The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Public Speaking: Taking Risks, Dealing with Difficult Material

If we want to have a real impact as public speakers, we have to be willing to take risks. We have to be willing to stand up and deal with the difficult issues that make us sweat. We have to face the challenge that comes from finding a way to bring up a painful topic, or a topic that has been so weighed down with baggage over the years it has to be purposefully excavated and redefined to be seen in a better light.

Still, nothing is to be gained by avoiding the challenging topic if you truly have something important to say, something useful, something meaningful and helpful to others. If you spend all your time avoiding the issues that send a chill up your spine or raise your blood pressure, you will never be able to make a difference.

The most rewarding experiences I've had came from tackling some charged and challenging issue, even a cultural "hot button" issue. It takes tact to do it right, finesse, and a willingness to pursue the issue honestly from all angles. In the end, however, you as a speaker must be willing to say where you stand. You must be willing to open yourself up to the people you are speaking to. It is not safe. It is not comfortable. But, it can and does change lives. It does lead to the moments when someone comes to you with tears in their eyes and tells you how much what you said meant to them.

It leads to other moments when someone takes you aside and tells you exactly why you are wrong. Listen to those people with an open mind and heart. You may find that experience changes YOU as well. It's risky, but in the end it is worthwhile.

Again, find a way to be thoughtful and sensitive to others in your approach. Do not be like the politician, pundit or propagandist who stomps all over people who see things differently with no compassion and no desire other than to win an argument by force of will and rough language. Take the high road instead, but take that road and take that stand. It's hard, but worth the effort.

Here's someone speaking out in just this way (although as a blog post rather than a public address):

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