Have you met TED? (I’m not talking about Ted Mosby, character in the hit TV series, How I Met Your Mother…) I’m talking about TED talks; the inspirational and creative conferences that take place all over the world, that share ideas and stories and inspire thousands of people every year. The first TED talk I ever saw changed my life. It was on the “Power of Vulnerability” and made me want to be different. I think that’s the point of most TED talks, they hope to inspire change and instigate excitement for whatever it is they’re speaking about.
TED talks are a brilliant way of combining the human desire to connect, to know, to learn, and to be a community – with human experience. Hundreds, if not thousands of people have spoken on their subject of expertise and shared a little part of what they’re passionate about, hoping to instill that same passion in others.
These talks, like any other public speaking engagements, can be transforming or totally boring, depending on the presenter skills of the expert. I have watched many hours of inspiring, funny, sad, compelling, challenging speeches and picked up several tips from the ones I liked best. Here are just a few things I’ve learned.
1. Tell stories! Be real – yourself, and don’t shy away from emotion. As a person, we love connecting and hearing that we’re not alone in our circumstances. Plus, stories are much more memorable than straight facts. By telling a story (or two or four) the information you are sharing becomes more real and more relatable. As a public speaker, that should motivate you! A good example of a talk that uses stories as the medium is “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. Check it out and you’ll be inspired to see how your own stories can be used to share truth!
2. Use visual aids! If you want your audience to remember what you’re saying, use pictures! It may sound elementary, but research says that most of us retain more information when it is presented via pictures and text! Watch this talk, The Astonishing Hidden World of the Deep Ocean by Robert Ballard (not only is it such a mysterious, cool topic, its also beautiful!) How much more interested are you in learning about something you can actually SEE?! Visual aids break down the barriers between the unknown and the desire to know – you want me to listen to you? Show me.
3. Practice practice practice! My mom has said it a million times, “practice makes perfect” – which used to drive me crazy, but eventually I’ve learned, as usual, mother knows best. It is also said in my family, “proper planning prevents poor performance” – and that’s exactly what Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, who gives the TED presentation called “My Stroke of Insight” did; she planned her speech, and then did it. 200 times!! When giving a good speech you want to know what you’re saying and what you’re going to say…it will help stay on track, and gives you the authority that your audience needs to hear in order to trust you. What are you waiting for? Start (practicing) now!
4. Be creative! When people come to listen to you, they want to hear something new, something they haven’t heard before. We like to be entertained and informed, and that’s precisely why so many people attend the TEDx events, even though each ticket is well over $300 dollars! It’s worth it to sit and stay if the individuals sharing are cutting edge, teaching you something you’ve never thought of before. Ignite people’s imaginations and be innovative in not only the way you’re presenting, but in what you’re talking about too!
5. Confidence is key! There was not one TED talk I watched in these past several months that started with nervous laughter, or had awkward pauses or silence…the experts presenting weren’t afraid to say what they had to say, or too shy to share their thoughts and ideas. One of my favorite speakers and TED talks in general is Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet who is anything but shy. Watch her talk “If I Should Have a Daughter…” and you’ll see what I mean). People want to know that YOU know what you’re talking about. So go ahead, be bold and courageous. Give a strong call to action at the end and let people remember what it was they came for.
What are some tips YOU have for public-speaker wannabes? What do you notice when you’re a part of the audience that you wish every speaker did?