Five Tips for Giving a Great Speech.
“What’s it like to give a TED Talk?”
Someone asked me that question on Monday when my newest talk “An Alternative to the Midlife Crisis” debuted on the TED website. I was fortunate enough to be asked to give my third TED talk earlier this year at their annual conference in Vancouver, Canada.
I remember the first time I gave a TED Talk (2010) and I was freakin’ out in the Green Room. Fortunately, there was a fatherly figure there who calmed me down as he was giving his talk right after mine. His name is James Cameron, the director of Avatar, The Terminator, Aliens, and Titanic, and he touched my knee and asked, "What if you judged your talk based only upon how much fun you're going to have on stage?" I wrote about this experience in this past blog post.
If I could give some fatherly advice to others about giving a big speech, it would be the following:
- Have Fun. This is hard to do when you’re on the TED stage as they’re pretty strict about you sticking to your approved script, but if you’re not having fun, the audience isn’t having fun. And, that means they’re probably looking at their iPhone.
- Be Human. Connect with the audience energetically, look into their eyes, embody both humility and confidence, and sprinkle a healthy amount of humor, especially early in the talk.
- Offer Something New. There’s nothing worse than someone offering cliches or unoriginal material. Teach us something we don’t know. Give us a new perspective. Surprise and delight us.
- Use Storytelling and Metaphors to Make Your Point. You may want to overload us with data to prove your point, but an inspiring story or a poignant metaphor is what we’ll remember.
- Shorter is Better than Longer. My 2010 talk, Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile, was 17+ minutes. My 2018 talk, What Baby Boomers Can Learn From Millennials at Work, was 12+ minutes and my 2023 talk, An Alternative to the Midlife Crisis, clocked in at just over 3 minutes. There’s a reason why TED has been moving more and more toward shorter talks.
P.S. MEA in TED land. Our long-time guest faculty member Paul Hawken gave a remarkable talk at TED Countdown a few minutes ago and this talk, Regeneration Can Restore a Broken World, just debuted on TED’s website last week. Paul’s work has been a wise guide for us with MEA’s regenerative curriculum and communities.