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Public Speaking Advice from my TEDx Talk

By Laurie Stach

December 08, 2015

Laurie Stach TEDx speakerI recently had the honor of doing a TEDx talk.  It was a humbling, exciting, overwhelming, and exhausting experience.  I was among a panel of esteemed speakers including some previous TED global speakers, an Emmy-Award winner, a performance storyteller, and an expert in neurodevelopment.  Wow… And I had to kick off the event as the first speaker.  I’m proud of my talk, though also know how I can improve going forward, and would like to share some advice for any of you who may have the opportunity to have a public speaking engagement.

1) Outline

Focus on only 1-3 key messages you want to get across.  Ensure you come back to these throughout.  Open strong, since you only have a short time to hook people before they decide to find another TED talk to watch during lunch.  Think about the compelling story or simple elevator pitch that draws people into your message best.  End strong as well, since this is what will stick with people.

2) Benchmark

Watch top videos of great public speakers.  Make note of a few things:

    1. Flow – how do they engage the audience in the discovery process of their insights?  Then build a framework and lesson around it?  And some examples?  Try to map the basic logical flow of the videos that are similar to what you are trying to convey to see how you might be able to have a similarly compelling flow.
    2. Materials – what is their use of slides?  Pictures, graphs, words?  They’re usually pretty minimal so as not to have the audience reading instead of listening.
    3. Style – does the speaker come across as inspiring, energetic, courageous, passionate, informative, persuasive, funny…?  Which ones do you relate to most?  What aspects of their speaking style, then, can you emulate, in terms of their language, gestures, posture, tone, etc.?  Think about how you might get yourself in this mindset prior to your talk.
    4. Presence – how do they hold themselves on stage?  Gestures, stance, facial expressions, tone.  Similar to the above – find ways to embody the self-image and value you want to portray.

3) Develop

Put together the full materials, talk and slides, with special attention on the intro and close.  I suggest doing this more with bullet points than as a full script, since people tend to want to fully memorize a script, then stumble over their words when they try to think of the exact phrasing on stage.  Be more objective oriented than specific word / detail oriented.  This goes for the slides as well.  Big picture – literally – best is when slides are either just a picture or a word to emphasize a point.  Try not to distract from what you are saying but to portray the emotion of what you are saying visually.

4) Practice!  

Do your talk tons of times over, not just on your own in your room, but with colleagues, friends and family, and people in and out of your topic of your talk.  Get feedback especially on your opening and closing to ensure that they engage people right off the bat.  Make sure you aren’t overcomplicating topics for people outside your field, or dumbing down topics too much for people in your field.

5) Going on stage

This just comes down to getting in the right mindset.  Get yourself pumped up, stand tall and spread your wingspan for a bit backstage, think about the public speakers you want to emulate, and know that you are the expert on yourself and your topic.  It comes down to confidence and adaptability.

Plus, of course, please watch my TEDx talk here: 😉

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