On June 27th, just two weeks before TEDx Iasi, it was confirmed that I was about to speak at this event. I have been dreaming for almost two years to get to this point (to speak at a TEDx event). And now, here I was with the opportunity in front of me. When I saw the theme of this TEDx (Create your world), I also realized why this TEDx and not any other before – I couldn’t have chosen a better theme myself.
But, boy, was I ready for it? The more I was thinking about it, the more I felt I don’t have enough time. The more I was watching great TED talks, the more I was wondering what do I really have to share with the audience, that is worth spreading.
Questions, dilemmas, fears, lack of time, lack of resources, but more powerful than all of them, the dream & my inner belief. The dream to be there and the belief that there sure is a message inside me worth sharing, worth spreading.
And so it was. With patience and with the support of the loved ones all things came together at one point.
Below, in this post I will share with you what I learnt from this process of preparing and delivering a TED (TEDx) talk. Even though this is a specific case study on preparing a TED speech, I believe that it should apply to any other situation where you really want to deliver an unforgettable speech with worth spreading ideas.
All of the recommendations below I did apply for myself while preparing this speech or I realized I should have, and for sure I will next time.
One. Who am I?
I believe that before even starting to prepare a speech we have to remind ourselves Who We Are. Especially in the case of a TEDx speech, being authentic is one of first things to take into account while preparing a presentation. More than this, while taking a look towards ourselves as a reminder of Who We Are, we can even discover the whole message for the speech, within.
What am I passionate about and what are my vision and mission.
Which are my values?
What makes me feel natural, authentic?
How do I resonate with the theme of this specific TEDx event? What are the first things that this theme does inspire me?
Two. Finding the key message to send out.
Every speech needs a clear message, and a TED one above any. So, before going into the things we want to say or do during the speech, take our time to find the key message for the whole speech – the message and intention we want people to leave home with. It is much easier to know what to pack when we know where we’re going, than when we don’t. It’s the same with a speech – it is much easier to chose the best experiences and the most relevant life lessons to share in a speech, if we have a clear direction, a clear message in mind, than when we don’t have this direction, this message.
Watch TED speeches – similar areas with the ones you’re interested in. Write down ideas.
For whom & why will my message be?
Three. Let the Inspiration come.
With the first two steps clear in mind, and maybe even better (clear on paper), now it’s the time to let the ideas that will support our key message to come to us.
When it comes to inspiration a little bit of proactivity always helps. Of course we can just live each day as we normally do and expect the inspiration to just hit us, but I can bet that if we make some room in our life where inspiration can land, the odds are much higher for it to come to us.
Things I combined while preparing my ideas for the speech:
Decided to have, each day (for maximum a week), few moments (2-4) when for 5-15 minutes to think about the theme of the TED event I’ve been invited to and to the key message I chose to send out.
I kept a file on my computer and one on my mobile to write down any ideas that came to me, no matter if I was working, walking on the street, watching a movie, traveling by train etc.
Above of these, I took two days off to focus only on this.
Four. Preparing the speech. Getting familiar with the TED standards and expectations.
This is a must watch video by June Cohen, director of TED Media: What is a great TED talk. What makes a great TED talk.
Watching the recommended and best rated speeches ever – from TED.
For the PowerPoint / Keynote presentation I recommend this book: PresentationZEN by Garr Reynolds. After taking into account the advices from this book I realized that my presentations will never look as they used to – I saw remarkable improvements.
On Garr Reynolds’ blog I also found a specific post with TED recommendations and examples from remarkable TED speeches.
Any work can be improved. In the last 11 years, each time I had an important application form to send out, or each time I had a key presentation to prepared, I did ask for feedback. And, each time I changed like 10% – 20% of the initial thoughts, ideas and documents. All these changes, helped me have an incredible rate of success I my belief is that I owe an important part of these successes to the feedback I received from my friends, colleagues and loved ones.
Feedback from others always brings new perspectives and different angles to look at what we’ve done. Thank you Ramona and Thank you Lucian for your feedback and support! While preparing a TED talk there are at least two dimensions to receive feedback and support on:
The message itself and the main ideas we want to include in.
The PowerPoint / Keynote (multimedia) presentation that supports the speech itself.
Six. Logistical preparation.
At this point we already have all the pieces of the talk put together. All the ideas, presentations and logistics that we know we’ll use during the talk. It is time to talk with the organizers of the event and ask them to provide us all the things we know we need (besides those we’ll bring ourselves). Things that were important for me and the organizers did help me out with:
I wanted to see the place where the event was to take place. So, I talked with the organizers and I went there one day before the event to get familiar with the place. I tested out the sound and I placed myself in different parts of the room to see how the audience will see the things happening in front of them. I asked the organizers about the remote control for the slides and also asked them to show me where the screen for projection will be. All these gave me a clear idea of the space I was going to make my presentation in.
I needed a wireless headset microphone, because I like to gesture with my hands and I need them not to be busy with holding a mike in my hand. This was not originally provided by the organizers, but due to me asking them, they provided it to me. So, we just need to ask sometimes.
I needed a bar chair…the tall ones. During the speech I knew I’ll have two theatrical moments and I could use such chair to distinguish myself from the characters I was playing.
I needed a song to play in the background while having the theatrical moments. So, I not only gave them the song, but we even found the right volume for playing the song so that people could hear it, but in the same time, to be able to hear me speaking. And, of course, we decided which will be the sign for the guy responsible with multimedia so that he could know when to play and stop the song.
I needed some A4 papers and a marker so I could write some messages on. In my case A4 was big enough for the room I made the talk in. If it were for a bigger room, probably A3 or slides would have replaced the A4 papers.
At this point we might consider that all is done. But, actually it is not so. Even though all the slides are in place, all the ideas are clear, all the logistical preparation was done, we still need to rehearse. Rehearsing can do the whole difference for a speech. While rehearsing we can:
Hear ourselves and realize if this is the tone we want others to hear us.
We can hear the ideas as well and think twice if each message sounds good as it is. In my case, especially at this point I made some key changes in my presentation, changes through which I gained not only 4 extra minutes in my speech, but I was also able to send out a clearer message to the audience. Yes, rehearsals can also tell us about the length of the speech and so it gives us the opportunity to adjust.
We can even look ourselves into the mirror and realize how we look like. This step is worth millions!
And of course, as the image “says” below, write down the notecards. Through these I could assure myself I am really saying all the important things I want to say, in the order I want to say, and using the key words that was crucial for me to use. Even more, by doing these cards, during the speech I remembered things so much easier.
Eight. Mental & physical preparation. Getting into the flow.
Almost no preparation in the whole world can make us feel 100% ready and without feeling nervous. It is actually known that public speaking is the strongest fear for people. So, besides the speech itself, mental and physical preparation are essential.
I personally took the time to relax my body (I learnt some cool exercises from actors – exercises that they do before entering a play and that they relax the face muscles and prepare the voice for an important speech) and be connected with myself – with my mind & thoughts, with my heart & emotions. Another useful exercise is from NLP, presented by Robert Dilts: Find Your “Inner Zone of Excellence” (I understood that there are other versions of it as well, so I cannot guarantee this is the best of them).
Nine. Delivery. Be with you. Be with the audience. Be connected.
Once all these are done, we need to congratulate ourselves for being fully committed to offering a great moment to the audience. We are there, on the stage, for them. And by preparing with so much passion and dedication to excellence, we need to acknowledge that we really did (even before seeing how the speech will look like) a great job. It is very important that we enter the scene and we start our speech by being proud of the work that we did.
From the moment on: Be connected!
Recommendation: Public speaking training.