What’s it like to give a TEDx talk? Speakers tell their stories

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Barefoot Foodie onstage at TEDxBGSU. Photo: Enoch Wu

If your New Year’s resolution is to give a TEDx talk yourself — or to silence your inner monologue that thinks “I can’t do public speaking” — read a few of these stories, written by people who got up on the TEDx stage this year. They’re brave, prepared, and honest about what it takes to take the stage.

For instance, here’s a dialogue that Brittany Gibbons, the Barefoot Foodie, had with a friend before she spoke at TEDxBGSU this fall:

I don’t know how to be good at this, Andy.

You will be amazing.

Or this could be the biggest thing I fail at, ever.

Unlikely. Nothing could beat you half slipping into the grave hole at my grandma’s funeral.

Well that’s for sure, they should mark those better.

(Update: Upworthy called Brittany’s talk “One Of The Bravest Things I’ve Ever Seen.”)

Janice Tanton felt the same way before speaking at TEDxCalgary:

It took me two weeks to think through whether or not I could do this — to break through the safe, quiet soli­ti­tude of my cocoon-like stu­dio and step into the stage spot­light to share.

… and she came through with a deep insight into why we feel this way:

Fear, in my opin­ion, is just a mis­guided form of creativity.

Security expert Jeremiah Grossman has given hundreds of public presentations. But when he started to lose his anxiety and nervousness about public speaking … it felt wrong:

Had I finally overcome? I’m not an introspective person so it wasn’t until very recently that I think I figured it out. In 2011 my public presentations weren’t pushing the envelope as much as in years past. The content was good to be sure, but it also focused on “safe” business level subjects and incrementally advancing work from previous years. In short, I really wasn’t putting myself out there as far as I’m used to. In my case, the feeling or fear and terror arises when pushing forth an idea or a concept and unsure if people will think its uncompelling or totally idiotic. A chance you take.

That’s about when I got a call from the TED offering a speaking slot in TEDxMaui. We got to talking about my work and discussing an idea worth spreading. It didn’t take long. Then all of a sudden I’m thrust right back into fear and terror mode, but now that I understand it, the feeling is almost comforting. It signals that I have an opportunity to take things in my industry, in our industry, to a new level — or of course drive right off a cliff. Either way it’ll be a good show! :)

“Everyone should give a TED talk,” writes Doug Johnson, after being inspired at TEDxPhiladelphiaED:

So here is my question: Could you give a TED talk inspired by a personal passion for what you do? What would it be about? What would others learn from it? What makes you look forward to the next day even after a rough time at work? What do you take time to reflect on?

(Doug gave a TEDxTalk himself last year at TEDxASB, so he knows what he’s talking about. He says: “These TED talks are tougher to do than one might think.”)

Verena Delius spoke at TEDxBerlin, and in her prep, she discovered the upside of the 18-minute limit:

TED limits your talk to a maximum of 18 minutes. This leads to clearer thoughts, a clearer structure, stronger take-aways and a more concise train of argumentation of the speakers. You can´t spend too much time on irrelevant points that don´t bring across a message and you have to focus on the important points.

And in a guest post on Jeff Goins‘ blog, John Yates shares “Four Keys to Speaking at Your Next Local TEDx Talk.” Here’s one of his insights after a day at TEDxNashville:

1. Be an amateur: David Mead, a Nashville singer-songwriter, told a story of his friend who was humble enough to admit he had never heard of the Beatles, which deeply resonated with me. I thought: How many times have I missed out on learning amazing new things, because I wanted to appear as an expert?

Do you have a story of speaking at a TEDx — or insights from attending one — that you’d like to share? Hit the comments below, or write a blog post and let us know about it!