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The 5 P's: Five Tips For Giving A Powerful TEDx Talk

What I learned on my journey to the red dot.

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Sergey Khakimullin / Via Dreamstime

On April 9, 2017 I gave my first TEDx talk called, “What children learn from the things they aren’t told.”

Since then, I’ve been asked many times for advice on how to give a TEDx talk. Just the other day I was part of a panel of TEDx speakers where I was asked to share my experience and what I learned.

I believe that’s what life is for, to share our experiences with others. I also believe that each of us has a story and an idea worth spreading. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share mine and so in the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” here are 5 of the most important tips I can offer you along your journey to the red dot:

1) Pray. I believe all intentions are prayers. Setting an intention is the first step in giving a TEDx talk. Intentions are powerful and so is prayer. Aligning with why you want to give your talk will infuse everything you do along your journey to the red dot. I was very clear in my intention even before I considered applying to give a TEDx talk. Saying a prayer for how my idea could get out to the masses helped align me with the confidence to give a talk from the TED stage. I believe when we say prayers and set intentions, the Universe not only listens, but responds by helping pave a path.

2) Prepare. Now that you’ve set your intention and said your prayer, preparation is key. Not many people know this, but the preparation for my TEDx talk began 2 years before I stepped foot in the red circle. Even though I had an idea worth spreading, I needed public speaking practice. I joined Toastmasters to face my fear. For two years I practiced using my voice and developing a relationship with my message. I don’t believe in luck, but I do like what Oprah Winfrey says about it: "I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been ‘lucky.’”

3) Plan. It’s one thing to be prepared, but another to take action from a place of preparedness. After you’ve been preparing, plan on how you’re going to give your talk. Most TEDx talks have a theme and it’s important to do your research to find an appropriate event for which to apply. I came across my TEDx event on Instagram doing a #hashtag search. The theme was, “Threads Undone,” and was about challenging societal norms — which was perfect for my core idea. It was also 6 months away. I recommend finding an event at least 6 months to one year away. There is a lot of work involved in giving a talk from the TED stage. Having adequate time to plan will only enhance your message and the impact it makes.

4) Practice. And practice and practice some more. I loved when our TEDx speaker coach, Kymberlee Weill, told us, "no one has ever been hurt from practicing their talk too much." Most TED talks are done without notes, so in order to practice I had to memorize what I wrote. I Googled, “how to memorize a speech,” and found an article that shared 8 different memorization techniques. I used them all to find the one I liked most. Once I found the right memorization techniques, I practiced every single day, all the time, everywhere. Recording myself on my phone and listening to the recording while hiking, walking, at the store, driving, and before I went to sleep really helped. I wanted to not only memorize my talk, but I wanted it to integrate into my body. Rehearsal and practice became the most important part of my daily routine. Practicing in front of a live audience was important. I’m big on energy and I wanted to see where in my talk I could feel if people were checked in or checked out. Practicing my talk also gave me confidence. The more I practiced and integrated my talk into my being, the more confident I felt in delivering a powerful message.

5) Play. Working hard at something can be stressful. Going after anything worthwhile can bring with it unwanted stress. That’s why incorporating play is something both valuable and important. One of my favorite things I did during my entire TEDx preparation was to dance and sing my talk. I set up a practice space in my living room and I choreographed dance routines while giving my talk. Dancing my talk, singing my talk, running around my apartment screaming my talk became something I enjoyed and looked forward to doing. My neighbors probably thought I was crazy, but it was so much fun. I remember one time even catching a neighbor looking at me through their kitchen window. It was an awkward moment, but I thought, “okay, good, this is what it feels like to be looked at while being vulnerable.”

One last important tip I have for anyone giving a TEDx talk: surrender the outcome. Use each of the 5 P’s and put your all into the experience, but prayerfully let go the outcome. Putting 110 percent of your heart and soul into something and then surrendering the outcome isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Believe me, I already had my interview with Oprah scheduled. However, when we attach an outcome to something, we energetically hold it back.

That’s not to say refrain from developing a marketing plan to promote your talk. I spent 100’s of hours sending my talk to contacts, media outlets, organizations, and I asked my friends and family to share it themselves. Working hard to put your talk out in the world while surrendering the outcome of where your message lands frees it to go where it will be of most benefit.

When someone receives your message free of outcome, its energy is pure and the ripple effects created will reach beyond your imagination.

May this serve you and your journey to the red dot.

For more information on the TEDx experience, check out this valuable article by professional speaker Josh Shipp.

To help prevent homophobia and bullying, click here to watch my 2017 TEDxCSULB Threads Undone talk, “What children learn from the things they aren’t told.”

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