How to prepare a winning TED-style talk (3/3)

This is the third and final post of the series “How to prepare a TED-style talk.” In the first post you clarified your message and developed your own content. In the second post you developed your own voice and completed the final draft.

Now let’s dive in to complete the journey!

#4 Memorise Your Talk

Lat week you completed your final draft. That was hard, congratulations!

Now it's just a matter of memorising it. Huh?

I hear you:

"Now I have it clear, I don't need to memorise it. As soon as I go on stage I will know what to say."

"If I memorise it, I'm sure it will sound dull. I prefer to go creative on stage."

I tell you: NO


Don't squander all the work you did so far.

I coached another speaker who thought like that.

He didn't want to memorise, because he had been speaking in front of large audiences for years and was used to improvise.

In our coaching sessions online he would pretend he was presenting it by heart, but in reality he was reading.

No need to say his talk on stage was a disaster.

How come?

Here's a secret of TED talks hidden in plain sight.

A successful talk is not a "presentation" where you interact with the audience on the whim of the moment.

A successful talk is a carefully crafted "performance", designed to look like an informal interaction with the audience.

And we are working to create a performance of your talk where you engage with the audience in the most natural way.

Imagine yourself as Leonardo Di Caprio on stage.

You watch a movie and you feel it is real. Even if you know it's not.

Sure he is a professional and knows his trade, while you are not.

But you have an advantage over him. He interprets someone else's script.

You work with your own script, which came straight out of your heart, brain, guts.

Your talk is a part of you.

With all that in mind, go ahead and memorise it by heart!

It will take weeks for sure.

Do it in chunks. Say, 200 words at a time. That's manageable.

Find a keyword that helps you remember each chunk.

Then use the keywords to remember it all at once.

Start with 2 chunks, then 3 and so on.

Record yourself and then play it back to yourself at any occasion, parroting the recording with your voice.

You’ll notice all those little things that need refining, and you will be doing it there and then.

When you're done and you know it by heart, I hear you say:

"Here, I knew it. I sound like a robot. How dull! I can say it from the beginning to the end by heart, but it's not moving the audience, it's just plain boring. Wasted time, I'll do it as I planned in the beginning, improvising on stage."

Yes I hear you, but it's not over. You have gone so far!

Now stay with me for the final step.

#5 Refine Your Talk

Now you know your talk by heart, yet it sounds bad.

Totally normal.

You're still focusing on remembering it.

Possibly afraid of being on stage. Extremely self conscious.

Soul crushing, I know!

Daniel Priestly said “if your talk sounds rehearsed, you haven’t rehearsed enough.”

What we will do in this last stretch is to forget that you are on stage.

Forget that you need to remember it.

Forget that... [complete the sentence with all the things you think are at stake]

You will start to focus on the talk, what you want to say, how important your mission is for you.

Finding the love you have for this talk.

Do rehearse your talk again and again, reminding yourself you are talking to a friend, not to an impersonal "audience."

In the coaching sessions with my speakers I always let them present the talk as it comes.

then I ask them: "Now tell the exact same things, TO ME."

And they are consistently astonished by their immediate improvement!

Do the same with a friend or colleague – actually, ask them to do it with you!

And now to the fears.

Nothing woo woo.

Just plain common sense.

Remember at the very beginning? WHY you do this talk?

It's because you love your cause and you want to make an impact.

Being on stage is just a step on the way to your mission. Remember it!

And should this not be enough...

Bonus: Fighting Fear

Here's a series of techniques to get away from the fears that might haunt you, and recenter your mind (we delved much deeper into stage fright a few weeks ago with a specific post on the subject.)

First of all: remember that your fears are in your brain.

You create your fears with your thinking.

What you think is a threat, in reality is just a situation outside of your control.

If you think you must control it and that you are in danger if you don't, here you go, you are scared.

But it's all of your own making.

Second, your fears might haunt you, but you don't have to listen. You can choose to see them for what they are and take corrective action.

MRI scans of the brain show us that fears activate a certain part of the brain, whereas positive, creative, expansive thought activate a different part of the brain.

Now the magic is that this latter part is the same that gets activated by physical sensations.

Intense focus on sensations, takes away your attention from fears and activates your positive, creative, expansive mind.

So, whenever you feel negative emotions do the following:

  1. recognise you're having a negative emotion and label it
  2. focus your attention on one sensation of your choice
  3. recenter on the thing that you want to achieve

You can focus on any sensation you like, really everything e.g.

  • your breath inhaling and exhaling
  • your chest moving while breathing
  • some distant noise, or very close
  • slipping your fingers over your face
  • observing the fine details of a scene in front of you
  • ...

Almost Ready...

Congratulations for all your work!

If you've come this far you certainly developed a much better talk than you had at the beginning.

The great news is that now that you know your talk inside out and are able to deliver it fearlessly and with love from the bottom of your heart... can start getting creative and play with it while on stage!

Because now you know the craft and have all the tools to create a different experience every time you deliver it.

Well Done!

If you need more help, feel free to visit Talk for Impact or reach out for a 15 minutes complimentary chat about your talk.

Sincerely, Leonardo

Talk for Impact is a platform for Impact Leaders and Changemakers, with a newsletter packed full of suggestions and other resources on how to deliver great talks that move audiences to action.

And if you feel ready to work one-to-one with me reach out for a 20' discovery chat with me (in English, Spanish or Italian.)