Monica Lewinsky's Breathtaking Talk on The Price of Shame

“You’re looking at a woman who was publicly silent for a decade.” ~Monica Lewinsky

This is one of my favorite talks of all time. I ask each and every private public speaking client to watch it, at least once. Though, after they see it, they usually watch it over and over again just because they want to. In this talk, Monica is the embodiment of exactly how a woman expands her influence, magnifies her authority and maximizes her impact. Grab a cup of coffee, watch this now and you'll see what I mean.

There are so many things to say about this talk; so many things to learn. Here is my short list. I'm curious to hear what you learn, as a speaker, as a communicator, as a woman, from these twenty-odd minutes.

  1. This is Monica's first public appearance since the Clinton scandal and the public shaming she endured as a result. For ten years, she was in hiding, afraid of calling any attention to herself. Then she decided to give this talk. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I don't have whatever brand of courage this is. I remain in awe of her grace, her poise and her self-assuredness.

  2. Most TED Talks are podium-less. Meaning, the speaker moves all around the stage, "taking up the space" as we speakers like to call it. In this talk, Monica does not take up the space of the stage. She uses a simple music stand as a podium and stands behind it. It isn't until until minute 22:30 that she leaves the safety and protection of this barrier. I'll let you watch it and see for yourself why she intentionally chooses this specific moment for such a dramatic punctuation.

  3. She has notes in front of her. Again, this is a stark departure from most TED Talks that seem to spring up live and in the moment for the speaker (they don't by the way). Even I coach my clients to memorize their talk so they can deliver in this way. However, in the magnitude of this moment, notes work. She clearly knows her talk. The notes, and the podium they rest on, give her something steady to hold on to, just in case she needs it. Again, at minute 22:30, she steps away from her notes and does not look at them again. She does not need them, or anything, for security and stability from this point on.

What I most admire about this talk is that Monica defies so many Ted Talk "norms". Just like she, herself, defies the norm, refusing to cower in hiding like so many victims of a massive public humiliation. She doesn't know how the public is going to respond. And it doesn't matter. Just by stepping onto the stage, she is making a statement about who she is and what she stands for. Now. Today.

Bookmark this post. The next time you need a dose of inspiration or courage, or a refresher on how to give the performance of a lifetime, watch Monica Lewinsky deliver a Masterclass on how it's done.

P.S. If you aren't watching American Crime Story: Impeachment, add to your must-watch list. Monica is an executive producer and it's her story.

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