The anatomy of a soul-stirring spotlight talk

Alexia Communication, Public Speaking, Uncategorized 2 Comments

One of the many things that TED and TEDx curators say is that there is NOT a formula for a TED-style talk. To quote Chris Anderson, TED’s main curator, “There is no single formula to giving a TED Talk. Indeed, the most annoying talks of all are those that seem to think there is.”

So am I going to (or can anyone?) give you a step-by-step recipe for cooking up a compelling talk? Alas, that’s a big hairy NO!

With that said, I’m all about creating recipes – providing ingredients, recommendations for sequencing these ingredients, and drawing a clear picture of what a well cooked talk will look and taste like. Then, just like a great chef or baker, there is the freedom to experiment, innovate and make the recipe your own.

As anyone who has ever watched a TED or TEDx video knows, there are many, many, many frequently reoccurring ingredients of talks that audience members most remember and cherish. Talks where audience members can’t shake the speaker or his/her message from their memory and go on to spread the talk’s ideas.

Whether your goal is to advance ideas related to quantum physics or conscious living, here are three of my favorite ingredients for making your talks and presentations soul-stirring experiences for your audiences.

  1. Put your big idea front and center. There are few things more frustrating to an audience or to an event host than a speaker who spends most of his or her time setting up the premise of a talk and then spends little time actually advancing the idea. Whether you are speaking less than 20 minutes or closer to an hour, you cannot make your audience possess the expertise you have on your topic. Nor should you strive to. With that said, you most definitely do want to make clear no more than a quarter of your time into your talk or presentation what you want the audience to walk away with, and then argue on behalf of your idea with everything in you.
  1. Tell stories in your voice. I love me some good storytelling. So do a lot of people. The problem is that so many people are talking about storytelling that a lot of stories, irrespective of topic, are starting to sound the same. The most effective way to bring stories into your talks is to find them by speaking them out loud. Walk, talk and get your body involved. Pretend like you are speaking to your honey or your dearest friend. And put on a tape recorder (or video, if that won’t make you nuts). Listen to where you naturally pause or giggle. Observe your word choice. Discover the metaphors you use. And the questions you ask. And put these observations into your notes for how to tell the story and apply these discoveries as you rehearse your story again and again. Stories should not be improvised nor should they be typed out and memorized without these aforementioned critical steps.
  1. Curate material based on the question, “How will this help my audience take action on my idea?” This should be your filter question for EVERYTHING you bring into a talk or presentation. If your answer is, “It won’t but it’s hilarious or heart-opening,” or anything other than, “It will totally help!” eliminate it. Save it for your stand-up routine or performance art piece. I’m teasing a bit, but too often we dilute our material by failing to edit out things that don’t support our audience’s understanding. Every word you speak MUST be moving your audience from where they were when they initially granted you their time and attention towards your ultimate call to action.

There are of course other ingredients speakers can play with and introduce into their presentations. And while I don’t do formulas there are also some, I’ll call them templates, that work really well for what I refer to as a spotlight talk – a talk that lets you advance a big idea, connect it to your stories and your work and call an audience to take meaningful action on it. (And these templates work whether that desired action is for your audience to change a belief, adopt a new behavior or, if you are an entrepreneur, enroll in ongoing opportunities with you).

At the end of this week I will re-open enrollment for my virtual public speaking training program, Your Spotlight Talk.

And on Thursday and Friday of this week, I’m hosting a LIVE virtual master class on creating spotlight talks.

Whether you are interested in joining the 2016 Your Spotlight Talk cohort, are an alum of the program hungry for a refresh, or just want to dynamize your ability to develop epic speaking content and wow an audience, I want you to sign up for 1 of the 3 master classes so that you can discover:

  • Simple and effective questions to decipher which of your ideas and passions best translates into a spotlight talk
  • 3 effective templates for crafting a soul-stirring, one-of-a-kind spotlight talk (each template works for TED-style talks, keynotes, business presentations and motivational speeches)
  • Best practices for curating the right stories, research and examples to make your talk an epic experience for your audience
  • Recommendations for how to continue developing your talk, your way, and opportunities for performing it on TEDx stages, for business and professional associations, and at high-profile industry events

I have never done a master class where I breakdown my exact approach for supporting speakers to develop their spotlight talks – an approach that speakers have used on stages including Inbound, Off the Charts Live, at the World Bank, Harvard, Columbia, Nike, Association for Talent Development, and of course TEDx. (My speakers get around – in the stage sense!)

There will NOT be a replay of these master classes, which is why I’ve set aside 3 different times to lead them.

Let’s play together – and illuminate the way for you to develop your spotlight talk.

“See” you in master class. Sign up here.