1. Ask yourself whether it’s OK to be emotional. Most audiences understand why a burn survivor might get emotional when discussing his or her injury. Exhibiting emotion may feel uncomfortable, but in some cases, it may actually enhance your delivery. So don’t automatically try to squelch your emotion just because you’re embarrassed by it.
Context matters. When a loving mother, a caring zookeeper, or a disabled burn survivor cries when telling their story, the public tends to understand and empathize. When House Speaker John Boehner cries (as he does regularly), well, that’s a different story.
2. Take a moment. If you get choked up for a moment, stop talking for a few seconds instead of rushing through your remarks—just put your head down and pause for a few seconds, then look up and continue when you’re ready.
If you’re more than just momentarily choked up and fear you may not be able to continue at all, you may need to move on to the next option.
3. De-personalize and detach. When people get emotional during a talk, it’s usually because they’re too close to the material. By de-personalizing their stories, they’re often able to get through the material much more easily.
When emotional speakers make their content less concrete and more abstract, they can often proceed without emotion getting in their way. And once they’re on more solid ground, they can return to the more emotional parts of their story—if and when they’re ready.