How I’m Preparing To Give My First TEDx Talk
I’ll be speaking at the next TEDx Hong Kong event, coming up this May. How did I obtain such a honor? I know many of you are curious about that, but it’s not the purpose of this post and frankly, isn’t that interesting in my case, so I’ll just say bribery, blackmail, personal favors, shame, guilt, and connections. Thankfully, I have almost two full months to prepare for my 15 minutes of fame. Will I blow the audience away and obtain millions of views on YouTube, or will I choke and become a case study in how not to give a TED talk? I have a tendency to wing a lot of my presentations by thinking lightly on the content for a week or two ahead of time, then spend the day before cramming, and then speaking more or less off the cuff. It actually works out fairly well for me. But this is different. First, it’s the largest audience I’ve ever had for a talk. I have a decent sized audience for my writing on Forbes, but writing is easy. You can correct your mistakes before anyone sees them. But the spoken word, once it takes flight, cannot be called back. Second, I’m talking about something I’ve never spoken about before and am thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of good speechifying–change your audience, not your speech. The theme of this TEDx event is education and inspiration, which happens to fit perfectly with something I’m passionate about. But it’s not my profession, nor something I spent a lot of time on in any public sense, and so perhaps I have more preparation to do than I would were I a professional educator or researcher on the topic of education. Here are the steps I’m taking to make sure I don’t bring shame upon myself, my family, and the entire Fragrant Harbor.
Attend a TEDx event live. Thankfully I was able to attend the most recent TEDx Hong Kong event so I’ve already been able to check this one off. It was my first time attending one, and seeing it in person rather than just watching the videos turned out to be quite helpful. One presenter had a rough time after his mind went blank. Although he made a recovery, it took him a few minutes to do so and this cringeworthy episode was edited out of the video. But I was able to see this worst-case scenario unfold before my eyes, and although I felt terrible for the guy, it also gave me a boost of self confidence.
2. Read books on public speaking. Some of my favorites, so far, are:
- Speak To Win by Brian Tracy
- The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane
- The Art of Public Speaking by John R. Hale
I would love to expand my library of knowledge on public speaking. If you have any suggestions for further reading, whether books or articles, please post your comments below.
3. Read books on TED talks. You wouldn’t think this would be a book genre, but there are a few out there. I’ve read two, and enjoyed both of them, although the first is significantly heavier on detail.
4. Watch the 20 most watched TED videos. Let’s not confuse “most watched” with “best,” but if these are the most watched, there must be something to them, even if it’s just the title of the talk that has driven the views. I’ll admit, some of these, like Johnny Lee’s “Wii Remote Hacks” interest me not at all, except that they’ve hit on something right. Maybe I’ll change my mind after watching them all and I’ll become fascinated with the topics themselves, but if not, I’m sure I’ll learn something from every one about how to give a better TED talk.
5. Watch top TED videos related to education. Education is a popular topic at TED. The most popular TED talk ever, by Sir Ken Robinson, focuses on education, and Sir Robinson has his own list of his top 10 TED talks on education. What is interesting about Robinson’s talk is that it seems quite casual. He interjects a lot of humor, and he just sounds like a guy on a stage talking. But he sure hit a nerve and I’ve been thinking over and over what I can do to emulate, in some small way, the effectiveness of his presentation. I don’t think it hurts to be a knight, either.
6. Write it all out. I don’t often write anything down prior to speaking. If I have a presentation then the slides act as my notes and I just talk. This seems to work fine in most situations. In this case, I will write it all out, because I have a specific time limit and I can’t see how to get close to the target without either going too long or cutting it too short without writing my talk down.
7. Practice. I hate doing this. But I will anyway. My fear is that if I practice too much, my presentation will come across as scripted, artificial, and that I’m more likely to choke and forget what I was going to say than if I speak more extemporaneously. I know this isn’t the case, because the “speech” I practiced more than any other in my life was a lesson I taught hundreds of times as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil. Rather than making my presentation scripted, having that lesson memorized to the nth degree allowed me to customize it on the fly for the unique situations I faced, without losing my train of thought or place.
8. Prepare ahead of time. I mentioned cramming. I’m not going to do that here. I can usually get by preparing at the last minute, but I want to really think this one out, and the only way I can make sure I’m presenting what I really want to present is to prepare ahead of time so that I have time to let my thoughts percolate and I can change things if need be.
There you have it. What would you add? I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have.