There is nothing quite like saying the words out loud to realise that they do or do not make sense!
Recently I delivered a rough and ready performance of my planned TED talk to an audience of about fifteen women in business at a networking meeting/afternoon tea.
In terms of audiences this was as nice as it could get: a group happy to be guinea pigs for fifteen minutes, some excellent speakers in the group who can be relied upon to give feedback and a relaxed and positive environment. (ok, so the Champagne and scones-to-die-for helped!)
So what did I gained from the experience?
First of all, timing. I thought my presentation was about 15 minutes but wasn’t quite sure. I find it challenging even after all these years of speaking to know exactly how long something will last until I deliver it ‘for real’. What I mean by ‘for real’ is either in a dress rehearsal scenario or actually ‘for real’ (a risky strategy I realise and one I tend only to take when timing is not a critical issue and where I can flex easily) What I do know though is that over the years I am reasonably accurate in ‘knowing’ the timing – is it intuition? Muscle memory? An ingrained sense of the minutes ticking away? Good practice and experience. It’s probably a combination of these. What the preparations for the TED talk has shown me is that I cannot take the risk of not knowing exactly and more out loud practice is still needed to nail it!
Secondly, content. I knew what I wanted to say (core message) and how I wanted to say it (structure and sequencing) before I went to the meeting …and I still missed things out that are important and ended up with unnecessary repetition and waffle. It was interesting that the audience didn’t know what I had missed out – but it came out in the questions they had about the topic later. So I definitely need to go back to the drawing board and edit edit edit. Tightening up the message, making every phrase and word earn its place in the final presentations. Be ruthless. Be brave. Be focused!
Thirdly, magic! I have come to recognise in myself that when I speak in public there is often a little magic that happens. Being in a room, being fully present, being connected with the people in the room and the content I am delivering somehow taps into my creative and certainly linguistic side of me. I found as I was speaking I could enhance, not what I was saying, but certainly how I was saying it. I would probably term this the ‘musicality’ of my language – rhythm, cadence, flow, pausing… And it comes from the speaking with people… So I know I need to deliver this to more people before the actual event to keep shaping and crafting the message and polishing the delivery.
And finally, feedback. I need some of the audience to give me feedback and in a way this is trickier than I thought. Such a lovely group of listeners are quick to pick up on the positive, things they enjoyed, things that made them think. And I need this because the actual TED audience will have lots of similarities. But…I also need the brave and the direct and the constructive to make me aware of things I am currently unaware of, to ask me questions, to raise my consciousness about my style, my content and my delivery. In this way not only can I perfect the TED talk but I can also grow as a speaker.
Speaking to the group and practicing was invaluable. And an awful lot of fun as well. What was fascinating was that it generated an impromptu group discussion – not about me (thankfully) but about the content. Something in what I said sparked comment, conversation and passion.
And after all – that’s what is all about really. To misquote the TED strap line – it’s all about talking about ideas that are worth sharing.
My thanks to the fifteen ladies and to Sue France in particular who encouraged me to grasp the opportunity to test out the talk.