6 Lessons I Learned from TEDx

See something, do something, teach something. It seems straight forward, but in reality, many of us never progress past that first step of observation. I was lucky enough over the weekend to deliver a TEDx talk to a sell-out crowd.

The great bunch of speakers and musicians from TEDxUniSA!

1. Write, rewrite and rewrite some more

TEDx talks have a format, and while you’re recommended to follow it, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with the structure.

Take a look at this talk about nothing by Will Stephen from TEDxNewYork.

The talk about nothing. Engaging, creative, following the TED style, but hits the mark oh so well.

It’s highly doubtful your talk will meet this structure when you first pitch.

One of the things I loved with my own talk (link to come) was I disrupted the emotional response people expected from the heavy content. TED advises, “if it’s a heavy topic, find an understated and frank way to get off the ground; don’t force people to feel emotional.” When you’re dealing with terrorism, child exploitation material, rape and criminal organisations you have to be sensitive.

It was necessary to draw people in to understand how the internet has been weaponised and isn’t just for sharing that “instaworthy beverage.” To do this, I practised my talk and if something didn’t fit I scrapped it and rewrote. I needed to strike that delecate balance between eliminating all emotion and forcing people to be emotional.

By the end of my TEDx journey I think I had about 16 unique copies.

I was rewriting my talk even on the day.

Now I don’t recommend you go to this level of rewriting, but it is a good example of practising, rewriting until your message flows.

The message and ideas were still the same as what I had pitched in my open mic session, but it had emerged from the other side, polished, perfected and punctually delivering the message.

2. Know your audience

We’re all human right?

One of the mistakes I made on the day was misjudging my crowd.

TEDx talks are renowned for hard-hitting emotionally charged talks with profound psychological insights. So when I asked my audience to put themselves on the line and admit how many thought “psychology was full of crap” I took a considerable risk.

Thanks to some epic speaker coaching however, my delivery coaxed at least one honest audience member to join my faction and come along the journey with me. I say at least because when you’re on that stage with the lights on you everything just melts away.

Example of the audience from TEDxSydney. The Audience melts away from the stage!

The audience are just dark figures floating in the distance.

In hindsight challenging the audience wasn’t that much of a mistake. The main audience for a TEDx talk isn’t the crowd. It’s the thousands of viewers that your video is going to generate in the days, weeks and years after it’s gone live to the masses. Ideally, you want your “idea worth spreading” to go viral.

Virility won’t be driven by those in the crowd, but the audience on the day is a tool to help get your message out there. So don’t sweat the small stuff and realise you’re talking to more than that sell out audience on the day.

3. Stay true to your message

TED tell speakers to “Find a landing point” in their conclusion. For me, this structure point was the hardest. As I said above, every time I rehearsed my talk I found myself rewriting my script.

This made me nervous and my curators even more so.

What made my talk a success though was I stayed true to my core idea, my core message, my core belief.

Don’t be scared to include new case studies. Don’t be scared to put that new evidence in your talk. But, make sure you are still true to your core message.

4. Rehearse

Timing, posture and Stage presence. If you’ve ever presented at an academic conference before these are probably things you’ve never even considered when delivering your research. When giving a TED or TEDx talk the way in which you deliver your talk is just as important as the content itself!

How all good speakers rehearse the night before? Maybe I’m biased!

TED and TEDx talks are scripted, but what makes them sound effortless is the amount of rehearsing that goes in behind the scenes.

When you’re on stage use big gestures to convey your message all the way to the back of the room. Go noteless to make sure you can use your hands and arms to gesture and emphasises your points.

Don’t be afraid to use the space you are given! Anchor your points particularly if your talk evolves like mine and you are discussing the past, present and future of the idea. It is highly effective to anchor these ideas on key positions on the stage so your audience will see the past on the left, the present in the middle and the future on the right.

If you have a speaking coach, listen to them! We had a stellar coach for our talks by the name of Sanja Jovanovic from Talent Academy. Sanja helped us polish and perfect our presentation in the months leading up to TEDxUniSA and it really paid off.

5. Sleep

I know this may sound obvious, but get a good nights sleep before the big day. You don’t want to be running on caffeine prior to delivering that next Youtube sensation.

Caffeine primes your adrenal system and can cause your nerves to go into overdrive. TED and TEDx is a unique experience and even the most seasoned speakers still get nervous.

Run the day on H2O.

6. Bask in the glory!

When it’s all over, enjoy the moment. Stay on the stage and soak up the applause!

Click here to see the second tweet which lists all the other speakers

Make those connections after the event and network like mad.

Share the other speakers on social media and cross pollinate each others talks. You were all curated together on a theme. You all have something to share and bounce back to create synergy.

I had run after my talk due to family commitments, but if you can make sure you stay for the after party. Networking over LinkedIn is never a replacement for those face to face conversations. This is where the true stories come out. This is where we share the human experience. This is where the adaptive work happens.

Get a suite of graphics ready for the Socials to promote awareness of your talk.

To see my talk click here (video still being processed).

To see what others are saying about TEDxUniSA read Angela Bee Chan’s How to prepare for an impactful Ted Talk like a true millennial! on LinkedIn.

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