Have you ever had that “hmmm” moment or moments where the idea of giving your TED talk plays out in your mind?
During the TED Full Spectrum live conference on Wednesday, 2/29th, many folks in the audience will ponder just that (me too!). People will gather to watch the Full Spectrum event via live stream in Washington, DC (thanks to the kind folks at TEDxPotomac). And I can’t wait for the tremendous exchange, conversation, and ideas.
A nudge toward self-reflection
Is some part of you waiting for a particular nudge or external deadline before preparing your TED-calibre story (sometimes that’s a productive block in my work or what clients confront too)? Which begs the question: what really keeps us from recognizing and shaping our prized ideas – and share with others whether it’s a TED community or other engaged, valued listener?
What really prevents us from preparing our ideas beautifully, honestly, and clearly for future yet-to-be named audiences?
A word about time & the talk of your lifetime:
From my TED/TEDx collaborations so far, a TED-calibre talk takes 30 to 200 hours of prep depending on the speaker’s starting point of clarity and available stage time for the talk itself.
So I vote we start.
No matter what stage or type of audience you envision for this ‘talk of your lifetime,’ engaging your own preparation on your own time – right now without facing an immediate deadline – can be incredibly crystalizing. That type of initiative can bionically empower your ideas and self-expression — stimulating greater readiness for serving future audiences.
Also: Clarity puts the mind in a position of presence and ownership — two pillar qualities for guiding an audience through an irreplaceable experience.
So let’s start our own guerrilla prep work right now.
Are you in for 30 minutes?
The primary purpose at this point is to assert an idea and start.
As in the mission here is to make tangible progress on your TED “idea worth spreading” — plus ultimately get your TED / TEDx talk in draft form.
These (4) steps will guide our exercise with an emphasis on asserting perspective and escaping fear of imperfection.
Only criteria: get a first draft down in 30 minutes by continually producing and resisting self-criticism in this timeframe.
1. Set the timer for 8 minutes.
Then start putting notes on paper (please put electronics in another room; the pen and paper keep the mind in a stronger meditative state). Just start writing in response to this consideration: consider what motivates you – and how that motivation is teachable. And as it helps your brainstorming effort, let yourself consider these brainstorms in different types of context and impact: professional, personal, spiritual, analytical, and creative.
Then write down a one-sentence assertion about a belief which you hold true. If it helps, add the phrase “I believe” before your assertion – with an example as: “I believe public speaking is a timeless community builder.”
Please remember: encourage selection (and de-selection).
Perfection is not the end game. What is? getting on the board with your ideas. If you have more than one assertion (again just one sentence in length), certainly write them down. Then choose one to champion for the sake of this draft exercise and carving out your TED “idea worth spreading.”
Do you have a one-sentence, teachable assertion written down now about what motivates you? Great. That’s your potential TED talk’s main idea. That’s the journey you’re taking a future audience on. Nice!
2. Set the timer for another 8 minutes.
Now it’s time to think in story-based scenes. Ask yourself: what moments have shaped your one TED idea? What risk or discipline, what huge or subtle decision, what unforeseen experience, what trajectory, what observations, what research, what pivotal conversations, what gift, what anecdotes, what teachings – what is “the what” which influenced the teachable truth in your asserted idea? Reflect quickly but with permission. Write.
Then select (3) to (5) of these story-based scenes.
Please remember: storytelling relationships
View stories/scenes as the audience’s potential road map to understanding your asserted idea. Each story should exemplify and relate to your idea in some way. So your favorite memory of riding a sweet Shetland pony in the 5th grade should relate to your idea. If not, gently coach yourself to let it go. The Shetland pony will only distract your audience from your idea’s impact and merit.
Creating structural integrity with relatable content is key here.
As you continue beyond this exercise in the days ahead, there will be ample chances to further flesh out, critique, and change your course as needed. For now though, the goal is to start thinking in scenic terms and to build a story archive from which to draw from. Build, build, build this archive for your storytelling power. Storytelling is rich, compatible food for the human mind. Done with keen attention by the storyteller, it can give the audience a chance to absorb, engage, and punctuate thought right along with the speaker every step of the way.
3. Set the timer for the next 8 minutes.
Revisit the stories/scenes you just selected. Now consider them in the context of useful, teachable conflict. As in, do one or a few stories reflect difficulty in some way? Is challenge, risk, pain, or potential disappointment revealed or acknowledged? Or simply, is consequence of what could happen if your idea is rejected apart of your perspective?
Be as honest and willing as possible to disclose a story that is difficult to tell.
