Speech is Power. Speak to persuade. To compel. To convert.
Close your eyes and imagine this. You’re in front of hundreds of women. It’s you with a mic and your audience. No podium. No notes. A handful of slides with images or a few words. And you’re up there for about 13 minutes.
For some, this is the definition of terrifying, while to others, it might sound exhilarating. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. For me, it was one of the hardest and most satisfying moments of my career.
What is this experience? It’s not a speech or a presentation. It’s also not a new form of torture for those who don’t like public speaking.
It’s a TED talk – storytelling at its finest.
I’m not new to public speaking. I’ve been doing some form of speaking in front of an audience since early on in my almost 20-year career. I’ve spoken in front of small groups (10 or less) and large audiences. I was even the alumni speaker at a graduation ceremony for a top MBA program with hundreds of people in the audience, but there was a podium and I had notes. In fact, they had each speaker’s entire speech printed out in a handy notebook that we each flipped through to get to our speech.
I can’t even count the number of presentations I’ve given over the years that have lasted minutes or over an hour. But presentations are based on slides and I can speak to slides all day long, even with limited words on a screen.
Read 10 great places to Book Speaking Engagements
A TED talk is different. You’re passionate or an expert in your topic and you’re sharing stories, ideas, advice, or something that is new or unique. You’re talking about a new topic or a unique perspective on an often talked about topic.
In my case I introduced the concept for my book last October at TEDxSMU Women before I had even started writing the book. And there was the added pressure of sharing the first inkling of the book concept with strangers. I felt very vulnerable for that reason. “What if it doesn’t resonate with people?” Or, what if I forget what I want to say?” “What if? What if? What if?”
Read 8 TED Talks for Women at any Lifestage
And on the flip side, “What if it’s a success?” If people come up to you afterwards and share their stories and random people ask to sit at your table at lunch and share their aha moments from your talk? What if someone tells you they took so many notes that their hand hurts? Those are the things that can and did happen. I felt empowered and even more excited about my endeavor and you could feel the same.
The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.
If you’re interested in doing a TED talk, I have some advice for you to consider, based on my own experience from doing a talk at TEDxSMU Women:
1. Preparation is Everything
· TED talks are usually about 4 to 18 minutes. Timing is incredibly important.
· I personally wrote out my talk, but don’t focus on a memorized speech. You must know your material incredibly well. In fact, the day of the event, I was told I had to essentially cut 4 minutes from my talk. I had practiced it over and over and it was just shy 17 minutes. All of a sudden on the day of, it couldn’t be over 13. I had to know what I could cut while doing my talk because I was the first speaker of the day. That requires you to know your stuff and know what is most important and will most resonate with the audience.
· Practice a lot. Include hand gestures and how you’d like to move around as you’re practicing. You want these things to become second nature.
Read No more jitters: Public Speaking with confidence
2. What should you do on the big day.
You want to be in the right mindset for your talk. Figure out what that is and what will get you there. For the day of, I wanted to be calm and focused. I stay calm by doing deep breathing. I also made sure to get in an early morning workout to help with the butterflies.
Read 11 Podcasts with the Power to Lift Your Mindset
· If you get dry mouth when you talk for long periods of time, drink water for 15 minutes before you go on stage because you can’t take water with you. Make sure you have an empty bladder at that point, though.
· If you continue to feel nervous, speak louder, even though you’re mic’ed. You are probably speaking too softly from being nervous and focusing on your volume will remove the focus from being nervous.
· Slow down and breathe.
· Keep your face relaxed.
3. Document and Network
· Make sure you get a picture on your camera, so ask someone to take a picture toward the front of the audience. You can easily get another speaker to do it if you don’t know anyone in the audience.
· Connect with people at the event. Be open to conversation because strangers will share their stories with you, if you’re approachable.
· Connect with other speakers. Set up a time, while at the event, to chat with other speakers at a later time or with others from the event. Have your phone with you, so that you can easily access your calendar. I wish I had done more of this.
Read 7 e-Networking Tips Every Entrepreneur Needs
4. After the talk is important too
· Tell people on social media that you did the talk and show your enthusiasm before the video is up.
