Crush your TEDTalk with these 10 essential tips

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Crush your TEDTalk with these 10 essential tips

One of our clients, Natalie Schneider, recently gave a TEDTalk about Innovation — going from zero to one.

Natalie is an amazing client, and this TEDTalk is the result of three sessions to craft the story and five grueling practice sessions. She practiced on her own about 24 times in between our last two sessions.  Our last session was a dress rehearsal the day before the event, which was the first time she learned she had to stay on that little red carpet on a very large stage. She spoke before a 400-person audience, in which sat only 4 friends. The rest were complete strangers.

After completing this talk, we collaborated to create this article on 10 essential tips to crush your TEDTalk.

1. On the stage of the TEDTalk is a red dot. You’ve probably seen it as part of their branding. The red dot does more than symbolize TEDTalks, it actually constrains the amount of space you can move in, on stage. So, if you like to pace or like to walk dramatically across the stage, beware, you’ll need to keep your movements confined to the small round red circle.

2. The red dot could trip you up. Find out what material the red circle on your stage is made of, in my case it was a hooped rug which could easily get caught in my heels — I learned to walk around with “high knees”… And it was one added thing I needed to keep in mind during my last moments of preparation.

3. Perfect practice makes perfect, right? Well before you start practicing, learn the set-up of your stage. Ask the host how big the stage is. How is the stage — and you — lighted? Where is the screen relative to where you’ll be standing? Is there a live audience and how far from you are they seated? In my case, they were about 70’ away. What type of microphone will you be wearing — or do you have to hold one? Knowing all of these items helps you take your place (and space) on stage and practice with it all in mind.

4. If your stage set-up includes “confidence monitors” placed on the floor so you can see your slides, practice with your laptop on the floor. Getting used to seeing your visuals on a screen on the floor is critical so that it doesn’t become distracting during your TED talk.

5. Ask about the backdrop, also. Consider its effects on your skin tone, hair color, and attire. You won’t want to blend into the backdrop! You’re there to be seen. Plan your attire around the backdrop. Wear a contrasting color, especially in terms of your top or jacket, so it helps “light” your face. Avoid wearing black – it could make you appear like a floating head against a black backdrop.

6. Know where your support is located in the audience. Being able to quickly locate and lock eyes with supportive friends and family in the audience will do wonders for your jitters. The last thing you want to do is lose your place in your talk because you’re scanning the audience for a familiar face.

7. Humor is incredibly disarming. Adding a funny anecdote in the first 60 seconds of my talk, set the audience at ease… and consequently, me too. It gave me the confidence that I needed during those early moments.

8. Audiences relate to you — and remember you — through your stories. Even the most serious of data is better understood when stories are involved. Be sure to have at least two short vignettes to illustrate your key points. In my case, I had a story about my family that I shared in the beginning and then looped back to at the end of my Talk.

9. And speaking of stories, remember that the best stories have characters that you’ve described so well I can see them in my “mind’s eye”, a setting, an object or two of desire, a few obstacles along the way, and a good dose of suspense.

10. Facial expression and gestures are very important in a TEDTalk. My smile and other facial expressions needed to be bigger than they are when I’m talking with friends across a table. And my gestures needed to be as big as possible, since I was on a large stage. Plan for outstretched arms and sweeping movements. Get used to that in your practice, so it will be second nature when you’re in front of the audience.

Natalie Schneider uses Design Thinking techniques to understand what consumers are thinking and feeling and then designs personalized, streamlined healthcare experiences that improve customer satisfaction. Natalie is currently the vice president of consumer experience at Anthem, Inc.

Ellen Dunnigan is President of Accent On Business, a global executive presence and professional communication advisory firm. She shows people how to say what they need or want to say, while looking and feeling their confident and influential BEST.

About the Author:

Ellen Dunnigan founded Accent On Business in 2001 specializing in public speaking, communication skills, and executive presence for leaders in business. She has 25 years of experience with professional and nonprofessional speakers in healthcare, media, politics, engineering, sports, and other industries. Ellen’s coaching in speaking skills gives established and emerging leaders greater confidence and credibility. Her leadership programs in accountability, alignment, difficult conversations, and organizational communication have helped leaders expand their influence. Ellen is known for her practical “how to” style.
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