In one month, I will be getting on the stage at TEDx Gull Lake 2017 to present my first ever TEDx talk. My speech will be a combination of speaking and live performance of three of my original songs. It’s title is “Differences Don’t Have to Divide Us.”

How I’m Feeling about my TEDx Talk

I am excited and eager and frightened. The time seems ripe for a conversation about differences and connection. And I want very much for this speech to have some positive impact on the world.

I feel all the signs of nerves: an urge to think about the event all the time coupled with the deep desire to avoid practicing the speech; a dry mouth coupled with a stomach too clenched to eat or drink; waking up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep, and then too tired during the day to work on the speech.

How to Prepare for a TED or TEDx Talk

I’ve been told that the antidote to fear is knowledge – which in this case means: preparation. So what do you do to get ready to give a TEDx speech?

  1. Come up with an idea. This is a lot harder than it sounds! Try it yourself. What would you want to talk about at an event about sharing ideas?
  2. Write the first draft of your speech. Expect to be so excited about it that you think it’s ready for the stage. Then prepare to get your hopes dashed when you realize how much work there is still to do. But don’t ignore the joy of seeing the nuggets of gold within the dross.
  3. Fine-tune the text of the speech. I have written and rewritten and written some more. I am up to draft number 14, with likely more to come.
  4. Work with coaches. The TEDx process includes a wonderful element of pairing speakers with speaker buddies who were speakers in past years. I am lucky to be working with the amazing Sara Sherman of Discovery Horse Farm. Sara has helped me figure out how to best present my material, and she continues to be a resource I can call upon.
  5. Practice. As I have the honor to be both a performer and a speaker at Tedx Gull Lake 2017, I am practicing speaking, singing, and even the seemingly innocuous choreography of putting my guitar on and taking it off my body. You’d think that wouldn’t be something to worry about, but have you ever watched a performer struggle with their instrument? It’s incredibly distracting. And as I am struggling enough with memorizing the speech, I don’t want to have some small hitch in the giddyup cause me to fall off my horse while hundreds of people are watching me.
  6. Collect and accept feedback. Seek out trusted friends and advisors. Let them see a video of the speech or read what you’ve written. Find out where they are pulled into and out of the speech. Adjust speech accordingly.
  7. Memorize. I didn’t realize it, but there are three acceptable ways to present your TEDx speech: read it off the prompters (not recommended), use bullet points, or memorize it word for word. I am choosing to memorize mine. You’d think this would be easy for a veteran performer, but I gotta tell you, I have a terrible memory. Were you wondering why I always have a music stand by me at my concerts? Lyrics, baby, lyrics.
  8. Practice some more. So you thought you’d practiced enough? You were wrong. Keep practicing.
  9. Practice presenting to other people. This is a totally different experience than practicing in your room in front of a mirror. Even if you think you know your speech, you don’t know your speech until you have presented it to another person or people…numerous times. It is a totally different experience than presenting to yourself. It uses different parts of your brain. It feels different. And only in front of an audience (and I don’t mean your pets) do you really learn what is memorized and what isn’t, what parts work and what parts don’t. In fact, this step is so valuable to me, I am trying to book opportunities to present to pre-gathered groups of people whenever and where ever I can.
  10. Psych yourself up. Keep your attitude positive; don’t let doubts undermine your confidence. Accept that sometimes you won’t feel great about your speech. Keep working on it. Accept that you don’t know how your speech will be received. Keep practicing. When you feel doubt, practice some more.
  11. Present your speech. Here’s the final step. I have no idea how my talk will go. I will let you know. They tell me the video will be available a few weeks after the event. Stay tuned…

Do you have any other suggestions for preparing for public speaking? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments section.

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