10 Things I Learned From Giving a TEDx Talk
Give one answer. Everyone is questioning everything. Your talk offers people ONE answer to sit with. The first person I ran into as I left the green room was an 18-year old woman grappling with the transition into adulthood and the pressure she felt to “get serious”. She shared with me that my talk inspired her to realize that she could inhabit multiple spaces at the same time — be successful, smart, happy and playful. My one answer to her question — don’t ever relinquish your spirit of play — encouraged her to ‘grow up’ on her own terms, to redefine it. In this world where there are hundreds of messages flying at you with light-speed at any given moment, TED can give you the space to stop and dive into one answer to a question for 15 minutes.
Be present. Practice deep breathing, meditation, listening to a song you love, whatever it is that you need to do to touch down, because you will inevitably feel like you’re floating on this day. TED talks require more preparation than you’ll ever imagine, so yes, you’ll feel stressed, overwhelmed, nervous, unsure, but!, imprint your memory with the positive vibes of this day. Remember to spend time with people afterwards because there are so many living, breathing gems in that room. Research shows that the end of an experience becomes what seals that memory into place. Prime the way to remember the fullness and the faces of that day.
Everyone is awesome and has their own TED talk inside of them. Meet people. It’s a long and overwhelming day, but allow yourself time and space that day to fill up with the stories and personalities of all the interesting folks within those walls who want to share back what you have shared with them. I met this amazing woman at the after party who told me when she hit 40 she realized she wasn’t happy and made major changes to her life — she dropped 165 pounds to get herself down to weight that made her feel healthy, began traveling, started learning dance, began studying a new language, bungee jumped, started attending Burning Man. I was like, “you should give a TED talk…” And then I realized nearly everyone I met that evening was similarly awesome. I loved supporting people to realize their own awesomeness that night, reflecting back to them what they were reflecting to me.
Believe in yourself. There’s this weird thing that happens with TED where you have to hide away in your home, some random broom closet, or a deep dark cave, in order to practice your talk out loud. You’re projecting, your trying out different words, intonations, gestures. If you were to do this out in public spaces, you might look like you are enthusiastically talking to your self. Which is cool, but I’m assuming you’ll want to veer away from this, which means a lot of time alone, in your head, mulling over and over the same words, starting to doubt everything. Essential to presenting a great talk is believing in your talk and in the talk-er, you. You’ve gotta know you got this. And no one’s got this but you. Extend that to the rest of your life after. You’ve got that, too.
Create an atmosphere. What kind of world do you want your visitors to step into when you take the stage? How can you create this world through you words, your body, your slides, your eyes, your cadence, your footwork, your wardrobe? This allows your message to hug the folks there and really engulf them in that moment.
Feel your subject. Don’t just talk it. Let it flow through you while you’re up there. There is a reason that you love the subject you do, and at the end of the day, you don’t want to just go through your script, you want to share your passion, your subject’s urgency.
Be proud. You’re giving a huge talk. Own it. It’s really cool. You will doubt yourself and that’s a healthy part of it all. But in the end, be proud. TED reminds you of this, and then it reminds you to be proud all the time.
Share your journey. I wish I had done this more. TED is a a really long, emotional, arduous, personal, pivotal process. It will be awesome to have archives of this, and to share with your friends, family and colleagues what it has meant to you along the way, and why they ought to celebrate this moment with you. Even as an accepted speaker, I had absolutely no idea what the TEDx experience would be like until — frankly — it was over (aka yesterday).
Remind yourself of why you are doing this. Write it down. It is easy to get lost in the intensity of the event, the large crowd, the stress of memorization, or the pressure to ‘perform well’. But why are you giving this talk? There is a reason that you wanted to do this, and that the TEDx committee wanted you to tell your story. Write down your motivation when you start your journey, and return to it when you need it most.
Practice humility. Whenever big things happen where we are poised to shine and share the best parts of ourselves, we best remember to exercise a deep sense of humility. You’ll receive praise for doing a TEDx talk. Recall what got you there, the collaborators you owe your heart to, the power within each person you encounter this day, and gratitude for the space and time to put together a story about why you do what you do.