If you are about to deliver a TEDx talk or if you have always wanted to deliver one, these easy-to-follow hacks will help you deliver a powerful and must-watch talk. After all, they helped me deliver my first TEDx talk earlier this year. You will have a chance to watch my talk at the end of this how-to article.
I am a Boston-based personal stylist so of course the first tip has to be about style. Let’s get started.
1. DO NOT BUY AN OUTFIT THE DAY BEFORE YOUR TALK
Do not buy a new outfit the day before your talk. I advice my clients to not buy a suit or dress the day before a big meeting. A brand new dress, skirt or pair of trousers is not going to be comfortable the first time you wear it. To feel completely at ease, you will need to have worn the outfit several times before your talk and have spent time practicing your presentation while wearing your “talk clothes”.
Delivering a talk in front of millions of people – your talk has that kind of potential – produces a lot stress so you may want to be comfortable. You want to wear something you like and that usually comes with time. Make sure your clothes fit you perfectly. Check out the outfit I chose for my TEDx talk – see the picture above, I look comfortable because the outfit is not new and I really like it.
2. KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE IN MIND
Even though you might have great content, you have to keep your audience in mind. What do I mean by that? If you are a professor, and you are delivering a talk to twenty-somethings, you cannot lecture – you need to keep it simple. You have to be sociable, and you have to be likable. If you are going to talk to a mature audience, do not use slang or a tone that is too personal. Before you deliver your talk, you need to know who is going to be in your audience and tailor your delivery to them. Keep your audience in mind.
3. BREAK DOWN YOUR TALK TO A BASIC SENTENCE OR THOUGHT
You should be able to reduce your topic to a basic sentence or thought. If you are unable to identify your main idea, or if you takes your entire talk to make your point, your topic is too complicated. TEDx speakers are engaged to present understandable and easy to digest content. Your audience must be able to comprehend you and your message right away.
Break your talk down to the bare minimum. Super-duper simple is best. Do not use big words. Make sure your idea it is easy to understand.
4. FEEL THE CONTENT, FEEL THE PASSION
It is not enough to stand there and deliver the content. It is not enough to have it all memorized. You need to feel what you are talking about. You need to connect to your ideas first, so the audience can also connect. Do not just stand there, motionless. Be passionate, be real, be alive.
5. BRING THE POINT HOME AND ACTUALLY SAY IT
You have to state what your idea is. Do not imply it or dance around it. You have to say, “This is my thought. This is what I believe,” and spell it out. You actually have to say those words. Do not let the audience leave without knowing what your talk was about. Make your point. For example, my talk was, Meaningful Beauty is an Inside Job, so I made sure I said, “This is what meaningful beauty means,” because I wanted the audience to understand me. Words can mean different things to different people so you need to spell out exactly what you mean.
6. If YOU HAVE SLIDES THEY MUST BE GOOD
I decided not to have slides for my presentation because I knew I didn’t have the time to put great slides together. However, if you have a killer slide presentation, by all means, use it. But if you don’t, please don’t worry about it. I have seen plenty of great TEDx talks without slides. If you choose to have slides, make sure they are brilliantly done.
7. A TALK IS JUST A CONVERSATION
Your talk is simply a conversation. I was sitting in the audience for the first half of the TEDx talks event and it hit me, “This is just a conversation.” Realizing that really helped me relax.
This hack alone is going to help you with your delivery as well. Don’t lecture people; talk to them. Public speaking is just a conversation – talk to your audience.
8. BE COMFORTABLE
Relax – your audience are just people. Speakers sometimes get nervous thinking, “Oh my gosh! I have to be perfect.” Relax, your audience are people like you and me. That’s it – nothing else, nothing more. Just relax, be comfortable, deliver your content and trust it will be okay.
9. HAVE A GREAT OPENING
You have to get your audience excited from the beginning of your talk so don’t begin with a boring story.
My opening went like this. I stood on stage and looked at the audience for a couple of seconds without rushing. Then I said, “Do you put dirty clothes on after you take a shower?” For a few more seconds (which felt like eternity) I didn’t move. After the pause I said, “No, right?” or “I hope so.” The audience laughed and looked at me probably thinking, “Okay, what is she going to say next? Where is she going with this?”
From the very beginning, I had them because my opening sentence was controversial, it was weird, and it was something they weren’t expecting.
An amazing opening has to be direct. You can be funny, or controversial but lead with your best. And don’t forget timing. Timing is key. Don’t rush but don’t be too slow either. Take your time. Look the audience in the eye and deliver your opening line with confidence.
10 YOUR STORIES AND ANECDOTES MUST BE SHORT
I know it is your story and I know you care about every single detail but the audience doesn’t. Think Cliff Notes - a snapshot of what happened. Do not use all your allotted time to tell your story. Stories should only be one to two minutes long. TEDx and TED talks are timed and you only have ten to eighteen minutes to deliver your content, be funny, be relevant, be smart, and to finish your talk. Short is better. Less is better. Do not tell your entire story. Audiences check out when you do that. Keep it short.
11. BODY LANGUAGE. BODY LANGUAGE. BODY LANGUAGE
I speak with my hands and I like to move around when I am speaking. While we were rehearsing a fellow friend and speaker remarked, “Catherine, you are moving too much.”
Armed with that feedback I decided to practice a couple of times more. When it came to delivering my talk, I remembered what my friend said and took control of my body. I made sure EVERY movement and every hand gesture meant something and emphasized my point.
Don’t do too much with your hands or your body, but also don’t do too little. I have seen speakers stand motionless and deliver their talk in a monotone. Audiences cannot connect with that. Be alive and passionate, but don’t look like you are having a stroke either. Keep calm. Get excited but at the same time, don’t get too excited. Does that make sense?
12. WHY SHOULD THEY CARE?
Maybe your life has not been so great. Perhaps you’ve been abused, lost all your money, or struggled with obesity. Why should I care? Yes, you should share your personal story, but it has to serve a purpose.
When you tell your story ask yourself, “Why should anyone else be interested in this?” If you watch my TEDx talk (and I hope you do) you will see that as well as sharing my story concisely, I also share how I overcame a whole bunch of stuff and why I did it. If I tell my audience how and why, I inspired them to do something similar themselves. Do you notice the difference?
For example, if you were poor and now you are rich, why should I care? Or you were not pretty before but now you are, why should I care? You need to explain why it mattered to you and why it will might matter to your audience. Relate everything back to your listeners. It is not about you.
That is your bonus right there: it is not about you; it is about the audience.
13. YOU GOTTA KEEP IT LIGHT
I have seen some talks that have left me feeling sad or even depressed. I am not dismissing the bad things you went through, but you have to keep it light. Do not let me leave your talk wanting to cry or wanting to hug you and give you money. Your presentation should be up-lifting. Share your story with a positive outlook. Say, “I’m not there anymore. Things are great. Don’t feel bad for me. I’m good. I got this. I’m awesome. Yes, that happened over there but I’m right here right now.”
People connect with talks that are up-lifting. They share positive talks. Do not take ten minutes to tell them how life was horrible and then use your last two minutes to wrap up. The audience may ask themselves, “What was that?”
Talks go viral because people connect with the content. It is not about you, remember that. They connect with content first and then with you.
I believe many of you want and will deliver your own TEDx talk in the near future and I wanted you to have this information.
As promised see below my TEDx talk: Meaningful Beauty is an Inside Out Job. Watch it and see where I applied all the hacks I have shared in this article. I hope they help you to deliver a powerful and must-watch talk.