How to Give a TEDx Talk

  1. Refine your idea. Is it original enough?

  2. Think about vocal variety and body language.

  3. The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. -William Gibson.

 Speakers of TEDx UNSW 2017.

Speakers of TEDx UNSW 2017.


A Quick Reflection

It’s been a year since I gave my talk ‘Decoding the Stigma of Personal Development.’ I recently returned this year to be an MC -and let me tell you it was a relief to be on the sidelines haha.

The event is about 10 months in the making. It’s a long journey ahead for the speakers. For me it was about 6 months from application to the actual event. During this period I went through endless edits/ rewrites, rehearsing, voice coach sessions and PowerPoint design changes. It was INTENSE.

I had writer’s block at 3am, lonely mornings at cafes just staring at this god forsaken speech I CBF to edit for the 4 millionth time, to freaking out on the morning of the talk because I realised my nails weren’t done (I know trivial, but ya’ll know what I mean ladies).

All in all, when you’re up there on stage, you should feel confident you’ve done the prep work, know your content and excited to deliver your speech. It’s both nerve racking and exhilarating. But if you’ve done your prep work, you’ll find your flow and knock it out of the park!

 The A-Team: Mary (Video and Audio) and Lien (TEDx Curator).

The A-Team: Mary (Video and Audio) and Lien (TEDx Curator).

 Practice until the cows come home.

Practice until the cows come home.

 My gorgeous friends (aka. support network ha!)

My gorgeous friends (aka. support network ha!)

 Spend time with your audience. This is way more important than how many views you have online. After all human connection is what we’re all looking for ; )

Spend time with your audience. This is way more important than how many views you have online. After all human connection is what we’re all looking for ; )

 Going from ‘blanking out’ to auto pilot (THANK F).

Going from ‘blanking out’ to auto pilot (THANK F).

The TEDx Journey

1.    Find a TEDx Event

TEDx events are run independently. Usually major cities or universities will have a TEDx event. Google them and keep a look out for key dates such as speaker applications and event dates.  

 Pre-Event Interview and Shoot.

Pre-Event Interview and Shoot.

2.    The Application Process

Your application will include things like your personal/ professional story, achievements, your target audience is and why you want to speak at TEDx. You also have to provide around 3 pitches for your idea, one of them needs to be a written-out speech.

Spend time on this, don’t rush. The TEDx curation team goes through these speaker applications and only few get chosen for a meeting/ interview.

During the interview a member of the TEDx curation team will go through your pitch ideas and get to know you a little better. If you have a speech written out, it’s best to bring this as a talking point. Ultimately it’s up to them to put you forward to the broader team. So work with your curator and be open to their suggestions!

3. The Waiting Game & Refining Your Speech

The next few weeks and months are quite transient, because you might not be offered a speaking slot straight away.

The TEDx curation team do a really good job at making sure you have a solid speech. Only when you have a fully written speech that is a) not a cliché b) not a self-promotion plug c) an original idea, will you receive your official offer.

In this period, you really need to refine your idea and speech. Go over every line, work with someone on your story structure, watch other TEDx talks and get ideas on how they’ve structured their story. Send your speech to your peers and ask for feedback. You’ll be so knee deep in the content that a fresh perspective will do wonders!

The good thing is that you’re TEDx curator will work with you very closely. There’s a lot of back and forth, and it can be really stressful at times but it’s all part of the process. Trust the process!!

4. Performance Prep

What many people don’t consider is that a speech is more like a performance.

There’s so many things to consider from voice tonality, body language, supporting slides, video cameras and the live audience. I only really considered this because I have been going to Toastmasters for the last 3 years (a public speaking group). So when it came to my TEDx talk, I really wanted to level up. Here’s 3 things I did:

  • Practice at Toastmasters: I practiced my speech at two different clubs. It’s great to get feedback and practice your speech without notes. The great thing about Toastmasters is that you can get constructive feedback on things like body language and voice tonality, which you might not get from your friends and family.

  • Voice Coach: Naturally, I have a high pitched voice. I didn’t want to sound like a little girl on stage so I went to see a voice coach. Jodie helped me with projection, pauses and vocal variety within my speech. There is a way in which you can bring your own personality through and have a credible voice. A voice coach will help you discover your ‘speech voice.’

  • Powerpoint Designer: Luckily, as I work in marketing, I’m no stranger to creating presentations. I went through my speech and highlighted sections I wanted visuals for. I was thinking of my target audience and potential viewers online. People retain more information with visuals, so it was imperative I weave this through my speech. I got most of my images from Unsplash and then hired a PPT designer to do a clean up. But if you are completely foreign to Powerpoint design, I’d highly recommend you hire a professional to do it for you.

5. Showtime

Boom. It’s THE DAY!

(Ps. The day before the show, there’s a rehearsal. I was advised not to practice the whole speech, so you can save your energy for the actual event. Instead, use this day to familiarise yourself with the stage, the slides and mentally prep the movements of your presentation for the next day. )

The morning of the event, I read over my speech one last time. I wrote down 3 dot points per section I needed to remember (ie. intro, part 1, part 2 and conclusion = 12 points). I meditated, ate my favourite muffin, had a coffee and went to get my nails done lol. It’s important you’re not stressed or overthinking shit. You want to be as natural and relaxed as you can be on stage.

When I first walked on stage, I remember blanking out for a split second. I kept thinking holy shit so much work and prep has lead to this. I looked out to the audience and froze a little. But after my first few lines, I was in autopilot (thank F). I’m very lucky all those Toastmasters sessions came in handy.

I felt a bit lonely on stage to be honest. It kind of feels like you’re doing a monologue. You’re exposed, vulnerable and can’t hide behind the lectern. It’s a performance, yet also a conversation between you and the audience. But the important thing to remember is that you are having a conversation. You are speaking to a group of individuals. Look at one person, pay attention to individuals listening, remember you’re not there to lecture people, you are there to engage and connect with people as equals.

I remember it being all over in a blink of an eye! I also had a lot of fun because I was really passionate about the topic of my speech. People could experience it too. When you’re having a good time, the audience is having a good time. Don’t pressure yourself too much to give some LIFE CHANGING TED talk. Remember, it’s just a conversation with a group of individuals : )

I wrote this blog post because I think we can all learn from each other. It starts by developing our own ideas/ perspectives -and then having the balls to share them with the world.

The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed

-William Gibson.

This is one of my favourite quotes. We live in an ideas economy, where the combination of two random ideas or collaboration of experts from different industries just might help solve climate change, cancer or the AI tech race. The world needs your contribution -in whatever capacity you can offer. Sure that might sound esoteric, but change doesn’t happen by keeping silent.

So there you go kids! I hope this has inspired you to develop your own ideas and courage to one day hop on stage and deliver your talk. If you have any other questions drop me a line. Good luck : ) xx

Liz PalComment