TEDx - Perspectives from a speaker coach

Recently I was invited to be a speaker coach for the upcoming TEDx Cape Town event. The journey began last Saturday with a full day workshop at the V&A.

Since its inception in 1984, TED has redefined public speaking. Time and again, it shows how a carefully crafted and inspired short talk can stir excitement, share knowledge and sometimes even change the world. Most speakers make it look easy. Far from it. Preparations for both speaker and coach commence months ahead of the big event. Nothing is left to chance. As the journey unfolds, I hope to share a few practical handles I pick up along the way:

Nail your idea…

Many speakers come to the workshop with great stories but with only the makings of a great idea. The first challenge for coach and speaker is to kick the raw materials around until a tightly formed idea emerges. In most cases, this took the better part of an afternoon. Here are a few questions we used to shape them:

  • Why does it matter?

  • How will it make a difference?

  • Could you explain it to a 7 year old?

Build your Throughline

“Throughline” is TED language for the “theme” that ties together each narrative element of the talk. A Throughline should make your narrative intriguing so it also needs careful crafting. For instance, there’s a big difference between saying:

“Women are under-represented in our historical narratives”

and

“If we ignore women’s exploits in history, we reinforce the misconception that women can’t make history”

Here are a few questions you might find useful in defining your own throughline:

  • In 15 words or less what do you want people to remember 3 months from now?

  • What is this NOT about? What “noise” do you need to kill?

  • What will inspire curiosity and move people?

It’s about time

TEDx organisers insist that a TED talk can be delivered in 10 minutes and the golden rule is to never exceed 18 minutes. It’s not impossible if you’ve done the groundwork. Admittedly TED isn’t the workplace but I have a hunch most business presentations can be similarly truncated. All it takes is a commitment to eliminating the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.

More to follow...

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