Brene Brown is an Internet phenomenon. Her speeches have been viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube, TED and elsewhere online. But just what is it about Brene Brown that makes her talks so compelling? I want to share with you what can be learnt from her presenting style that will help you also become a confident presenter and perhaps transform how you approach your next presentation. Here we break down the key things to take away from Brene Brown’s confidence, to help you become a better speaker, presenter and communicator.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
Firstly, who is Brene Brown?
Brene Brown is a researcher of shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy.
Like, there’s not many of those people around, right?!
Her TED talk—The Power of Vulnerability—is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 30 million views.
She is also the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers.
But the real reason I’ve put this blog together is because Brown is a stunningly powerful presenter. Brene Brown’s confidence on stage is a sight to behold. Here we analyse why.
Brene Brown’s Confidence is Based on Wholehearted Living and Wholehearted Presenting
One important thing to know about Brown’s teachings is that she speaks about wholehearted living.
This roughly translates to:
By accepting vulnerability in our lives we can live more meaningful, more connected, successful lives.
Her research is based on following 10 guideposts which she urges us to practice daily.
But does she practice these guideposts when she speaks to her audiences?
In short, is Brene Brown a wholehearted presenter?
The answer is “Hell Yes!”
And you can learn so much from her if you want to connect in an authentic way with your audience.
Let’s discuss a number of her 10 guideposts in the context of her presentation approach, so that you too can bring Brene Brown’s confidence into your own presentations.
Guidepost 1: Cultivating Authenticity– Letting go of what people think
‘‘To be willing to let go of who you think you should be, to be able to connect” Brene Brown
Brown communicates with her audience as if she’s having a chat over coffee.
She talks in an authentic, conversational easy way. She has the courage to be herself (in true Texan fashion), to “show up authentically”, no pretense, no facade.
To adopt Brene Brown’s confidence and become a more powerful, impactful, confident presenter, we need to let go of what others might think of us—our colleagues or managers.
You need to have the courage to show up for your presentation as your true self, not trying to be something you are not—this honesty connects powerfully with any audience.
Guideposts 2 & 3: Cultivating Self-Compassion– Letting go of perfectionism, and Cultivating A Resilient Spirit– Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
Brown’s TEDx talk—“The Power of Vulnerability”—was originally going to be named something like “Variables Mitigating Self Actualising”.
Which begs the question: why the change?
Well, how often do we intellectualise our language? Speaking in conceptual language stifles audiences.
Why do we do it?
In truth, we do it to protect ourselves, to appear like we are worthy and perfect. We put “armour” on—complex language, or a data dump on a PowerPoint slide—to protect ourselves from being vulnerable.
We strip the humanness from our presentations, and this results in numbing and stifling both presenter and audience.
By allowing self-compassion (as Brene does in her talks) we allow ourselves the permission to be imperfect in our presenting. This allows us to show vulnerability, to show emotion when we speak, whether that’s fear, anger or asking for help if we need it.
By allowing this self-compassion, a presenter becomes more resilient as a result. And ultimately creates a more honest, authentic, stronger relationship with the audience.
Guideposts 4 & 5: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy—Letting go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark, and Cultivating Meaningful Work—Letting go of Self-Doubt
Brown refers to scarcity as a mindset of “never enough, never perfect enough, never relevant enough…”
Many presenters live in constant scarcity, or what some people might recognise as “imposter syndrome”.
Brown admits to working daily to overcome her scarcity self-talk and to conquer her “imposter syndrome”.
Moving from “I am not worthy” to I am worthy and enough. In the context of becoming a confident presenter, we need to let go of our scarcity self-talk. This is a huge factor to overcoming fear/lack of confidence when presenting.
Guidepost 6: Cultivating Creativity – “Stories are just data with a soul”
One of the most striking things about Brown is the skill with which she weaves years of research with her personal, vulnerable, honest stories—both funny and painful.
I just love the quote: “Stories are just data with a soul.”
The vulnerability in her stories, metaphors and analogies resonate very strongly with her audience.
Stories help audiences to remember important points and they also build that important empathy with listeners.
In order to connect with audiences, there needs to be a balance of Evidence-Based-Content (Head content) mixed with emotive content (Heart content). Brown achieves this balance perfectly. This results in a fully engaged audience when presenting.
Throwing data coldly at audiences will numb them, and yet we see this all the time.
So I strongly encourage you on your journey be becoming a confident presenter that you close your laptop, get pen and paper out or go for a walk.
Get creative, brave, and playful with your presentation content. This is powerful and I would say mandatory to fully engage your audiences.
Guidepost 8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness
This one is, I believe, absolutely essential to becoming a confident presenter.
Listen to Brene Brown speak (I’ve included the videos at the bottom).
There is no rush, no anxiety, no sense of urgency. She pauses, to think and reflect.
Now this is confident presenting.
She’s not distracted with whatever content is coming next. She’s not worried about “getting through” her content. She remains present with what she is speaking about.
Of course she has researched and prepared her talk.
But she is also a big believer in the power of meditation and the importance of breathing, and we experience this as she speaks. Working to understand the role breath plays is vital to help connect with both our content and our audience.
Guidepost 10: Cultivating Laughter, Play, Intuition, Trust – Letting go Being Cool and “Always in Control”
Brown has fun in her presentations, and as a result the audience has fun.
She laughs at her stories, she laughs at herself!
Whilst her content is grounded in strong evidence, she allows herself not to take herself too seriously.
She doesn’t rely heavily on a script or slides, and she reacts to her audience’s reactions throughout. She “lets go of total control and certainty” – not totally but just enough!
Conclusion: How to Gain Confidence from Wholehearted Presenting
Implementing all of this in your own talks, speeches and presentations is easier said than done, of course, but as we’ve seen from Brown, weaving personal stories through your talks certainly makes it easier.
To reach the level of confidence embodied by Brene Brown requires preparation, practice and BRAVERY, but when achieved it will totally captivate an audience.
All 10 of Brene Brown’s guideposts encourage us to show vulnerability in some way.
As a presenter in a corporate context, this requires immense bravery. This bravery will ultimately give you a deep sense of connection with both your message and with your audience.
I strongly encourage you to explore wholehearted presenting if you want to become a confident presenter.
It really does work.
Watch Brene Brown’s confidence at first hand in her two most lauded TED talks below – “The Power of Vulnerability”, and “Listening to Shame”
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ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.