May 1, 2017

Lessons from TED for public speaking


Public Speaking Fear , Public Speaking , Faculty , Three Things , Tips

"In the past I’ve thought that if I was nervous, it must mean there is something wrong. Now I know if I feel that way, I can celebrate it because it means I’m doing something outside my comfort zone--which is where most successful people reside."

– Buckley Coach Elise Partin, sharing lessons she learned from giving a TED talk

TED has built a reputation for motivating speakers to make engaging presentations on every type of topic, from complex concepts in math and science to thoughtful concern for how we treat each other. The nonprofit organization grew out of a conference that was first held in 1984. TED's promise is to deliver "ideas worth spreading."

Elise on stage for her TEDx talk in Columbia, S.C.

Buckley Coach Elise Partin participated in TEDx, a locally-organized version of TED. What was Elise’s idea worth spreading? That regular people can make important contributions by holding elected office. Her authority to make that claim? She had, herself, run for office for the first time, inspired that she could make a difference in her town by serving as mayor. She won, becoming the first woman ever elected mayor of Cayce, S.C.

TED talks are known for their particular style—which includes an appreciation for storytelling, a preference for speaking without notes, and a strict requirement that you keep it short (under 18 minutes).

While Elise’s talk covered some of the things she learned about being a first-time candidate, we asked her to share three things she learned about public speaking from giving a TED talk:

1. There’s nothing like a very large timer facing you on stage to keep you on track.

“If you’ve watched a lot of TED talks, you might have caught a glimpse of the iconic large timer that’s on every TED stage,” Elise says. “It’s part of the TED brand, and it's great at preventing any rambling that's happened to the best of us.”

2. Practice, practice, and practice some more.

“This is always good advice but especially so for a presentation that is high profile, videotaped, and placed on the internet for perpetuity. I practiced for this speech more than any other I’ve ever given,” she says. Elise wrote, re-wrote, got input from others, then re-wrote again, something that might surprise those who see TED speakers seemingly speaking off the cuff. “I practiced at home in front of the mirror, in front of the computer with the video camera on. I even went so far as practicing at our local high school auditorium, so I had the feel of giving the speech in a similar space.”

3. Everyone gets nervous but nerves don’t have to dictate your actions.

“In the past I’ve thought that if I was nervous, it must mean there is something wrong. Now I know if I feel that way, I can celebrate it because it means I’m doing something outside my comfort zone--which is where most successful people reside. I also know that as long as I look around and don’t see a bear, I can tell my body that there’s no bear by taking deep breaths. Deep breaths helped me project confidence, even though I was nervous when I walked onto that stage.”

You can watch a video of Elise’s TEDx talk here:

To learn more about TED and watch more talks, try this link to the 20 most popular TED Talks.

Photos of Elise speaking courtesy of Ann McQuary/TEDxColumbiaSC

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