I gave a TED talk in March of 2015.
In this post, I'm going to:
- Answer the questions I got about the experience
- Share what I learned, and how I prepared
- Let you see my talk for yourself. Let's start with that!
Here's the TED talk, Lifted By Little Deaths:
YOU CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER PUBLIC SPEAKER
I am very fortunate to have already had a significant amount of public speaking experience under my belt before doing this. It helped tremendously because I was already familiar with what it's like to give a talk on a subject without notes or a script. One thing that often gets overlooked is that standing in front of a room full of people staring at you while you talk is reallllllly weird. Especially when you aren't actually doing anything but moving your mouth. If you've not spoken in public before or not spoken in a format like this, I strongly recommend doing a rehearsal with friends or family as far in advance as possible, even if your talk isn't finished. When you do these rehearsals, you will discover what your body decides to do when everyone is staring at you while you talk. And that means you have time to remove these distractions long before you give your actual talk.
I improved as a speaker significantly through the TED process. I wrote this talk specifically for TED and it helped me in my professional work as well, because I had to put a lot of focus and thought into my talk. I rehearsed the ever-living-hell out of this talk and it was all that I was focused on the week of. I gave the talk in the shower, to my coworkers, to my dogs, to my spouse, to the wall and to the ceiling while I laid in bed before I fell asleep at night. All that rehearsal and preparation made me a better speaker because I was able to identify and eliminate several vocal and body tics I had developed at some point. I also gained a new level of confidence and experience with focused, vocal delivery.
I look forward to more public speaking in the future!
DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO FEEL CONFIDENT
If you are not in control, it will show in your voice. If you are not feeling confident, it will show in your voice.
When people watch a speaker, they are making all kinds of judgements about the material, about you and about the points you are making. If you have a shaky voice, viewers will naturally question your authority on the subject.
When I speak, I feel my best and do my best when I feel put together. For this talk, I wore a structured, fitted dress that I was comfortable in, went and got my hair done professionally the morning of and made sure I had my stage makeup on that day. When I look my best, I feel my best. And when I feel my best, my best work shines through. And I don't have a shaky voice.
ELIMINATE DISTRACTION FOR YOURSELF
For me, distraction would be hair that I wasn't happy with or an outfit that I would be uncomfortable in. Plus, this talk was going to be video recorded.....no re-dos! Eliminate things that would be distracting for you. Why? You will be distracted.
ELIMINATE DISTRACTION FOR YOUR AUDIENCE
People don't want to hear 'um' every other word. They also don't want to see you do that weird thing with your hands over and over, either. They'll fixate on those things rather than your talk.
Give your talk to friends and family and ask them to pay attention to any body or vocal tics. Maybe you are snapping your fingers, or rocking back and forth weirdly, or you're saying 'um' or 'like' every few words—you won't know unless you rehearse like it's real and ask people to identify the weird stuff you're doing when you're speaking.
Really actually rehearse. It shows.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK FROM EXPERIENCED SPEAKERS AND TAKE THEIR ADVICE
I asked a few people who have more speaking experience than I do for advice. Then I took their advice. Be sure to reach out to others for support, and then actually listen to what they are saying. :) There are people that are smarter than you, better than you and more experienced than you. Why the hell would you not listen to their advice?!
Questions I Got Asked about my TED Talk
How did you decide on the subject of your talk? My professional area of interest focuses on grief, loss, resilience and authenticity. I'm particularly interested in the areas of resiliency and personal authenticity as they develop through instances of loss. That, I realize, probably sounds like whaaaaa? and I totally understand, but that's what I'm really, really interested in. We all experience loss. And we all either learn from it and grow or it holds us back for as long as we let it. Either way, that loss shapes who we become. I'm interested in that part of life, and that part of 'people'.
The TED event I spoke at had a theme—Rise and Reimagine. I needed to relate my talk to that theme. So, I did.
How many times did you rehearse? My goal in the 10 days leading up to the talk was to rehearse it end-to-end 40 times. I succeeded.
What was it like to give a TED talk? Awesome! Now that it's over! Haha. I took it very seriously because to me, it was a big deal to have been nominated (still don't know who nominated me) and then chosen as a speaker. I have great respect for TED and I have watched many TED talks that have been tremendously helpful and engaging. I wanted to make sure I contributed something of value, and I hoped that my talk would be something that might help others. I hoped to give a talk that would be worth sharing.
The TED organization has these events down pat. I had a TED coach, did a dress rehearsal a couple days before the actual event, and worked via email with the TED team in the weeks prior. They helped me refine the talk and also made suggestions.
How did you prepare? I watched other TED talks about public speaking, I read through this website on public speaking, and I took time to write a talk that was researched, sourced and followed a clear story arc. Then, I made sure to rehearse. If you don't put the effort into writing a cohesive, researched talk, it will show in the end product no matter how much you rehearsed.
The morning of, I got my hair done at High Five Salon with Samantha Moyer, did my own makeup, and had a nice breakfast and light lunch. Check out the smoothness of that hair! It stayed like that for DAYS.
Where'd you get that dress? The dress I wore for my TED talk is from Rent the Runway. When I speak, I generally use Rent the Runway for my outfitting. I've been to their showroom in Las Vegas (I strongly recommend doing that if you are near one) and I'm a Pro subscriber. It's so, so worth it to me. I like to keep a small closet at home, and the last thing I need are dozens of dresses. The other thing I keep in mind is that everything is documented on social media these days. I could do a whole post about the benefits of Rent the Runway but I'll save that for another time.
And with all this in mind, I'd like to share my sister's TED talk she gave several years ago. I love her talk and find it inspirational every single time I watch it. I also realize now after watching her talk again that she and I have a connecting thread between our talks....vision and blindness!
Here's my sis!