· When the video is posted, promote it everywhere. And do that right after it’s posted. Share on social media, on your blog, in conversations, when you’re on podcasts, and on your resume or LinkedIn profile. How you talk about it will change, based on the marketing vehicle. Let it become part of your story.
Read 6 Strategies to Enrich your In-person Networking with Facebook
Sometimes it’s good to be terrified and excited in the same moment. It’s good to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. It’s really good to learn new skills and TED talks are certainly a unique skill.
Are you inspired?
Read here for more about speaking at TED. If Public speaking skills hold you back, start here for some great talks on upping your game. For a TED like experience at a local level, explore TEDx events near you.
What will your TED talk be about?
Not ready to do a talk? What’s holding you back? Share in comments below so we can inspire one another.
Suzanne Brown is a strategic marketing and business consultant, advocate for professional part-time working moms, TEDx speaker, thought provoker, and international travel enthusiast.
Most importantly, she is wife to a supportive husband and mother to two active young boys. Suzanne’s current passion project is empowering moms to think differently about their career approach and providing a how-to in her book, which will launch in September. She interviewed more than 110 professional part-time working moms and sprinkles their stories, insights, and advice throughout her book.
Follow her reflections on all things related to being a professional part-time working mom at www.mompowerment.com.
I’ve recently joined a volunteer group for TEDx talk in Singapore and I hope to one day be able to do a speech on stage! Taking notes of your article so that I can prep for one!
love that you shared your personal experience on this! how incredible to be invited to give a TED talk!
Public speaking has never been my strength. I’m sure if you practiced these tips and had regular opportunities anyone could learn the tricks of speaking in front of people.
These are so helpful tips! I have joined Toastmasters a few years ago and it has improved my Public Speaking!
I love a good TED Talk! Also love this point: “The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.” So simple, so effective, so true.
Ted Talk is very inspiring and motivational. I never thought of doing a TED talk but this is great info. Thanks!
After realising how empowering and inspiring doing a TED talk could be, I’ve always wanted to do a TED talk. But I’m not sure how to go about doing it or get invited. But I should learn to angle and practise!
I’ve never done a TED Talk but I can only imagine the preparation that goes into them! I’ve done some public speaking, but not a whole lot. I’ll have to revisit when I start to do more 🙂
So very inspiring! I used to have a fear of public speaking, but it would seem that as nervous as I was on the inside, I was always told I never actually came off that way to my audience. I still get nervous talking in front of crowds, but like you suggested, I feel so much better about it when I am prepared !
I will be using these tips in the future!!! They are so helpful tips. Thanks for sharing!!
I’m so glad you found these tips to be helpful. Good luck with your next speech/presentation/TED talk!
Wow I think it’s so cool that you were part of Ted Talk! These are great tips for preparation
I’m so glad you found these tips helpful! I tried to break it down to a more practical approach to sharing my own experience so that others could benefit.
I know video is the way of the future so I’d better get better at making them! Thanks for the tips.
Video and public speaking are closely related in my opinion. And there is definitely more video being used today and that trend will likely continue. The tips will work for both. Good luck with your videos!
Ted talks are so inspiring an I am lucky to know someone who actually did one. I remember how nervous she was before it but how confident she looked on the stage. I can imagine it is an amazing experience!
When you do your TED talk, you and your friend can compare notes. 😉
I am def saving this link. I used to be so nervous speaking in public that the words wouldn’t come out right. I can now speak in public but i still get really nervous at times. I found this really helpful.
You are right that these tips work for any type of speech or presentation. I’m so glad they were helpful. I think the biggest tips for presentations in general are breathe (it’s hard to articulate when you’re shallow breathing), slow down, and speak up.
A big thumbs up to you Suzanne. I’ve heard that the TED talks can be quite intimidating but you rocked it. Thanks for sharing the stories of professional working moms. We desperately want to be heard
Thanks for your kind words and for checking out my talk. We really do need to share our stories — to help guide other women and moms — and come together to keep working on better work-life balance.
These are really great tips! I’ve always struggled with public speaking.
Public speaking is as hard as you make it. Really, though, it takes practice. That is the difference between great public speakers and really bad ones. There are certainly people who are more able to be in front of others and some people who simply can’t do presentations, but it’s practice that makes the difference for most people. You’ve got this!
