Finding Your Shine

Jul 20, 2011

I train speakers. And I love doing it.

But last week I wondered if I should resign.

Why? Because although I’ve studied the craft and have worked hard to improve, I can still name dozens of communicators who do it far better than me.

Whether writing or speaking, being a professional communicator is hard work. It requires hours of preparation, research, and practice, followed by 45 sweaty minutes of standing in the spotlight. A room full of strangers sit ready to be wowed, and each will likely decide whether you’re “good” or “bad” long before you ever reach the conclusion.

It’s excruciating.

Communicating is a vulnerable profession, one with no guarantees. One night you’ll nail it. The next you’ll bomb. Some speakers love the thrill of it, being up front, wooing the crowd, feeling the risk of it going one way or the other. It’s true when I’m speaking, I feel alive, connected with my God-given purpose. But within an hour of my wrap up, doubt swoops in and suffocates my confidence: Am I good enough to be doing this?

When students come to Dynamic Communicators Workshop, they ask us to make them better. They want help with eye contact, feedback on their vocal quality, tools to craft stories, ideas for creative illustrations. They want us to help them create a better package, a polished presentation. It’s not a bad thing. These skills can, in fact, make them better.

But polish doesn’t make a communicator shine. Heart does.

Heart is the key for communication that changes the world. Without it, you’re just another talking head, delivering words, ideas, perspectives, but without any thought for the message or the audience who needs to hear it. Want to find your shine? Start by making these commitments:

  • Be YOU. I know you’ve watched all those Bible study videos. I know you sat in the stadium and listened to that guy nail it to the applause of an adoring crowd. But as good as he or she may be, don’t try to be them. Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but it’s the worst form of communication. You don’t shine by stealing someone else’s light. You shine from the inside out.
  • See individuals. For years, nerves took center stage every time I walked up on one. Speaking in front of audiences terrified me, and I lost plenty of dinners beforehand to prove it. But a couple years ago something changed. I started to see my audience. Each face told a story, and their story started to matter more to me than my fear.
  • Believe your message. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. It doesn’t matter how polished you are, how skilled you are at crafting a story. If your message hasn’t wrecked you, then it will never shine through you. Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” His words stand just as true for speaking.

I’m not the best speaker, not always the most polished and perfected. But I’ve found the source of my shine. I didn’t find it in my research, or uncover it in a cool illustration. I didn’t discover it in the way I use the stage, or my knack for killer eye contact.

My shine comes when the stage is the last thing on my mind. It radiates in the quiet simplicity of being myself with God. It increases in brilliance when I see a world far larger than myself. And it shows itself brightest when I know what I believe with every fiber of my being. That’s when I end up less a carbon-copy of some other great speaker and the more of a reflection of the One who called me to speak in the first place.

The stage is a dangerous place to be. The light of attention can eclipse the possibilities in no time. Don’t let your shine get lost in the spotlight. Perfect presentations don’t change the world. Light in the darkness does.

That’s the kind of communication that changes the world.

This blog post is part of an intentional conversation about “Communication That Changes the World.” Want to join the fun? Write a post, tweet it using hashtag #SpeakForAChange, and then come back here to give us the deets. Looking forward to reading your post!


  1. Denise Miller Holmes

    Michele, to me you are always shiny. 😀
    Good advice. I’m taking notes.

    • Michele

      Thank you, Denise. I’ve spent too long learning that shine is birthed in private, not public. But a good lesson to learn.

  2. Lindsey @ A New Life

    First, I love your designer 🙂 Tekeme Studios did a wonderful job on my site as well 🙂

    Second, I love the advice to be ourselves. The vastness of social media makes it so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others out there. With so many voices clamoring for attention in an over-saturated world, the only way we can (and should) stand out is by bringing our unique message in our distinct fashion. That authenticity is what will draw an audience that is perfect for the exact message on our heart.


    • Michele

      Aren’t they wonderful? I’ve loved getting to know Ashley and George. You’re site is beautiful, by the way.

      I agree with your thoughts on social media. About once a week I consider chucking it all. I need more quiet, more time to retreat away from all this activity. Maybe I was made to be a monk. 🙂 I see all the good that social media can bring, too. Even this conversation today! The struggle is in utilizing it without it owning you. That’s a balance I’m still struggling to find. Only in stepping away from all the noise do we listen enough to truly be ourselves.

      Thanks for your sharing your heart here, Lindsey.

  3. Dave H

    “Believe your message. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. “

    This seems so simple and obvious. But I must tell someone this every month or so. It’s not that people don’t believe it, it’s that their style or skill of communication says otherwise. That’s why honing our speaking skills are so important.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Michele

      Simple, but easiest lost in all the clamor to be “good.” We need to be disciples of the message first, speakers second.

      Thanks for your insights, Dave.

  4. Tracee

    Beautiful words. I can resonate with the swooped in feeling of doubt and insecurity after speaking. It is strange to go from the high of being in my element to, “what just happened.”

    I love your point on being a “talking head” Without heart there is nothing to say. Without believing and experiencing our own messages, what is the point?

    I always desire for words to come out that are bigger than me. That takes all of my heart.



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