Can you tell a great personal story? It's one of the most effective ways to get--and hold--your audience's attention. Even more important, the organizers of many speaking opportunities and conferences are looking for great storytellers when they book speakers. The good news: Some of the best venues for public speaking are not only creating opportunities to speak, but sharing the results so you can learn and practice online. Here are three of my favorites you can add to your practice arsenal:
- TED.com, the website of the famous TED conference (TED stands for technology, entertainment, design), which started 25 years ago with a focus on "ideas worth spreading." Speakers are asked to give the talk of their lives, in 18 minutes. (Last year, Bill Gates talked about malaria with a big jar of mosquitoes in his lap...and opened it, releasing them in the room.) The conference is tough to get into, whether as a speaker or an audience member (2010's session is already sold out), but TED is intent on the "spreading" part of its mission, offering all the speeches in free, online videos that come with interactive transcripts of the talks as well as translations into many languages. You also can participate in many spinoff conferences, called TEDx, that take place all over, organized by people in your region or community. TED talks are designed to inspire, poke, ask big questions--and they offer loads of role models for your storytelling practice.
- The Moth, a live storytelling event, started out in New York City and now has touring events, a live StorySLAM in Los Angeles and New York, and MothUp, a program that lets you host a Moth session in your own living room and upload the video online. Moth has a "radio hour" and a downloadable podcast to let you listen to performed stories, and even lets you send them an audio pitch for why you should get to tell your story.
- Ignite takes yet another tack: "Five minutes. 20 slides. What would you say?" says its Baltimore site, and in Seattle, where Ignite began, the motto is "Enlighten us, but make it quick." (Other participating cities include Portland, Paris and Washington, DC.) These self-assembling speaker conferences usually feature a few more than a dozen speakers with pre-set limits (talks usually must be submitted for consideration). You can find video of past performances on each Ignite website, and I'd recommend this as a real practice tool: Setting limits (like 5 minutes and 20 slides) forces you to focus your talk. Can you do it? Watch some of the online videos and give it a try!
Related posts: Tell a story on yourself (featuring audio of a Moth talk by Sir Paul Nurse)