How to be inspiring: 6 things I learnt as a TEDx Perth speaker coach

Lots of people think public speaking comes naturally to TED speakers. But the best of them put in a lot of hard work to get to deliver the great presentation you see on the day.

I was lucky to work as a TEDx Perth speaker coach for some amazing women and men. Two received standing ovations: Carina Hoang for her 2013 talk, “Being a refugee is not a choice” and Shani Graham “Take a street and build a community”.

Speaker coaches help presenters craft their story, connect with their audience and deliver a well-tuned and inspiring talk.

Here are some tips I learned over four seasons as a TEDx Perth speaker coach about how you can also be an inspiring speaker.

1. Know your stuff

Sure, TEDx speakers look relaxed, but that’s because they know their stuff. June Cohen (TED media Executive Producer) explains here that a lot of work goes into making TED talks look spontaneous and sound conversational.  Speakers who prepare and rehearse simply do better on the day.

Many of us can wing it and do just fine, but why not put in the extra time to do something great?

2. Know why you are telling your story and it will shine through

Carina Hoang shares her story of being a refugee from Vietnam all around the world. Incredibly, each time she does so, she delivers with the same poignancy, moving many to tears. Carina’s delivery is simple, yet her message clear. She didn’t have to explicitly say, “I want to put the humanity into the way we talk about asylum speakers”; it was evident in her every word.

You can’t contrive authenticity. Know what you’re about, and it will show.

3. Recognise others who have helped you along the way

Shani Graham entranced the TEDx Perth crowd when she shared how she had benefited from the Hulbert Street community she cultivated, as much as she had helped her community. As the audience, we appreciated Shani’s humbleness. Indeed, TEDx Perth itself is the work of many volunteers, speakers and supporters. All of these parts made the THING and the opportunity that is TEDx Perth.

Know how others strengthen you and your work. See your part in the whole. 

4.  Take a stand

David Joske state finalist Australian of the Year 2013 exuded academic rigour when he said that cancer care needs to be “re-humanised”. He also managed to show a lot of caring.

We love when you are passionate with good intentions. We also want to know that you have the knowledge to back up your ideas.   

5. It’s all about your audience

Shani Graham, known for her transformative work in Hulbert Street and now through Ecoburbia, is a great storyteller. What makes her a great storyteller? Firstly, you know she is there for you, the audience. Shani tells her stories about building community from the heart, but I never feel she is indulging. Shani reads the reaction from the crowd and uses that energy to fuel more. We feel connected to Shani, and we want her to succeed – as a result Shani received more laughs and spontaneous applause than any other speaker on this year’s circuit.

Know your audience. Give yourself over to them. They’ll show you what they need.

6. It takes time to be amazing

At TEDx Perth 2013 Patrick Hollingworth was one of the last speakers. Patrick took ten years to build the skills he needed to reach his dream of climbing Mt Everest.  You might think that a tale about reaching Everest’s peak would be about challenge and doing more than you imagined – and it was, partly. Mostly, though, it was about how hard it was to get there. Patrick explained that many people lose their lives on that mountain, often because they have no idea how hard it really is.

Notice, with awe, the dedication that amazing people you know have for their area of expertise.  Honour their contribution to making the world a better place, and be patient as you develop yours. 

To learn more about being a great speaker, be sure to sign up to the blog, email rachael@rachaelwest.com.au for targeted coaching.

The dozens of volunteers that made TEDx Perth the well-oiled, inspiring and meaningful day it was.
The dozens of volunteers that made TEDx Perth the well-oiled, inspiring and meaningful day it was.

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rachaelwest

Speaker Coach | Founder | Engineer