These are great tips! Like everyone else, I need to save this for the future. I have a little bit of public speaking experience through school and I found that I enjoyed the experience more when I did not use notes and spoke from my heart. Thank you for sharing.
I love that you mentioned speaking from the heart. This can really make a speech, talk, or even presentation blow people away. And if you don’t need notes, simply outlining your thoughts will get you what you need. Speaking from the heart and connecting with people through that is not a learned skill. It’s usually something you have naturally. That is a GREAT skill!!
I watch a lot of TED talks online. I’ve never thought about actually giving one. Great advice to pass along to some of my friends who are into public speaking!
I hope you enjoyed my talk. I would love for you to pass on the tips to your friends.
I am petrified of public speaking. But these are all helpful tips.
Instead of thinking of the larger audience, think about connecting with a few people. It can take away the fear factor of a lot of people looking at you. It takes practice, though. For most people, they’re not comfortable in front of an audience until they’ve done public speaking a few times.
Major fear of public speaking but I hope to overcome this soon so I can help and inspire others.
Public speaking can be scary and intimidating, especially if you put extra pressure on yourself. Like so many things, it takes practice. It can be helpful to practice in a mirror and record yourself with your phone to see how you’re doing.
While I’m not sure exactly what my TED Talk would be (or when) I did like the tips on networking. I loathe one-on-ones with strangers so networking is definitely something I need to improve upon. This is absolutely something I want to do later to help set me up as an expert in my field. 🙂
Public speaking can definitely help set you up as a subject matter expert. It can be part of your overall strategy.
I’m glad the networking tips help. My spin on networking, when you’re not at a big event, is to network where you are. Most people don’t focus enough energy on networking with the people they interact with everyday, like at work or your new neighbors or at your child’s school if you’re a mom. And networking is the #1 tip I heard from moms in the interviews I did for my book. I have a whole free guide on this on my website.
I get stressed when I have to make a phone call to one stranger, so I’d NEVER be brave enough to do something like this! Love these tips though and think you can apply them to some everyday situations, too.
I think in many ways public speaking, including a TED talk, is a conversation between people. And, in many ways, it’s making the people in the audience feel like they know you, so you’re not a stranger any more. 😉 Public speaking can be scary or it can be part of your approach to business. You can decide which path you take. And, like with making cold calls, public speaking takes practice. I know few people who can command an audience their first time. I’ll share that I’m not a huge fan of cold calling, even if I enjoy my public speaking opportunities.
This is an awesome read!! I love how neatly you laid everything out. My light bulb moment came when someone told me that speaking is just like writing. It stopped me from being so scared.
Love the analogy of speaking like writing. It’s simply sharing something real time in front of a group. If you treat public speaking, including a TED talk, as a conversation between you and one other person, I think it takes the pressure off. Even with a large audience, you’re making connections with individuals throughout the audience. It’s less scary than thinking about taking to hundreds of people. Ultimately, speaking is as scary as you make it.
This post came at the right time for me as I have been chosen to motivate a group of women at an event. I have been jotting my speech down, but anxiety is killing me. I now have to learn to breathe … Thank you
I’m so glad you found this helpful for any speech. Breathing as you go is so important. Good luck with your speech. You’ve got this!
These are so helpful… I have a fear of public speaking but often find myself needing to be giving a small talk… your tips will help me so much.
I’m so glad you found this helpful. They can definitely apply to any kind of public speaking, not only TED talks. I have trained people on public speaking and focusing on your volume can really help deal with the butterflies.
These are great tips for any public speaker! I am often giving presentations in front of high school students and I still get nervous as a 30 year old. I will defiantly be using these tips in the future!
I think especially in that situation that keeping your face relaxed and smiling wherever appropriate will help. That audience can be hard. Be real as it will make connecting with you easier.
Definitley need to save this for future reference! I’m not the best public speaker, although I’ve performed a lot better since starting in high school.
For most, public speaking is a learned skill. You’ll get better as you practice more. These tips should help with any kind of public speaking.
Very Aspirational! Saved this for someday in the future……
You’ll have to share when you get to do a TED talk or speech!