September 3, 2009

Speak from Your Head with Your Heart Wide Open

There’s been a lot of talk in business circles about employee engagement. Businesses are continually seeking ways to hold on to their best employees, and engagement is the buzzword of the day. One of the best ways to stimulate employee engagement is with recognition.

While money is a prime motivator for staying engaged at work, it is not recognition for excellence or achievement. Money is a reward for showing up and doing your job. Everyone who shows up and does his or her job gets a paycheck.

As speakers and leaders, we have an opportunity to play an integral part in the recognition process when we give speeches and presentations. I’m not talking about an awards ceremony, however. I’m talking about emotionally engaging everyone in your audience in a way that makes them all feel recognized.

In my Emotional Eloquence program, I teach how to Speak from Your Head with Your Heart Wide Open.

An Emotionally Eloquent speaker knows that there are two components to any great speech. The first component is content. Content covers all of the points that need to be made, information that needs to be conveyed and data that needs to be shared. Content is all of the head stuff.

The second component is motivation. The motivational pieces of a speech are designed to get people to care about the content pieces – to create emotional buy-in. The second component is devoted to creating the “why” beneath the “what”, and to help people understand the context and philosophy behind the decisions that have been made. This is the heart stuff.

When a speech is designed with both components in mind, the speaker is free to speak from their head with the content pieces and to speak from their heart with the motivational pieces. They say what needs to be said in a way that lets their audience members know the speaker cares about them and appreciates their contribution.

The inclusion of the motivational/emotional dimension makes the difference between an Emotionally Eloquent speech and one that falls flat. Recognition takes place in the motivational aspect of the speech. It happens when the speaker takes a few minutes to speak to the heart and soul of each audience member and to acknowledge that he or she recognizes and appreciates their good work.

I recall a speech I made to a library district group at their annual meeting. Everyone who worked in the library from the top management to librarians to the guy who cleaned the bathrooms was there. Towards the end of the speech I shifted into heart mode and spoke to them about my appreciation for the work that they were doing. I made a joke about how they must all have gotten into the library business to get rich and they all laughed. For about five minutes I talked about them from what I believed to be their perspective. I put myself in their shoes and imagined that I was one of them, working in a library five days a week.

I doubted that they received much recognition, because most people don’t. And yet I knew that the service they provided to the community was very worthwhile and necessary. They ordered the books that they thought people would want to read and made them accessible to anyone regardless of income. They read stories to children and instilled in them a love of words and books and reading. And they did it all for very little money. So I surmised, they must do it for love.

All it took for me to create a genuine heartfelt motivational mode was to speak to them with my heart wide open, with gratitude and compassion. I concluded with something like, “So on behalf of all of the thousands of people who walk in and out of the doors of your library with homework to do, questions that need answering and books to read and enjoy, THANK YOU!”  They loved it.

In order to increase engagement, communicate to your audience or employees that you are aware they are giving it their best shot and that you believe in their ability to live up to any challenge. Be careful, because the words you use to convey this message are not enough. It is the heartfelt honesty with which they are conveyed that is essential. If you don’t believe it, don’t say it.

Think about your next audience for a moment. Who are they? Are they good people? Do you like and respect them? What could you say, with your heart wide open, that would touch them emotionally?  If you were one of them, what do you think you would want and need to hear that would empower you to feel better about yourself and your organization? Feel that; then share it.  Speak from your head with your heart wide open.

You probably do this one-on-one many times a day. It’s a natural part of being a good leader. You catch someone doing something right and you acknowledge it with genuine appreciation. That’s what recognition is all about.

Your ability to do the same thing when you present to a group of people is part of Emotional Eloquence. Emotional Eloquence is your ability to give voice to your heartfelt thoughts and feelings. Learn to be emotionally eloquent and you will not only inform, you will also motivate and inspire.

The next time you are given an opportunity to speak to a group, either as a leader or as a professional speaker, remember this aspect of Emotional Eloquence: Speak from Your Head with Your Heart Wide Open.


Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method, formerly titled Never Be Boring Again. He works with individuals and organizations to help them choose, craft and deliver compelling speeches, presentations and stories, thereby engaging attention and improving retention.

His programs include, Get Out of Your Own Way, Emotional Eloquence – The Lost language of Leadership, Storytelling in Business is Serious Business and It Was A Dark and Stormy Sales Presentation – The Serious Business of Selling with Stories

His keynote speaking, corporate training and executive coaching clients include Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Bristol Myers Squibb, Aetna, Amgen, Volkswagen, Century 21, The Department of Defense, The National Education Association and many more.

Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196 or 1-719-573-6195 or at:

The Story Theater Retreat in Colorado Springs

The Story Theater Method

Presentations Skills and Storytelling Products and Packages

Leave a Comment