Finding the Emotional Heart of Your Message with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 263

Finding the Emotional Heart of Your Message with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 263 | Speaking Your Brand

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Since we’re in the month of February, I figured it was a good time to talk about finding the emotional heart of your message.

As speakers, we can get so focused on the information we want to share that we neglect emotions and feelings and making a heart-to-heart connection with the people in our audiences.

If you want your talk to be memorable and impactful and you want to become a keynote speaker, be on bigger stages, deliver a powerful TEDx talk, you need to have an emotional heart to your message.

In this episode, I’m going to share:

  • What I mean by the emotional heart of your message
  • Examples ranging from Eliza Hamilton to Taylor Swift to a recent workshop I facilitated on storytelling
  • You’ll hear a clip from my keynote about what happens when we find resistance in our purpose
  • Question prompts to help you find the emotional heart of your message

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at



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263-SYB-Emotional-Heart.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

263-SYB-Emotional-Heart.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
Are you leaving out the emotional part of your presentations? Listen to how you can find the emotional heart of your message in this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast. More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a TV political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview a coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is Speaking Your Brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. Since we’re in the month of February, I figured it would be a great time to talk about finding the emotional heart of your message. Last week’s episode was on the four layers of thought leadership which are your expertise, your big idea, your personal story or personal journey, and the emotional courage to share it. Definitely go back and listen to that episode either before or after this one, because they very much complement each other. And speaking of February and heart, did you know that we also host a LinkedIn Live show every other Monday? Our next one is coming up on Monday, February 14th Valentine’s Day. So Diane Diaz, our lead speaking coach and I will be talking about how to love your audience as a speaker, as a presenter, how can you love your audience? We’ll be talking about different things like audience engagement and the stories that you share.

Carol Cox:
The best way to stay up to date on our LinkedIn Live shows, our podcast episodes and everything else we have going on is to get on our email list. You can do so by going to That’s going to get you two things. First, it’s going to get you our free workbook on thought leadership, and it’s going to get you on our email list. So go to Speaking Your Brand guide to do that. And the reason I’m talking about finding the emotional heart of your message is because that is truly the way to deeply connect with your audience, to build trust with your audience and to help them transform. Because ultimately, as speakers, as entrepreneurs, that’s what we’re doing is we’re providing transformational experiences for our audience. Having an emotional heart to your message, to your talk is the way to make your talk memorable and impactful. And if you want to become a keynote speaker, be on those bigger stages. Deliver a powerful TEDx talk, then your message. Your talk needs to have an emotional heart to it. And this is the work that we do with our clients, on their keynotes, on our TED talks is helping them to find their stories and then really dig deep into the emotional heart of it.

Carol Cox:
What I have found is that as speakers, we get so focused on the information we want to share. So the specific key points and the tactics and the strategies and the steps that we neglect, emotions and feelings. And when we do that, we neglect making a heart to heart connection with the people in our audiences. In this episode, I’m going to share some examples to help you out, including a clip from my recent keynote, which was about what happens when we find resistance in our purpose. Now let’s get on with the show. What do I mean by the emotional heart of your message? This is the part you feel in your heart and your gut when you’re sharing a story and by extension, your audience will feel it as well. I don’t know about you, but if I’m watching a TV show or a movie and one of the characters is crying or upset about something, I will start to tear up as well. And the reason that I do this, and perhaps you do this, is because in our brains we have what are called mirror neurons and there are their evolutionary wise for a reason is because as human beings, we’re social creatures and we need to have empathy and sympathy for the people around us.

Carol Cox:
So we cry when we see someone else crying, whether it’s a real person we’re sitting across from or a fictional character we’re watching in a movie or TV show because it’s affecting us as well. And this emotional heart of our message of our story tends to deal with things around loss, struggle, disappointment, regret, heartache. Those are the things that make us human. And here are some examples that come to mind. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you know that I love the musical Hamilton and I see Eliza Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s wife, really as the emotional heart of the musical and in Act two towards the second half of Act two, she sings the song Burn after she finds out that Alexander has been cheating on her and in the song. And if you know it, you can kind of listen to it in your head. Trust me, you do not want me to sing it. And in the song, she talks about how obviously what the heartache and the loss and the betrayal that she’s feeling, and that she’s burning the letters that they wrote to each other so that there is no record of them and that she’s writing herself out of the narrative.

