"You've Got to Get Naked on Stage"

Dan Mangan is a Canadian indie folk-rock singer and songwriter. There is a raw honesty in his voice that is beguiling. His latest album, Oh Fortune, was released to wide acclaim.

Dan recently wrote an article for The Guardian entitled, Magic gig moments. It’s a very personal, very moving article that offers tremendous insight into the life of a musician. It also offers an incredibly important lesson that is as relevant for public speakers as it is for musicians: Your most powerful moments on stage will come when you are willing to be vulnerable. You have to get naked.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Dan Mangan
Dan Mangan performing

[T]he concerts that I have cherished the most are the ones that left me with very distinct memories. They could be subtle or grand, but my recollection of those evenings are split in to specific moments. An entire evening’s experience recounted decades later, thanks to one action, one facial expression, or a moment of true, unconscious “aliveness”. … When I play a concert, I want to create those memories for myself and for the audience. … I want people to go home with a story to tell. I want to leave a footprint …


So how do you do that at every show? How do you make that night any more memorable than the last, while walking the balance beam that keeps it sincere, honest and in-the-now? … You have to put in the work.


You have to get vulnerable. It’s a scary thing to do, but the payoff is enormous. People get bossed around by the fear. The fear of your vulnerability not being reciprocated. Non-reciprocation can be painful, but giving in to that fear is how we bond as people. That’s when we feel faith in humanity. Those warm moments of colour in the tepidness of status-quo life.


We watch people on a stage. The ones who really blow our minds are the ones who tap in to that carnal part of inspired humanity that allows us to just be alright with each other. The ones who really inspire us are the ones who put down their armour. They get naked with such brilliance that instead of cutting them to bits, everyone in the room wishes they had the balls to get naked, too. They get so vulnerable that we nearly get embarrassed for them, and then it comes around to this whole other thing where we’re not embarrassed for them at all, but now we ourselves are embarrassed that we questioned them to begin with.


What I’m suggesting is that those truly memorable moments of gig beauty can only come at the intersection of vulnerability, honesty and spontaneity. You can’t anticipate when they’ll happen. You can’t expect it to be the same moment every night, and you can’t expect you’ll be able to reach that place every show. But when it clicks, it’s magic.


It’s like being in on this amazing secret. … You realise that getting vulnerable is a catalyst to having boatloads of memorable moments in your life. You learn that most people will actually meet you there. And you stop caring if they don’t. And you learn to disregard people who don’t “get it”. The good ones will. I want goosebumps as many times as possible, then I want to die gracefully without regret.

Great, great stuff! Public speakers take note. When you allow yourself to get naked on stage, magic moments can occur. So when you speak, the focus should be outward instead of inward. Focus on your message; show some emotion; tell a story; be 100% in the moment; smile. And most importantly, care about your audience. Be like Luciano Pavarotti who said, “Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience.”
You can read Dan’s entire article here.

Photos courtesy of Christine McAvoy and Alexandr Ivanov 

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Picture of mannerofspeaking


  1. John:
    An excellent post. Livingston Taylor has been teaching courses on Stage Performance for over two decades. In an interview about the revised edition of his book, he says similarly that:
    “An audience supports you not because they came to you, but because you are able to come to them. And the talented and the good looking never develop the skill of going to an audience because they become used to an audience coming to them.”
    Watch it here: http://www.plumtv.com/videos/stage-performance
    Last week I blogged about Livingston and discussed his advice on introducing yourself, which also applies to public speakers:

    1. Richard, thanks very much for the comment and for alerting us to Livingston Tyler. I’d never heard of him before and I very much appreciate his simple but effective wisdom. Thanks for sharing the video link and the link to the good post on your blog.

  2. I’m glad you posted this article. I’ve long felt a great speech should be slightly uncomfortable to give. I’ve noticed the times I left myself the most vulnerable in front of a group are the times I struck the deepest in their hearts. It’s nice to see someone who is so accomplished say the same things I’ve strongly believed for so long.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment, Michael. I love your line, “a great speech should be slightly uncomfortable to give”. A great way to make the point and I will definitely remember it.

  3. This great post left me teary-eyed. I am happy I could experience his words to be true a few times. It can be such a scary thing to “get naked” sometimes but definitely worth it!
    The words Dan chose to describe it are masterful. “The ones who really inspire us are the ones who put down their armour. They get naked with such brilliance that instead of cutting them to bits, everyone in the room wishes they had the balls to get naked, too.”
    I found some of his music on YouTube and I bow in front of this artist. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thank you Katarina. When we as speakers commit to opening up to our audiences – I mean really opening up – that is truly when the magic happens for speaker and audience. One classic example of this is Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk. He speaks of “shiny eyes” moments, moments that bring tears to our eyes. And that is when, for a brief moment, we leave the world and meet our audience on another level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three × 1 =


John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International