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

Lots of people think TED speakers are naturals. But the best of them put in a lot of hard work to get to what you see on the day.

I’ve been lucky enough to work as a TEDx Perth speaker coach for Carina Hoang, who received a standing ovation in 2013 for her talk about being a Vietnamese “boat person”, and Shani Graham who also earned a standing ovation when she moved the audience to tears about building community. Speaker coaches help presenters craft their story, connect with their audience and deliver a well-tuned and inspiring talk.

Here are tips for being inspiring on and off the stage that I learned from great TEDx Perth speakers over the past four seasons.

1. Know your stuff

June Cohen (Executive Producer of TED media) explains just how much work goes into making those TED talks look spontaneous and sound conversational. Sure, the speakers have a relaxed nature about them, but that is because they know their stuff. A lot of preparation goes into making it appear that things are made up on the spot!

Speakers who prepare and rehearse simply do better on the day.

Most 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 “boat person from Vietnam” (Carina’s words) all around the world, and yet she delivers with the same poignancy each and every time, moving many to tears. Carina’s delivery is simple, yet her message clear.

She didn’t have to say, “I want to put the humanity into our debate 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 entranced the TEDx Perth crowd when she shared how her Hulbert Street community had helped her as much as she had helped them. We appreciated her humbleness. TEDx Perth itself was the work of many volunteers, speakers and supporters. All of these parts made the THING 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? For one, you know she is there for you, dear audience. Shani tells her stories about building community from the heart, but I never feel that she is indulging. Shani reads the reaction from the crowd and uses that energy to know where to go next and how to say it. We felt connected to Shani, we wanted her to succeed – and as a result Shani probably received more laughs and more spontaneous applause than any other speaker on this year’s circuit.

Know where your audience is in the room and in the world. Give yourself over to them. Let them show you what they need.

6. It takes time to be amazing

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

Emulate the quality of a TED talk next time you present with these Tips for giving great presentations or fine tune your skills in a personalised coaching session.

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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Speaker | Coach | Founder Yoga for Pain Care Australia