Its official I can now tick ‘TED talk’ off my list, it always irked me a bit that my son when he was 13 did a young innovators TED talk so I thought it was time I went for it. My talk was called Sobriety Rocks – Who Knew! as part of the largest (and one of only two in Europe) TEDxED conferences in Norwich. The theme for the day was Look Again, all TED events have a theme, more on this later as its super important that your talk reflects it. We had a phenomenal day, all the speakers were live streamed and incredibly our live stream trended on Twitter (top 5 in the UK) for 6 hours, A massive 32k different people joined us on the Live Stream at some point in the day. Between them amassed over 120 minutes of view time. Tweets about the event were seen by over 6.7 MILLION people- woah!…and of course that’s before our talks go live on TED.com which takes a few weeks.
Some exposure right? I can honestly say that despite being a seasoned public speaker, presenter on the UK’s biggest radio station, with a show broadcasting to 9 million people daily, and confident on stage it genuinely was nerve-wracking, and all ‘consuming’ For weeks I could think of nothing else, I had a whole host of other projects going on but in truth most of it went by the wayside especially in the last three weeks when I literally could think of nothing else but my speech and my appearance (You too will become obsessed by what to wear!)
I thought I’d share a few of the tips I picked up along the way in case any of my experience can help you when you too go for it, and become part of the this incredible brand
When I teach people how to speak in public I encourage them to realise that its all about Preparation. Not just the writing and shaping of the content of the speech, but also how they prepare themselves to present. Once the script and style is ‘nailed’ it becomes all about the mindset. I found that because TEDx talks are short, they are a specific length of time which must be adhered to (usually between 8 and 20 minutes) there was far more pressure to ensure that it was near as dammit word perfect.
Some people use Powerpoint but I didn’t, there seemed no real need, and I hate slides for the sake of them, the downside to that is that no notes are allowed, so there are literally no ‘cues’ in case you freeze during your talk!
So my top tips for attracting and rocking a TED talk include…
Make sure you have an ‘idea worth sharing’ That’s their brand, it isn’t a platform to promote your business or speak to a niche tribe, in fact many people who give TED talks aren’t in business, and have nothing to ‘promote’ They are schoolteachers, nurses, parents, ex-military, who have never taken a course in entrepreneurship or sent out an ezine to their subscriber list. But you know what, get them on stage and they are captivating, because they have a message to share.
The application process is usually straightforward if you are going after a TEDx talk in the UK, you will need to succinctly explain what your idea is (and proposed title though that may change) and be sure to check that it fits their theme, usually these are fairly generic. The theme for mine was Look Again, my talk was about the positive benefits of ditching the booze, so obviously I was able to tweak that to …’Look Again…at your relationship with alcohol’
Make sure you include a link within your application to you on stage, or speaking to camera, this is clearly imperative if you want to be selected from the hundreds and hundreds of application each event gets.
Choose your title. Whoever is running the TEDX event will help you finalise your title, but you need to put one on the application. Contrary to popular opinion they don’t need to be cryptic, some of the best TED talk titles are very straightforward. One talk I referenced in mine was by Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language may shape who you are, is exactly what it says on the tin, so don’t agonise over it too much. You do also get a chance to change your title before the main video goes onto the TED site so if you really think of a stronger one, you should get another opportunity.
Craft your talk. Once you’re in, it’s all systems go to craft your talk. Usually the event facilitator will work with you and help you get your key ideas in place. I’d recommend one main point and a supporting argument. Ask yourself what will be the main takeaway of my talk? What do I want people to remember?
Use the time as cues. Of course the timing is critical, so as most people don’t have visual cues, you can use the time as a cue. When you have nailed your final script (and I highly recommend nailing it within two weeks of your talk, if you change it too much after that you will find yourself flipping to the wrong version when nerves kick in!) then rehearse it and check the time at the start of each section, that way you know that you need to be onto a certain point in the talk when there is 5 minutes left etc.
‘Emotions not logic inspire action’
Research your statistics, quotes and images. The best TEDx talks are usually heartfelt and evoke a powerful emotion, they are not usually a list of statistics, but if you do need to use any to make your point they must be fully researched and referenced before the final script is submitted. If you are using slides they will need clearance.
Handwrite your script, or at least a draft of the sections. You will probably need to re-read that, yep I said handwrite, that’s with a paper and pen, it’s good for the cognitive brain, and when you have written something ‘longhand’ you are far more likely to remember it.
Rehearse your talk out loud You will find yourself reading and re-reading and making tweaks to your script and you will find that you fall asleep thinking through the script and will wake up murmuring lines from it, you will close your eyes on the train and present the script in your head, kicking yourself if you ‘slip up’ …all good but its hugely important to rehearse OUT LOUD as much as possible, this is because it’s not just about the recall, its muscle memory too, you need to physically get your mouth around the words.
Decide how you will use the stage – Will you use props ? if so keep them simple and rehearse with them, will you stand in the centre on the famous red circle or will you move around?
