I had the honor of speaking at TEDx Adelphi University last Friday and although I do public speaking all the time, I learned some things this time around. Why was this speech different than those I do on a weekly basis? I’m not sure. Bigger stage? The TED reputation, which carries a really high bar? No notes? That fact that it was webcast to god knows how many people and will be memorialized in video for years to come? Probably all of those things, but in any event, it was just me, a circular red carpet, a really cool stage draped in blue and a really bright spotlight. So, here are a few of my take-aways:
You’re never as prepared as you’d like to be.
Before every race in which I compete, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape, but could really kill it if I had just another week to train. TEDx was the same. If only I had one more day, one more round of edits and one more run-through. Truth is, another day wouldn’t really make a difference.
If you’re not nervous, you’re not fully invested and will probably suck.
That nervous energy means you care about how you do, you care what people think and you want badly to do your best. That adrenaline rush fuels peak performance. If you walk onto that stage feeling 100% like “I got this,” you probably don’t.
If you have an intense passion for the topic, that will shine through.
The words you choose, your speech patterns, body language and delivery matter, but it’s your passion that will reach people’s hearts. Invite them into your life, the life of another person or transport them to another place. Then you’ll have the ability to shatter their pre-conceived notions or engage them in a whole new way of thinking even if you stutter, mispronounce a word or twist a line.
Don’t practice in a vacuum.
My audition several months ago at Adelphi went well, but one of the judges asked me a pointed question about the evolution of drug policy. That question and my response shaped an important portion of my speech. Similarly, I participated in a coaching session with Professor Margaret Lally from Adelphi’s theater department and found some gaps in the speech that I couldn’t see because I was so close to the subject matter. The next time you plan to give a speech, do it first with someone who knows nothing about the topic.
Your fellow presenters and everyone in the audience is rooting for you.
They want you to be amazing and are there precisely because they are looking to be amazed. That unity of purpose creates tremendous energy and momentum around the issue you are discussing. Don’t waste it.
A few of you have asked whether there’s video available of my talk. Adelphi says it will be ready in about two weeks and I will be sure to post a link. In the meantime, I have a few more thoughts about my TEDx experience that I will share later this week and next.
Thanks for reading!