The short answer is “no!”
I believe personal information should be shared in a presentation, within limits.
I listen to speakers because I want to hear their viewpoint on specific subjects, how it has affected them and what they have done about it.
I don’t like speeches that come across as canned. Those speeches are packed with fluff, probably somebody else’s and don’t offer any original thinking or ideas.
While I believe in sharing personal information, I don’t believe in TMI [too much information!] That is where the speaker shares personal information that really should be kept private. Perhaps intimate details from a relationship that would be embarrassing to the other party, or to the audience.
I’m not sure about a safety filter, but I believe that personal information can be shared within specific parameters. Here are some of them:
- The personal story should have a purpose and add to the speech, not divert from it.
- The personal story should be short and to the point.
- And there should be an easily identifiable point. It shouldn’t be used as filler to lengthen an otherwise lackluster presentation.
- It should not embarrass anyone in any way.
- If your story invokes your emotions, perhaps you aren’t ready to share that story yet. You don’t want to break down on stage and/or traumatize your audience.
Here’s a formula I learned years ago in Toastmasters to create humour out of personal misfortune.
PMF + T=H [personal misfortune + time = humour]
We all have personal misfortunes that we have endured and hopefully learned from. These situations become gems for speakers to fit into their speeches. I would recommend speakers reflect upon their life and brainstorm a list of these life-altering experiences. These learning moments can become gems in your presentations.
As an example, I have delivered speeches about bullying bosses. When I was 19 years old, my first job as an adult, I worked in an institutional kitchen and I had a Head Cook who was a bully. We clashed from the get-go.
In one instance he had been riding my case and yelled out to the other cooks “Where’s that Stonehouse!” He wasn’t aware that I was in earshot. I responded with ‘Here I am Dick! Lay a big wet one on me!” And then I promptly lifted my uniform top, bent over and exposed my derrière.
Was it helpful? Certainly not! Was it gratifying? Very much.
As I recall, I got written up again and my punishment was to spend the day in the Bake Shop, cleaning the ovens. It might not have been so bad, if they had turned the ovens off first!
The point: you won’t win, when standing up to a serial bully, especially when they have their audience, watching them exert their power. There are other, more effective ways to deal with a workplace bully.
And maybe even more importantly, if you ever get to the point at work that you think about bending over and telling your boss to kiss your ass goodbye … I would suggest rethinking that action, unless you are a motivational speaker looking for real-life stories to share.
For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
Blow Your Own Horn!: Personal Branding for Business Professionals
Power Networking For Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro
The Power of Persuasion: Mastering the Art of Influence
The Power of Promotion: Online Marketing For Toastmasters Club Growth
The Savvy Emcee: How to be a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies
Working With Words: Adding Life to Your Oral Presentations
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.