A Speaker’s Biggest Challenge

November 27, 2023

I’ve been on the speaking circuit for nearly 7 years.

And one thing has never gotten easier.

It’s not nerves or performance anxiety. I rather relish being on stage.

It’s not engaging the audience, which I do through story, or regrouping from a gaffe, which I do through improv.

It’s not the dilemma of what to wear (or, for me, What Not to Wear) – that’s my #2 challenge. Occasionally, I’ve gotten lucky with The Remarkable Discovery of a Dress with Pockets.

No, my #1 challenge as a speaker has nothing to do with speaking. It’s more of a… “visual”… dilemma.

You’re thinking it must be the PowerPoint or deck I intended to show, some technical snafu.

Nope. This is decidedly human error.

Want a hint? Here’s a visual clue to my visual dilemma.

Bs why is it so hard a speaker's biggest challenge

“That’s Just My Face.”

You see the problem now, don’t you?

It’s my FACE.

That’s me being unnecessarily hard on myself (hello, Squash, my lovely critical inner narrator) because what can I say? That’s just my face!

I’ve been accused of having Frowny Work Face.

I’ve been told I’m expressive, emotive, often relatable.

I’m “easy to read.”

Perhaps that’s why my facial expressions so often exaggerate what I think and the stories I tell.

I get excited. Like, really excited!

Book signing 3 a speaker's biggest challenge

I get concerned. Perhaps for the well-being of my audience.

Wiser2019 brookealexander 6235 med a speaker's biggest challenge

I’d make a terrible poker player, always showing my hand.

I’ve been told to “stage” these shots so as to perfect them. Perhaps that’s what other speakers do. But that’s not real to me. I pride myself on being authentic and documenting the moment.

Like this moment: Keynote speaker? Or air traffic controller? What say you?

Bs air traffic controller a speaker's biggest challenge

Or this one. Am I speaking? Or yodeling?

Bs yodeling a speaker's biggest challenge

What I would give to get some decent speaking shots that don’t look like I’m yodeling. Or stuffing Hostess Yodels in my mouth.

I focus on telling stories that resonate and sharing strategies for success. Content is king. And I know that presentation and tone matter too. As my friend and phenomenal fellow speaker Sarah Elkins instructs, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.”

So what I LOOK like while saying it shouldn’t matter as much as what I say and how I say it.

Or… does it?

Bs i dunno do you a speaker's biggest challenge

I Don’T Know, Do You?

I don’t know, do you?

Is it just me?? Raise your hand if you can relate.

Bs anyone else have trouble taking decent speaking shot a speaker's biggest challenge

If you are a speaker who struggles to get that perfect shot, it would make me happy if you’d share a picture that went awry.

I would smile in solidarity. Or maybe all you’d see is a slightly confused scowl.

I can’t help it.

That’s just my face.


Storytelling strategies for high a speaker's biggest challenge The author of “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life,” Valerie Gordon is also an Emmy-winning television producer, corporate trainer, and humorist. Through The Storytelling Strategist, the career and communications firm she founded in 2017, she works with corporations and speaks at conferences, providing clients and attendees with key communication skills based on the power of storytelling. This is not the best headshot of her, but a typical one. 

Blog Archive