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.
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?”
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.
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.
· 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.
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.
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.
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