November 30, 2015

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On November 21st I took a step closer to my goal of speaking at TEDx, I attended the live event in my hometown. It was an exciting, adrenaline pumping morning – with a buzzing, bustling throng of people waiting to get into the event. After seven hours of speakers, I walked away with a full head & heart and the understanding of how I could leverage TEDx in my live streaming. You see, every time I live stream I inch closer to my goals of being on that stage.

I admit, the idea of getting up in front of 600 people scares the daylights out of me, but I remember a time when turning my phone on myself and livestreaming to the world had the same effect. How did I get over that gut wrenching feeling? I kept turning that camera on. What happened was that I learnt that when I spoke from the heart, as compared to a script, I had better outcomes. This was the same for the TEDx talks, when the speakers spoke from their hearts and told a story, the audience responded. The best stories were ones that were wound through the 20 minutes, engaging and leading us to explore, discover, & learn. The story was cleverly punctuated with anecdotes, small tid-bits of information, and punchy take-aways for the listeners.

These little sidelines were hand distractions, pauses, & thought provokers. The thing that the best ones did was to elicit emotions in the audience. We could empathise with the speaker, we could dig into our past and join their journey, we could see where they were headed. The best emotion came from the raw honesty of the speaker, pointed examples that hit home & chilled the audience. We felt how they felt. The speaker moved us.

But that’s just the thing… While all of the talks were incredibly valuable & worthy in their own right, the ones that made the story about the audience as much as it was about the story they wanted to tell were the winners. You see, unless you take an audience with you, they aren’t buying the story. You need to speak to their needs, values, & pain points to grab their emotions & win over their minds. When you can engage the audience where they live, you show that you understand, you care, & that you are really no different from them. This is a powerful & trusted position. In fact, it’s one reserved for our closest friends & family. Eliciting that understanding and intimacy, builds a connection that usually takes years to form. If you can grab that space where the audience lives, then you’re over half-way there.

When people tune in to TEDx talks, they want to learn & be inspired. Give them something that sticks in their mind – that they can carry with them. Make it useful for them, make sure it will make a difference in their life. Don’t assume that because it is important to you that it will automatically be important to them. Above all, don’t make them try to walk away with your entire 20 minute talk as a take-away, they can’t do it. In fact, best leave it to a maximum of three key points & chances are that they will remember the one thing which spoke the loudest to them at that point in their life.

To help the listeners to remember your key points, talk slowly & use silence to punctuate and reinforce your take aways. There’s power in silence. It gives the listener a time to ingest your message & align it with their beliefs and values. Give them that honour of allowing them to assimilate what you want them to take home, with what they already believe – they will remember it & you better for doing it.

These points you want the audience to remember are best when tied to emotions & not facts. To be honest, when you are listening to your fifth 20 minute talk, the last thing you are likely to remember is what was said, but you won’t forget how that person made you feel. Facts are great in small, interspersed factoids, but they shouldn’t be the back bone of an engaging piece; unless you can tie it to an emotion. If your fact will elicit an emotion in the majority of people, then by all means say it, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on it being remembered long after your 20 minutes are over.

If your talk is structured with a good story, elicits strong emotions & has some key takeaways; you won’t need slides. In fact, there was one speech where I wished there were slides, but only so that they were a distraction from the 20 minutes of facts and figures we were exposed to. Clear, key, punchy images, ones that made us laugh, helped to move the time along.

The main thing I walked away with was that I can do it. I have a story worth telling. When I allow others in to my story, I move them & inspire them. I do that everyday on live streams to the world, TEDx is easy!

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