Conquering the public speaking hurdle.

I find TED talks highly entertaining and informative. They are short (under18 minutes), focused, intriguing and introduce new and interesting ideas. To refresh your memory about what a TED talk is, see our earlier articles – – and,

One of my favorite podcasts is the TED Radio Hour in which the producers choose a single topic and include relevant, supportive sections from various TED talks. I have yet to hear a TED talk I didn’t like. Some of the speakers have confessed to having stage fright, or hating public speaking. I often wonder how they overcame those obstacles and give such great talks. Public speaking is something I do not like to do. In case you also shy away from public speaking but are intrigued by the success of TED Talks, here are some tips my research has uncovered for addressing a crowd confidently.

The first requirement is to have something worth saying. Have a topic that matters and can be communicated from your brain to others. Your topic needs to be about something that is interesting about you or something you are doing to make a difference. A TED Talk is not a lecture, it is the exploration of a single idea. Clearly articulate your concept early on so the audience knows what the core idea is of your presentation. If you have something worth saying, perhaps start at a TEDx conference. TEDx are independent local gatherings that take place in communities around the world. They are great stepping stones to the TED main stage.

Spark your listeners’ curiosity by opening with a personal story related to your idea. It draws the audience in and helps them understand your journey and your topic. People like to understand the WHY of what you’re doing. The best talks are more stories and less data. The best talks are the ones that give people a reason to care, and a good story is the best way to do that. If your topic really matters to you, that will help you overcome stage fright.

Keep it simple and introduce new information logically. The information should flow logically and in sequence within the context of your talk. If you let your enthusiasm for your topic run away with you, you might try to cram too much into your talk, and you will lose your audience. Don’t assume the audience knows anything about your idea.

Give people a reason to care about your topic. Make your audience curious. Ask questions and answer them, sprinkle more stories in to illustrate what you are saying. Build your case for why they should care. Stay away from industry jargon and try to find something to grab them like a shocking statistic or situation – anything that is emotionally charged. Metaphors are useful. You must believe that your idea will have broad appeal or usefulness or it might not be worth sharing at all.

End your talk with a story and a call for action – Tell your audience what you are hoping they will feel, do or think after listening to your talk.

The president of a public speaking and presentation skills coaching company, SpeakForth, Inc., stresses one thing above everything else – practice, practice, practice! Ideally, practicing in front of live audiences and in as close to the kind of space you’ll be giving your talk in is best. Any kind of practice is better than none because you want to be familiar with your message, which in turn will give you confidence and your talk fluidity. Try to connect one on one with your audience. If you practice in front of people, ask them to be honest with you about their reactions.

I was curious about what Chris Anderson, President and Curator of TED, felt made for a good TED Talk. He has recently written a book called TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Here is a Chris Anderson video on what makes a good TED Talk.