Carol Cox:
Now, of course, at the end of the play, she very much puts herself back into the narrative. But really, she is that emotional heart because she’s sharing the loss, the struggle, the heartache that she’s feeling. Here’s another example Taylor Swift released a ten minute long song. Now you may be thinking. Who wants to listen to a song that’s 10 minutes long, and many people thought the same thing until they heard it, the song is called All Too Well. It was originally released 10 years ago, the shorter version, you know the three, three and a half minute version of it. Taylor Swift has been rerecording all of her old albums because she no longer owns the Masters to them most. Most artists don’t. Their record labels do, and now her masters have been sold to an equity firm. So she’s been rerecording them all, and she decided when she was rerecording her album Red, which is where the song originally came from, that she was going to do the 10 minute long version, which is what she had wanted to do 10 years ago, but she wasn’t able to. And the reason why Taylor Swift is so popular, I believe, is because she is such a fantastic storyteller. If you listen to her songs, that’s what she’s doing. She’s telling stories in her songs and she’s telling stories about heartache and struggle and disappointment and loss and regret.

Carol Cox:
And if you watch the Saturday Night Live performance that she did in December for the 10 minute long version of all too well, you can see the emotional heart of her story of the song as she’s performing. And I’ll include a link in the show notes for that. And you see this a lot with artists, with musicians, with characters and movies and TV shows and plays a reason we like to listen to them and watch them. It’s because they tug at our heartstrings because there’s an emotional heart to them. Just recently, I facilitated a workshop on storytelling for a group of pediatric doctors of women in pediatrics. And so I was teaching them about different aspects of storytelling that they could use in their advocacy, work with patients and families in their exam rooms, with each other as peers to learn from each other, networking in their community with their teams and so on. So is teaching them that the key storytelling elements and what I had them do during the 90 minute workshop was also share with each other stories about why they became a pediatrician. Experiences that impacted them. Patients whose stories would be important to share. And I was so moved and so surprised how willing they were to dig deep into their own stories and to share them with each other.

Carol Cox:
And some of the stories were funny. Like this one? This one woman talked about how when she was three or four years old, she ate an entire chocolate bar. Now that OK, so you’re probably going to have a sugar rush, but this was not any ordinary chocolate bar. This wasn’t Ex-Lax Chocolate Bar. So, of course, she ended up having to go to the doctor in this case, a pediatrician, because she was three or four years old. And she says she remembers how taken care of she felt by going to the doctor and you know how safe she felt and how much her mother was relieved that, of course, her daughter was going to be OK. So she shared that story. Then we had other women share just, you know, stories that really impacted them about young children that they were able to help. And it was the emotional heart of their messages that bonded them with each other in that room. And now I’m going to share with you a clip from a keynote that I gave last September. I’ve condensed the story for this clip. So in the original keynote, I described the story in more detail, but I’m just kind of took some key clips from it here to condense it to just a couple of minutes long. So here’s the clip.

Carol Cox:
At the age of 30, bright eyed and bushy tailed and full of innovative ideas of how I can revolutionize local politics, oh yes, I knew I could. I was elected chairperson of the Democratic Party and Seminole County, and I remember the night when I was elected by the members there who had recruited me to run. I was standing at the podium after they had tally the vote and I felt like, Oh, this is where I belong. I have found my purpose. But then a whisper campaign started. Slowly at first, and then it started to build. There’s Carol and her news crew. What, Carolyn, her news crew, what are they talking about? All of a sudden, all the things that I was doing, pouring my heart into getting more visibility for the party, running candidates, trying to put political software together to make it easier for us to do all these things. All of a sudden it was too much. I was getting too much attention, too much of the spotlight on me. I was challenging too much, trying to disrupt too much. So the same people who had had my back now turned against me. I see some head shaking. It was really hard. I felt alone. I felt isolated and I felt like I no longer belonged. I remember there was a monthly meeting coming up that I had a chair as the chairperson of our executive committee, and I knew that the people who no longer had my back were going to be there in force. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to give up.

