[Toastmasters] Your TED Talk Checklist

Random Observation/Comment #443: Organizing a TEDx (or any event involving a community where you share your passions and ideas) is a very rewarding experience.

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TED/TEDx talks are kind of a big deal. It’s not just a toastmasters speech in front of your peers or even a speech to your managers – it’s a recorded and mass-distributed video that could potentially go viral.  Embrace this opportunity! Prepare and review with all the resources you can find.

Every talk seen on TED is a product of a lot of preparation. The presentation is just the tip of the iceberg to that 90% of hard work writing, tweaking, and practicing for those 5-18 minutes of glory.

What should the talk have? Here’s the order of importance and overall checklist of putting together a high quality TED talk:

  • Content – Milestone 1: Outline
    • Organization. Is it easy to follow?
    • Personal Story. Moving? Serves a purpose? Makes us laugh? Makes us cry? Ties in well?
    • Message. Overall inspirational? Powerful?
    • Call to action. Makes me want to do something? Inspires me to be more proactive?
    • Underlying theme (bring back to a quote?) Is it evident and matches the tone?
  • Vocals – Milestone 2: Listen to yourself audio only
    • Inflections. Speak up and down. Avoid up-speak (cheerleader speak). Make statements.
    • Pauses. Are you breathing? Use pauses effectively before presenting a point.
    • Speed. Quick and slow to keep things interesting.
    • Loudness. Speed up and get louder to emphasize certain things. Vary the volume to get people paying attention to certain parts.
    • Tones. Go up and down. Listen to audiobooks to see how this is done. Impersonate voices where it fits.
    • Filler words. It’s not written in the content, but it tends to come up. Try to reduce filler words by using pauses instead.
  • Body Language – Milestone 3: Watch yourself in a 360 review
    • Eye contact. Are you including everyone?
    • Smile/Facial expression that fits the speech. Feel free to loosen up.
    • Note nervous ticks. Find out what to naturally do with your hands. Nervous ticks can be distracting so don’t touch hair, put hand in pockets, or lean to one side.
    • Stance / Use of stage. Stand tall to show that level of confidence. Walk towards the crowd and match with eye contact to deliver a message.

Notice that for practice, the 3 major milestones are to review your content, listen to your audio, and then add the body language last. Interestingly enough, the body language is the most noticed part, BUT you still need to know what you’re talking about to present that confidence. These milestones should be reached in this order so you can just focus on each of these skills.

As for Memorization / Practice:

  • Memorize as a logical story of ideas
  • Tie together ideas with rhetorical questions (what happened next?)
  • Note ways of expressing ideas when you read the outline
  • Write the full text once, outline, write again, and re-outline
  • Note things you want to memorize exactly (definitions, poems, etc)
  • Mental note paragraphs and break information into orderly chunks
  • If visual aids are used, don’t read from them, but use them as a mental cue to connect your thoughts. Some people create slides even if they don’t use them so they can easily chunk these ideas/concepts together.

Remember: Practice! Think about it in the shower and on your commute. Tell your friends, family, bathroom mirror, and pets. Ask for advice and look for ways to tighten up the speech. Best of luck!

~See Lemons Love TED