Present your talk in front of an audience (even its its only your partner or friend) As someone who has been speaking at events for years I didn’t think this was important, but an opportunity arose for me to present my first draft of my script at an event. I explained what I was doing, and that I might ‘forget’ or need to check my notes and the audience were very forgiving. ‘Performing’ that first draft live in front of a small audience made a big difference to how I tweaked the script and made subtle changes to my delivery, I was able to see what worked and what didn’t. Weeks went by for me after that first ‘airing’ and then finally I rehearsed in front of my partner just a few days before the event. I was crap! Suddenly in front of someone I cared about, someone who I knew would tell me the truth, I almost fell apart, I was very timid, he said my voice was too high pitched and I looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights (charming) I realised I hadn’t done enough ‘performing’ of my talk, I had become too insular, just me walking along a beach reciting it quietly to the seagulls, who I must confess, I found to be a much easier to please audience. Anyways I pulled myself together, got an emergency confidence boost (more on that next) and performed it at least another three times to other family members.
Shift your mindset
It’s incredible that I spend so much of my time making recommendations for others but forget for myself, I am trained in EFT (emotional freedom technique) and I often use it with people who are feeling nervous before an important presentation or appearance. Had I remembered to use it on myself? Nope, Fortunately a lovely therapist Wendy Stolen offered me a session by skype, and in one twenty minute speed session she completely helped me to not only release my fears but to embrace the excitement of it all, quite honestly I was in danger of ‘missing’ the whole experience and not being fully engaged in the joy of it because I was so nervous
EFT is so simple, try and remove your preconceived skeptical thoughts, it really can work to let the ‘Amygdala – the part of the brain that wants to keep you safe and in the same place know that its all ok, you may be feeling anxious and stressed, but there aren’t actually any tigers coming at ya any time soon, and you can remind yourself that you have had times before when you have ‘shone’ and you can do that again. She reminded me to think of ‘releasing’ the fears and worries that I would forget my words, and instead ‘embrace’ the opportunity and the buzz of the event.
It helped SO much! I felt lighter and assured and just before I went on stage (which is an ok time to have butterflies…but butterflies flying in perfect formation) I did some tapping and ‘embraced’ the joy of it all. Remember a time when you were hugely successful and ‘won’ or did well in front of an audience, anchor that feeling, see yourself delivering your TED talk, and visualise yourself coming off stage after the talk, punching the air and saying….I rocked it!!!
Its ok to have butterflies, but hopefully they’re flying in perfect formation.
Watch your body language
If you are used to speaking in public you know the importance of good posture, make sure you film yourself and identify any little ‘habits’ I watched a rehearsal back and realised I had a bit of a habit of dropping my head down, as I walked across the stage, not a big deal, but I was able to tweak it.
Before you go on stage, remember the excellent TED talk by Amy Cuddy ‘Your body language may shape who you are’ (I referenced this in my talk) She recommends that you adopt the ‘Power Pose’ – research from University College London, shows if you sway from side to side and keep your hands by your side it feels submissive, if you stand with feet wide apart (power pose) and make expansive hand gestures you appear confident, convincing, knowledgeable, inspirational and leader like, your Unconscious mind translates your intentions into actions, if you are nervous, it shows, if you are in distress or crying it will be unlikely you will be sitting up straight!
Psychologists call this is Cybernetic loop, master it to align your thoughts to success
Before you go out on stage adopt the power pose and feel a sense of confidence and strength, literally sending a signal to your body that you feel great and in control.
The dress code
We were told there isn’t one, often people start out thinking they should try and replicate the TED brand by wearing a black jacket with red buttons but that’s total overkill, we were advised wear whatever you are comfortable in, but preferably not black and red together. I think if I were to rationalise it I’d say block colours and structured clothes work well, I started out thinking I should wear a green or yellow jacket with a white shirt and black trousers, crisp and ‘clean’ Many days and hours of trawling round clothes shops made me realise that I don’t look good or feel comfortable in ‘smart’ structured clothes and in fact I ended up wearing a flared dress and a funky little red and white check jacket. I honestly couldn’t say if it was the best thing to wear but it is what felt comfortable for me, and feeling that you are wearing clothes that portray your personality is really important.
Where does the mic go?
A word of warning though, you will need a microphone pack attached so if you aren’t wearing trousers or a skirt with a waistband then make sure you can add a decent width belt to the outfit so that the mic pack can be easily attached.
Giving a TEDx talk is without doubt a major highlight in your life, it is a huge amount of preparation and work but anything worth doing is! Everyone involved in the TEDx experience works on a ‘gratis’ basis, so don’t expect any payment, but do think of the incredible opportunity you have to make a difference and reach far more people than you could have dreamt of.
Janey offers media coaching in being a great interviewee and public speaking
For inspiration around the topic of Janey’s talk sign up to be on the wait list for www.thesoberclub.com