Trusting in the Relatable

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

In my previous life as a Science major, that quote stuck with me. Our forefathers (and mothers) made major discoveries and obtained knowledge that we take for granted today. Often we use that gained knowledge to form our own experiments, make our own discoveries, write our own papers, etc.

Except I always had the thought of “everything that can be written about, has already been written about, how on earth can I come up with something original?”

I had the same approach when I first tried writing speeches for Toastmasters. In amongst trying to get a handle on my nerves, I was trying to find a topic I could “teach” to the audience. I was (and still am) considered young in comparison to the average age of a Toastmaster, everything I have experienced in my short life, my audience has already experienced, many times over.

A couple of years later, I did a speech. My (now famous) winning speech. I couldn’t believe how people seemed to gravitate towards what I had said, even though I had not taught anything new or pioneering.

It was after that night I realized the immense power behind not teaching anything new or pioneering. Why? So many people that night told me 1) they had similar experiences as my speech, and/or 2) they knew of someone that had those same experiences. I discovered the power of relatable topics. Chances were, everything that has had a profound effect on my life – my hopes, dreams, fears, failures, and heartbreak, would be things the audience could relate to as well, because many of them would have experienced the same things already.

We humans are funny creatures, social creatures. I think back to all the close friends I had now, and some of the friends I have recently made. A lot of the times I connected with them over shared experiences. Maybe we both found Organic Chemistry insanely hard (and it is). Maybe we had the same teacher in elementary school. Maybe we connected over how stupid our ex boyfriends were (and are, though I say that jokingly).

When you give a speech, I think it is okay to not always have a teaching aspect embedded in your speech. You don’t always have to get stuck in the mindset of having to show your knowledge to add value. Focus on what has had an impact on you, and I’m sure the audience will connect. Because chances are, they’ve experienced the same or similar thing too.


3 thoughts on “Trusting in the Relatable

  1. I can really relate, Vivien! (No pun intended.) And this so timely for me.

    In most of my speeches, I tend to teach, perhaps because my own mind seeks out hard facts and usable tips. But last time I spoke at my Toastmasters club, I felt a bit of a fraud doing that.

    And right now, I’m preparing for my first ever International speech, tomorrow night. After struggling until almost the last minute with what to talk about, I finally came up with a topic about a personal struggle, which I think many people could relate to. (Let’s hope so, anyway!)

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s great to hear that parts of your journey are a bit like mine. So, here’s to relatable stories!

    • Hi Craig, great to hear from you again and thanks for the comment!
      I’m glad to hear you decided to try a speech about a personal topic, and a personal struggle nontheless. That is very brave and commendable of you. I hope you will videotape the speech and share it. Would love to see it!

      • Hi Vivien. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to share my talk online! But as it turned out, unfortunately the video of my talk didn’t work. That was a pity, because I would’ve liked to have seen how it came across. (Also, I didn’t place in either the speech or eval contest, so it wasn’t a good night in the end! Never mind — onward and upward!)

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