywhere and Joel's mother would notice the singer's name every time they passed the billboard on the road. Although, she had never met him, she would say a prayer for him. This ritual went on for more than a year. Then one day when the country singer was feeling down on his luck, he wandered into the church where Joel's father was the pastor. An usher recognized him and alerted Joel's mother. She immediately got up and embraced him. She told him about all the times she had prayed for him.
After telling this story, Joel pointed to the country singer who was sitting in the front row. As the camera zoomed in on him, you could see the singer wiping away his tears. It was an emotional crescendo. The audience burst into applause. And, at that moment, Joel said, "Aw, he's not that good." The audience broke into laughter.
Joel did something the first speaker forgot to do. The first speaker opened us up, raw with emotion, and left us there. It was like a surgeon opening a wound but forgetting to close it back up. Joel used humor to break the tension. A seasoned speaker can take you on a roller coaster of emotions. You'll experience the exhilaration of the highs and lows. But they will always bring you back to solid ground. And one of the best ways to do this is through humor.
You may be a good storyteller who can open people to their emotions. But do you finish the job by closing them back up? As a speaker, you have the power of the spoken word. Remember you have the emotions of the audience in your hands. Use your power carefully.