Being a Speaker

Develop an idea

What makes a good idea for a talk?

Like a good magazine article, your idea can be new or surprising, or challenge a belief your audience already has. Or it can be a great basic idea with a compelling new argument behind it.

An idea isn’t just a story or a list of facts. A good idea takes evidence or observations and draws a larger conclusion.

Do I need to be an expert on my topic?

You do not need to be the world’s foremost expert on the topic, but you do have to be an expert. Please remember that the audience relies on you to give accurate information, so whatever you say in your talk, please fact-check — especially facts you may take for granted: statistics, historical anecdotes, scientific stats. If you’re drawing an example from a discipline that is not your main area of knowledge, use research from widely accepted and peer-reviewed sources, and, if at all possible, consult with experts directly.

Is my idea ready?

Write your idea down in one or two sentences. Ask yourself three questions:

Is my idea new?

Are you telling people something you’re pretty sure they have not heard before?

Is it interesting?

Think about how your idea might apply to a room full of varied kinds of people. Who might be interested in it?

Is it factual and realistic?

If you are presenting new research, make sure your idea is backed by data and peer-reviewed. If you are presenting a call to action, make sure it can be executed by members of your audience.

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, refine your idea. Ask someone you respect who doesn’t work in your field, and if they answer “no” to any of these questions, refine your idea.

If your TEDx event organizing team answers “no” to any of these questions, refine your idea.

Rehearse

I’ve said my talk once in my head. Is that enough?

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! We can’t stress this enough. Rehearse until you’re completely comfortable in front of other people: different groups of people, people you love, people you fear, small groups, large groups, peers, people who aren’t experts in your field. Listen to the criticisms and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

If someone says you sound “over-rehearsed,” this actually means you sound stilted and unnatural. Keep rehearsing, and focus on talking like you’re speaking to just one person in a spontaneous one-way conversation.

Timing

Time yourself. Practice with the clock winding down in front of you. Do it until you get the timing right every time.

Posture

Practice standing still, planted firmly in one spot on stage. Have a friend watch you and stop you from pacing back and forth or shifting your weight from leg to leg.

Stage time

Ask your organizer to get as much time as you can for dress-rehearsal, on stage, with the clicker and the confidence monitor. The closer to the actual conditions on stage, the better.