Honoring Emotion

When I worked in theatre I used to say that “when you stop having butterflies before a performance, it’s time to stop.” Theatre is unapologetically rooted in emotion, people are literally chasing the prospect of feeling something.

Tell me a story, take me to another place, teach me something.

Pierce my world with magic.

A shot splitting the view of backstage and the house

Standing backstage, waiting to perform or poised at the fly rail to send in a drop, I always felt lightheaded. The audience and the production have different chemistry at every performance, you can’t know until the curtain flies out, the lights go up, and the audience is invited in, whether the crowd is hot or you have your work cut out for you. That’s the thing about emotion, not everyone is comfortable with it.

I’ve moved from theatre to communication and it often feels like emotion is the last thing people want. People have a feverish need for confidence and stability, which is understandable as money is invested and huge leaps of faith are taken with brand and story. What sometimes get lost is that emotion is a fuel. Nerves can help with focus, excitement can sustain interest on a team, and the rush of venturing beyond comfort can lead to remapping boundaries.

The backside of presentation boards face out from a long wooden bench before a presentation.

The other day we were presenting logo drafts to a client. There were a number of versions to show, each one the result of numerous rounds of internal revisions and edits. The work was backed by research, polling, and experience. We had rehearsed our presentation and worked through specific ways to discuss different strategies. This particular project involved pitching a small group. They are intelligent, invested in the process, and respect our opinion. Despite all of this, my palms were sweaty and my voice was shaky; I had butterflies.

A group f of people gathered in a wood paneled conference room to review a presentation.

When these moments of anticipation and nerves come, I don’t fight them. There should be pressure and I should be channeling my energy into creating emotion. Maybe they hate the logo or they fall back in love with what they’ve had, perhaps the process of seeing how things feel leads to an exciting new direction. The important thing is that as we gather to consider the work, we feel something.

People gathered around work tables reviewing artwork pinned to a whiteboard.