Tips for TEDx

This coming Saturday The Fulbright Commission of Ireland will host the first ever TEDxFulbright event in Ireland.  The event will be held on Saturday 5th April in the Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street, Dublin 2.

I was delighted to be engaged as the speaker coach for these wonderful speakers with diverse and stimulating topics.  During the 1 to 1 sessions with each speaker there were 2 key points that we discussed before looking at 10 tips.  All of these have a certain amount of relevance to any talk that we are giving.  Some of them are more relevant when the talk is being videoed and in particular when it is being videoed for viewing internationally.

Key Point #1 – Who?

It is important to consider the audience, not only in the room but also the wider international audience who will be viewing.  In particular, the average knowledge level of the audience needs to be assessed.  If in doubt, explain any acronyms, phrases, concepts etc. that might not be understood by a general audience.  This is particularly relevant if you are an academic presenting an idea you are sharing from your own area of expertise.

Key Point #2 – What?

As a speaker, you need to be capable of summarising the key purpose or point of the talk in one simple sentence.  Or put another way for TED and TEDx talks – the idea worth sharing.  There are many reasons for this.  The main reason being that “if you cannot explain it simply – you don’t understand it well enough”, according to Einstein.

The other reason is that all your content should feed into your purpose or idea.  Referring back to this can be useful if you need to cut some of the content to fit within the allocated time-frame.

Top Ten Tips for TEDx

I really struggled to keep the tips to just 10.  I am sure others would have their own ideas as to what should be in the Top Ten so we will have to agree to disagree!

  1. Open and close with impact.
    Open – No need to thank people for having you, or saying that you are honoured to be there.  Likewise, there is usually  no need to introduce yourself as the Emcee will have normally done an appropriate introduction for you and your talk.  Start straight off in with an opening that is an attention grabber.  This could be anything from a question to a quote to a fascinating fact or a story.Close – You can certainly spend a little time on your conclusion or findings or learnings –  but your closing sentence needs to be really short and snappy.  In this instance, less is most definitely more.
  2. Record, transcribe, edit and repeat.  TED recommend this and acknowledges the fact that most of us do not like listening to our own voice.  However, listening to yourself (or even better still, seeing yourself) is fantastic for experiencing what your audience will experience.  Also, it really is important to have heard the words vocalised as the written word is so different to the spoken word.
  3. Use a conversational tone.  It is a TALK, not a lecture.  Imagine you are sitting with a group of friends who are really interested in your talk.  Typically, at a TEDx talk people are there because they are interested in hearing your talk.  They are on your side, honestly!
  4. Tell stories.  TED also recommend that you tell stories that allow you to tap into honest, contagious emotion.  Children love stories.  Guess what?  Adults do too.As you tell your story, think of the emotions you want the audience to feel and demonstrate them where appropriate.  Concentrate on saying things like you mean them.  For example, if you say “I couldn’t believe my eyes” – say it in an astonished tone with matching gestures.  Likewise, if you are saying “he was totally devastated” – your tone and body language should demonstrate the devastation.
  5. Less is more.  Less words equal more impact.  Also, having less words allows more time for pausing.  This allows your audience to digest your message, piece by piece.  When we write we use punctuation such as ! ? ” ” , – when speaking, we should also punctuate our text.
  6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse some more!  For all the face to face sessions the Fulbright speakers were videoed, coached and videoed again.  Even if you do not have a coach, you can video yourself or ask a friend to do it for you.Doing a voice recording on your phone can work very well to help you remember the content.  You can then listen to it while exercising, doing chores at home or even while on your lunch break (if you get one!).
  7. Consciously vary your voice.  In particular, as you transition from one point to the next, for example if you finished a point in a high register then start the next point with a deeper register.   You might speed up for a particularly exciting point and slow right down for a crucial point.
  8. Be yourself … the animated version!
  9. Stand, settle and smile (if appropriate).  Before you speak, take a moment to get used to the space, get into a good tall stance and just give a smile – big or small smile, your own choice, whatever comes naturally to you.Standing in a good confident stance not only makes you look confident – but, even more importantly, it actually makes you feel confident.  This fascinating TED talk by Amy Cuddy proves this point –  Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
  10. Enjoy it!  From my experience of the Fulbright speakers they put a huge amount of effort into the preparation and deserve to enjoy every moment of their talk .  So too will you when you have prepared effectively.

I hope you find these tips helpful for your next talk, whether it is at a TEDx, a conference, a work presentation or a social event.

Above all, I wish all the TEDxFulbright speakers the very best of luck this Saturday – I for one, know that it is going to be an entertaining, engaging and enlightening day!