Some Advice if You’re Invited to Give a TEDx Talk

First, if public speaking really scares you, TEDx might not be a good idea. The rules say speakers should not use notes, a prompter, or a podium. It will be just you alone on the stage, facing lots of people who expect you to enlighten them. This is definitely live public speaking. Nervous is normal; scared is not something you need.

But, if you can get past that, it really is fun.

The next thing you need to know is that TEDx presentations are different. I’ve spoken hundreds of times to many groups, from small to very big, and on television and radio. TEDx is something else. I learned a lot preparing for it (eg, the importance of establishing a strong “through-line” and connecting it to everything you talk about). It’s not more difficult, just different.

The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post – my recommendation is based solely on the practical merit of the book. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

Fortunately for me, I discovered an interesting public speaking book written and published by the owner of TED (Chris Anderson) only a month before my Talk. It changed my entire approach, I think for the better. If you’re invited I strongly encourage you to read the book. Actually, it’s pretty helpful for any presentations you may be preparing for, TEDx or otherwise.

Preparation. You should allow more time to work on it than a normal presentation. A lot more time. You need to write a script, whether you’re going to memorize it or use it as a guide, and refine it as much as possible. Test every word to see if it’s the best choice or is even necessary.

Practice. Yes, you can do this by yourself, but it really needs to be out loud, and timed with any slides you might be using (interestingly, only about two thirds of speakers use visuals, but one third don’t at all). I practiced many times until I could consistently finish in 16 minutes without rushing, knowing I also had a two-minute video embedded that would take me to the 18-minute goal.

The real thing. Here was my mistake. I kept to my script pretty well, but my real Talk ran way over time. When I’m speaking to a live audience I like to use small pauses for effect, plus I used a little extra time to advance each slide. These seconds add up. Fortunately we were encouraged to edit the video before submitting it. A professional video editor is money well spent. The video and audio quality can’t be improved much, but the pacing and transitions can.

So that’s it. If you’re invited, be sure you are OK with speaking in front of a live audience, get the book, prepare a good script, practice relentlessly, allow extra time for all the little pauses, and get a good video editor. Voila!

Of course feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts! And if you’re curious to see how my talk turned out, here is the video:

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