How to prepare for a successful TEDx Talk

| December 9, 2015

TED Talks and the independently organised TEDx Talks are hugely popular with both viewers and speakers.  An opportunity to speak at such an event is on the bucket list for most speakers, so when Jay Surti was invited to speak she jumped at the chance – and took preparing for her talk seriously.

10 years ago Jay had a debilitating fear of speaking in front of groups. “The turning point came for me one day in a team meeting. I was so nervous I couldn’t give a short five minute update and someone else had to step in whilst the entire room looked at me. I was mortified. That day I decided to do something about my situation.” admits Jay.

Her TEDx topic therefore was “Why Women Need To Speak Up” – a subject very close to her heart; for many years she thought she didn’t have a voice and she had worked in organisations where there were few women in leadership.

Today Jay is a member of Toastmasters International, an accomplished public speaker and successful TEDx presenter.

Here are Jay’s top tips for preparing to deliver a TEDx talk:

1. Preparation

When you join Toastmasters you get a manual with 10 speech projects that help you gradually build your confidence and skills as a speaker. The great thing about having a structure to follow is that you hone your speech writing style and understand the value of preparing your material well.

I wanted to share my message at TEDx without notes and be as conversational as possible. I also wanted to include facts and figures that supported my message. I spent many hours researching my material, writing and rewriting my speech and rehearsing so that I felt comfortable enough to speak in front of a live audience as well as a video camera! Preparation helps you feel comfortable enough to get out of your head and just be present in the moment to really connect with your audience.

2. Timing

All TED talks have a cut-off point of 18mins, and for good reason – people’s attention spans are limited so you have to get your ideas across quickly.

At Toastmasters speeches are timed; to ensure that the meeting finishes on time but also to help you learn how to keep to time – essential in so many business scenarios.

Working through my speeches within the club helped me understand how to craft and deliver my message within a designated time slot. Also, when you’re really familiar with your material and know what it feels like to speak for five minutes or 30 minutes you can adapt when you get thrown a curve ball.

Quite often meetings or seminars go over time because other speakers haven’t prepared properly. This has a knock on effect.  So, when the chair says “unfortunately now you only have half the time to get your message across” you can quickly adjust and deliver.

For my TEDx talk I had 18mins maximum to work with – years of practising against the clock helped me achieve that.

3. Evaluation

At Toastmasters every speech is evaluated. Practising in front of a live audience week after week and getting this feedback has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my development as a speaker.

Far too many presenters don’t understand that the audience experience is key. How they perceive you is very important. Rehearsing and testing your material is crucial to ensuring you engage your audience and create the right experience for them. Getting feedback helps you understand what the audience sees and hears.

Final thoughts

I used to be terrified of speaking in public, but with focus and effort I got to a stage where I felt confident and competent – and now I enjoy speaking in front of an audience! Whether you are as terrified as I used to be, or you simply want to ensure your TEDx talk is the best it can be – follow the advice above and you’ll ensure your moment in the TEDx spotlight is a success.

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