Please note: The goal is not to be falsely dramatic or emotionally manipulative. At the same time, framing a core idea and point of view with 100% happiness or sense of perfection can disengage. It can compel the audience toward boredom or mistrust.
If conflict or some layer of contrast can be shared with your audience — it can be an irreplaceable trust builder and clarifying agent for your TED-calibre idea.
Please remember: honesty and clarity
Always be asking yourself with these stories/scenes: are they shaping enough context for my idea to be understood?
Check-in: a word about inspiration
It may be temping to refer to favorite TED talks to observe their voice, their perspective or creativity. Resist this. This exercise is the chance for you (us!) to see our truest conviction clearly even when an audience does not exist. This process must be authentically owned by our own desire to express and to achieve clarity of expression. Lean on your own inner reservoir of clarity, drive, and desire to understand (and to be understood).
4. Set the timer for the final 6 minutes
Consider your main idea, the scenic stories, and the compounding impact of what they mean. How do they uniquely convey meaning literally? Does the structural framework create a sense of journey? Does the structural integrity frame or undermine your intended meaning? How can your ideas create a sense of arrival for your audience?
Write down a vision of impact for your audience. Resonate’s Nancy Duarte (Holy Smokes an incredible resource and philosophy) calls this ‘the new bliss.’ As in how do you envision the ideal result, the ideal benefit, the ideal hope, the ideal outcome of your adopted idea and supportive material?
A kinder, more empathetic world? An accessible education for every human being? A sustainable standard of living for the disenfranchised? Violence replaced by social entrepreneurship?
Please remember: warts are apart of creativity.
Throughout this creative digging, possibly inner voices may crop up i.e. “This is dumb, a waste of time, I’m no Al Gore on TED’s stage, who do I think I am, I hate this rough draft, where is my IQ?!”
Please consider those thoughts as mental warts — and a useful indicator.
They indicate a sense of ownership.
They exist as a knee-jerk reaction to imperfection or a lack of clarity or both. Roll with it and continue. These creative warts indicate a sense of ownership for being clear. It’s a rough gig, the clarity business (…neat phrase from Content Rules). But that’s the business we are in when it comes to recognizing, asserting, and carving out ideas. It’s not a surface exercise.
Let us dig deep and true.
Check-in: Our audiences owe us nothing.
Keep going with your reflections, uniqueness, and process — empathizing with the audience’s experience 150% of the time.
Always be asking: Is there enough context in my talk to frame my conviction and deliver meaning?
Are you delivering as unconditionally as possible? Or do you really, really want the audience to think you are smart and inspirational and brilliant and the new Steve Jobs?
Our audiences owe us nothing.
I invite you to consider:
We as speakers are here to serve audiences with our clearest, most original, most resonant, most integrity-rich best.
I invite us to share ideas in this light, for an unconditional offering of a cherished idea is a beautiful thing.
Congrats for diving in and realizing the talk of your lifetime (I’ll dive in too!).
Really, really exciting.
What would you add to get your ideas off the ground, and into talk-of-a-lifetime shape?
Today’s post is available via a 2 minute audio clip; or the written content follows too just below.
Frustration, frustration frustration.
A few colleagues and clients recently shared they were mentally caving to frustration. They were preparing for their next talk and realized: they didn’t know what to say.
They have deep funds of knowledge.
They have specific and creative expertise.
They’ve been speaking to public audiences on and off for years.
They are intelligent, driven people with plenty to offer a range of listeners.
Yet their ideas were stuck, as in really stuck…like an elephant caught in spandex. As in, no idea and no sense of permission were escaping the inner workings of their mind.
The ‘It’s Not Good Enough” syndrome: a common cause of blocked ideas
In each conversation with these great professionals one trait unified each person’s predicament: in every attempt to even casually brainstorm a point of view for their speech — each person immediately criticized themselves. Whatever idea they tossed out as a potential vantage point from which to develop their presentation – it wasn’t good enough to them.
Getting beyond cycles of criticism: a 20 minute exercise to help
Even with heaps of expertise to draw from and share, this often happens — that cycle of ideas/delete/ideas/delete.
This whirlwind of self-criticism builds off itself, making the self-perception of “my ideas aren’t good enough” as the only type of creative development possible.
This is a cycle to break.
For our ideas to progress as public speakers at this type of crossroads, the main goal (stat!) is to create a sense of permission with how we express (and assert) ideas.
Here’s a favorite exercise to get unstuck:
1. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
Your iPhone, Android, or old time tomato timer on the stove. Please grab it and set it for 20 minutes.
2. Commit to zero self-criticism.
Before diving into this exercise, dedicate your mind to a criticism-free zone. Grant full authority to your hand, the pen it is about to hold, and the paper it will write on.
