It has been 5 years since my TEDx talk, and I still keep reading, learning, practicing, and observing other speakers. I am still a huge fan of the TED concept, and how I’ve known a lot of the people I follow from watching TED videos online.
In the TED format, in under 18 minutes, every speaker gets to captivate an audience, capture their interest, educate them, entertain them, and leave a mark on them. So I’ve decided to study TED’s best practices, plus add some of the things I learned from being a university educator, a workshop facilitator, debate varsity coach, and hanging out with my friends who are highly skilled lawyers, toastmasters, teachers, and coaches.
Here’s a neat 15-prong guide to WOW any audience with your speech.
1. Keep your pre-speech introduction concise but impressive, otherwise you’ll only look like a has-been who has a self esteem problem. Only mention the highlights of your career based on the topic for the day. Nobody cares that you were President of the Book Lovers Club in High School or your kindergarten pageant experience if you’re already 40. Give the host a one-pager with a maximum of 300 words.
2. Stop dilly dallying, talk about your topic or tell a story RIGHT AWAY, don’t say “Today, I will talk about.” DUDE WE GET IT WE READ THE POSTER.
3. Know your speech by heart. Never read, never fumble, never rely on your slides. In public speaking, people come to see you not only to learn from you, but also to experience your confidence, certainty, and conviction. They want that shit.
4. You are allowed to tell YOUR stories and YOUR experiences, but avoid lengthening that first part of the speech where you are introducing yourself. I saw one speaker do 38 slides to introduce himself and everyone was already squirming in their seats. Establish who you are and what they can learn from you in less than 2 minutes.
5. Read your audience well. The goal is to get and keep their attention, keep them nodding, smiling, laughing, or taking down notes. If they’re not doing any of these or they’re on their phones, you’re fucked.
6. Tell stories rather than lectures. Stories make us feel alive, and that’s why we’re absolutely attentive when hearing gossip about the most popular girl in class, rather than listening to the teacher in class.
7. REFUSE to hide behind a podium. Have impeccable stage presence. If you can, request a lapel instead of a handheld mic, and if you have slides, request a (or bring your own) clicker.
8. Start strong. My go-to ways are telling a surprising statistic, an action- or drama-packed story, or a funny anecdote. Here are some easy hacks too:
– “HERE is why you are fucking over your life… (or anything as shocking)”
– “There was a day I made ____ very angry.” Promise a really good story. And follow through.
– “My biggest love/ life/ business/ friendship mistake was…” You are implicitly telling them how much they will learn from your speech.
– “Have you ever wondered why…/ Have you ever thought of/ Have you ever dreamed…” Show compassion and empathize with your audience.
– “There are 3 Ways to Tell…/ There are 3 Warning Signs..” Keep them at the edge of their seats.
9. End even stronger. End with a memorable, value-packed quote, which concludes all the learning your audience will have made by the end of your speech. Don’t say “so that’s it”, “that’s all I have”, or “and that’s the end of my speech”. You’ll only look like a pussy.
10. Care about your audience enough to give it your all. Be passionate and let it show. Remember, at the farthest corner of the room is a person that you can help today. I swear, this tip easily blows other public speaking tips out of the water.
11. Keep your slides minimal in words. Photos work best, but not too many. I only use a maximum of 15 slides when I give speeches, and it’s ALL photos. And some quotes. Remember– the visual aid is an AID. YOU ARE THE AVP.
12. Practice controlling your eye contact, voice tone (DON’T BE MONOTONOUS!), and hand gestures (minimal, away from your face, not too distracting.
13. Constant correct practice makes perfect. I’ve realized that the best way to go about this is to write down your speech, break it down in bullet points, practice saying it out loud, shooting a video, evaluate and improve. Rinse and repeat.
14. When preparing for your speech, always ask yourself: what things do my audience give a fuck about? Craft your speech around it + boost it with things your audience will NEED to know. There is a huge difference of what they need vs. what they want, and you have to do your best to give both to them anyway.
15. Always be ready to throw a speech away. Trust your gut and don’t mind the deadline. You don’t have to keep a speech just because you’ve taken weeks to prepare for it, but it feels wrong or you get a better idea 12 hours before you have to give your speech. You can also ask the advice of a friend that you can trust.
Now that you’re pretty much set for your next speech, I’m thrilled to hear about your improvements. 🙂 Learning public speaking is a skill that will be very useful for any relentless entrepreneur who’s eager to improve the impact they make not just to the market, but to the society. I’ve pretty much saved you 10 years of trial-and-error—JESUS I EMBARRASSED MYSELF DOZENS OF TIMES ALREADY— and let me tell you, nothing excites me more than seeing other people get the shortcuts to amazing learning.
[ And speaking of amazing learning, in my book OPEN BAR, I will share a worksheet / prep sheet that I always use whenever I give a speech. There are also other worksheets that come with business stories, advice, rants, and memes. Yup, MEMES. If you’d like access to it before it comes out on the shelves in September, PM our team on our Facebook page. ]