Carol Cox:
I felt vulnerable. I felt alone. So I had a choice to make. I could stand up and make my case, or I could get quiet and I could withdraw. And I like to say that I stood up and made my case, but I didn’t. Definitely wasn’t the kind of empowered woman that I thought of myself was. But sometimes reality is not a quote on a T-shirt. Sometimes reality is you have to take care of yourself. And I realize at the time that I was missing a really strong support system, especially a support system of other women who could help me navigate the challenge that I was facing. So I decided not to run for another term as chair, I decided not to run for Congress as had been talked about. I closed off a career opportunity. I lost my voice, I lost my confidence and I lost my purpose, and it still makes me emotional today. That was 15 years ago. So you may not have had a situation just like that, and if you had come talk to me because I would love to compare notes, but perhaps you’ve had something where you’ve also felt like you poured your heart into your purpose and you faced that wall of resistance. And what did you do? And it’s OK if you decided to retreat. It’s OK if you decided to redirect. It’s OK if you decided to refine your purpose. Maybe it made you recommit to your purpose because you felt like you had to keep going and that direction.

Carol Cox:
Now, you can tell after listening to this that I felt the emotions as I was sharing that in real time, even though I had experience had been over 15 years ago. And I still feel emotional when I think about the story, when I tell the story and when I hear myself telling the story now, I very easily and choosing to tell that story. I could have just stuck to the facts and told the story without the emotions and still could have made my point about what happens when we find resistance to our purpose. What happens when, as women with the public voice, we face criticism and backlash? But it wouldn’t have had the same impact, literally when I got to that point of my story. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. So that’s why I’m encouraging you to find and the emotional heart of your own message, your own story. So here are some things for you to think about what’s a story or an experience you’ve had that sticks in your mind? What did that experience show you and teach you about yourself and maybe about other people and about the world? What is something that has happened to you that you may be reluctant to share? As I mentioned in that clip, this is not a story of what that story that happened to me is not one that I’m proud of in the sense of that, you know, I was this empowered woman who who stood up and and, you know, claimed what you know myself as as a woman with a public voice.

Carol Cox:
So not it’s not something that I, you know, I’m like shouting from the rooftops. It is something that I’ve been reluctant to share. But is there something in there in something that you’re reluctant to share that’s revealing about what matters to you now that’s revealing about your thought leadership, that’s revealing about what you do in your business with your clients? When I work with clients on their talks and when our coaches work with our clients, we ask them various questions and then they share stories with us. And when I see them pause and tear up, when they’re sharing a story, that’s a clue to me that there’s something deeper there. And so then I’ll ask some more, some more questions and get them to share a little bit more. Of course, you need to know what you feel, OK, sharing if something just feels like too much for you right now, that’s OK, then that it’s not the right time. It could be later. I also like to say that you are free to share your own experiences, but not those of someone else unless you have their permission or unless you know it’s OK for you to share about someone else.

Carol Cox:
I always like to say like, stick to your own story when you share a story, include the emotions that you and the other person were feeling, not just the nuts and bolts, not just the facts. And then that storytelling workshop. That’s what I had the women do because it builds connection, it builds intimacy and it builds trust. I did a podcast episode back in Probably Twenty Twenty called the Missing Ingredients in your stories, and there’s an acronym that I came up with called Ideal. So your ideal story ingredients ideal. And that stands for imagery, dialogue, emotion, action. And listen, a lot of times when we’re sharing stories in our content and our presentations and our talks and our podcast, we forget about the emotions that went on within our story. So make sure that you include those emotions, as Maya Angelou said. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel as keynote speakers, as TEDx speakers. That’s really what you’re doing. You’re helping people to feel because when you help people to feel, they’ll remember more of what you shared with them. My invitation to you is for your next presentation, whether it’s virtual or in-person. How can you include a story that has an emotional heart in it? If you’re facilitating a workshop or a presentation, how can you incorporate some activities that get your audience to share? For example, you could give them the prompt of was a story or experience you’ve had that sticks in your mind? And what did that experience show or teach you? I’ll wrap up by saying that this journey to finding the emotional heart in my own story and my own message has been a journey for me.

Carol Cox:
I am very much a left brain analytical stick to the facts, nuts and bolts type of person, and in just my entire life, how I grew up and how I have been. So this is an area that I have been pushing myself to explore more and to dig deeper. And if this is something that you would like to also explore more, I invite you to schedule a consultation call with us so we can talk about your goals, what challenges you’re facing right now and achieving your speaking invisibility goals and how we could potentially work together. You can schedule a console call by going to Speaking Your Brand contact right there. And then in the next episode of this podcast, we’re going to be talking about the role of symbols and metaphors in our stories, so be sure to hit follow in your favorite podcast app. Also, share this episode with our friend or colleague if you think they could benefit from it. And until next time, thanks for listening.

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