2a. Which leads to: turn off your computer and find paper and a pen.
3. Start the timer.
4. Then write down at least (3) assertions in 20 minutes — one or two sentences each — about your expertise and related to the gist of your speech.
Keep writing until the timer rings.
Judge not, judge not, just write write write. And ideally: consider these assertions as points of view too. As in, write down what you hold true about your industry with your expertise in mind, again in one or two sentences per assertion.
Start each assertion with the words “I believe…” if that helps to dislodge thought.
“I believe public speaking is a self-assertion game and a clarity game…and it takes time to achieve both.”*
*Is that a run-on sentence? Yes. Is it perfect grammar? No. Is it an assertion that I hold true as a public speaking professional? Yes.
Does it satisfy the perimeters of this exercise? You bet.
Because the goal is to get unstuck, out of your mind, away from delete-every-idea-syndrome and onto the page before you.
Another raw example:
“I believe social content is an interactive and strong way to build community online.”
or… “I believe public relations means stimulating social voice around your company.”
How about you?
What tactical ways help you liberate creativity when preparing for a speech (and abandon self-criticism with ideas)?
There are so many great ideas on how to start a video blog and express one’s self to the camera. From the perspective of growing as a public speaker, I heartily see videoblogging as a fantastic development tool.
I really enjoyed it because of her genuine, comical nature which she shared.
Her video also demonstrated these three tips for getting a video blog off the ground (which can apply to shaping your mindset when talking to the camera in general).
And the 3 tips are:
1. Seek honesty vs perfection.
The camera is a 100% truth finder. Faking it? It sees it. Doubting your ideas or words? The camera (and thus audience) sees that too. She (Lisa) didn’t shy away from the fact she was nervous about talking to the camera. Expressing her anxiety openly fit into the topic of her overall video blog.
2. Assert clear intent.
Did Lisa have a distinct message, as if giving a media Q&A? No and that was absolutely fine (and more natural). She did however assert clear, simple intent and purpose for the video i.e. to share her big goals to improve physically and professionally.
3. Create momentum through editing, a layered viewpoint, or storyboarded structure.
Stimulating energy in the cut itself can be done with different editing decisions. It can be achieved by showing enthusiasm and conviction for your topic. Choosing a specific content structure enables energy to come across too. This was Lisa’s approach: choosing a simple consecutive structure. Lisa conveys uncertainty about her structure in the video itself. It works however.
She relayed one-by-one different goals she wants to accomplish this year. That added vocal variety and thus stimulus from an audience’s vantage point (yet without losing focus on the main purpose of her cut).
What ideas and tips do you like to use when “getting your video blog on?”
It sometimes can be a challenge for me to articulate joy without uttering a word. But then an expression comes along from other people, offered with a glance or gesture that conveys joy without restraint.
Is it clear how your home impacts your life? Frankly I haven’t often reflected on it. I’m embarrassed to admit that. And learning about refugees through The Blue Key Campaign has crystalized for me how much the experience of a home is worth. It has motivated personal action too; and I’m honored to be a champion for the cause of refugees and the Blue Key campaign.
It’s an incredible anchor, isn’t it?
Or how else would you describe home? How would you like to describe the experience of home and its impact on your life? I’m more fully valuing what a gift it is to have the opportunity to dwell in a home day in and day out.
Impacting family, community and business.
On a personal level, home has been the place to grow our marriage of 11 years. It’s a hub for reflection, contentment, togetherness, and relief. It’s been a safe place of fun for family and friends and our kittens. On a business level too, it’s been an anchor for my work – providing a place for clients and I to find solutions as a team.
Yet beyond the borders of my little safe home, there are over 43 million people forcibly displaced from their homes and countries worldwide.
A 10 minute video tutorial on persuasive speaking, laughter, & yoga too…
After sifting through LiveYourTalk’s video archives, I edited one of my workshops into a shorter version. It’s based on a 4-prong approach to preparing persuasive presentations, plus tips for using more vocal flexibility and understanding the impact of silence.
On that note: your breakfast invitation
And this is your invitation to join a flash-mob-breakfast-for-fun-fundraising event hosted by my business LiveYourTalk along with the ever good Shana Glickfield, partner of Beekeeper Group.
What inspired this flash-mob-breakfast idea?
In the spirit of Digital Capital Week and the GiveToTheMax fundraising drive — we wanted to plan a coffee and breakfast to enjoy our community, gobble up some good food from a DC institution, and donate whatever we all can to help Miriam’s Kitchen — an area nonprofit which assists thousands of DC’s homeless and less fortunate