Thursday, October 1, 2015

Using a workshop to build a better talk

Can a workshop really help you to build a better talk?

Some participants come to my public speaking workshops to try me out and see whether they'd like 1:1 coaching, or a customized training for their group. Some come hoping to learn a few tactics for elevating their current public speaking approaches. And some come in the middle of preparations for a specific talk, something they are working on at the time or will be in the near future.

It's that last category of participant that often makes the most progress. Having a firm appointment to give a talk sharpens your mind wonderfully for any training or coaching you get before the day of delivery. I'm happy to say that many of my workshop participants report success with talks they were building at the time of the workshop. Here are just two examples:

Using a workshop as a springboard to return to speaking

Cate Huston attended two of my workshops when she was planning a return to speaking. She'd been harrassed on Twitter while speaking, and took a two-year hiatus. When she finally did sign up to speak again, fear struck: "It loomed closer and I became more, and more anxious....I took the main thing within my control seriously – how prepared I was. I gave two internal practise talks, both went well. I published my notes on my blog. Denise, of The Eloquent Woman, ran two UK events, I attended both (12)." She gave that talk, then another, then another. And now organizers approach her after her talks, seeding the next opportunity. 

During my workshop on women and speaking, I asked participants to give me one word that, for them, defined the term "eloquent." It's a way for participants to share what they are aspiring to be as speakers, since it's always good to have a goal in mind (whether you have a talk planned or not). Defining what eloquence means to you helps give shape to that goal.

On LinkedIn, Cate shared the results of her talks, and how this exercise particularly resonated later on: "My talks were extremely well received, something which I attribute significantly to Denise’s help," she wrote. "In the workshop, I defined what eloquent meant to me as 'poised,' which is exactly the word a conference organiser used to describe me on stage."

Using a workshop to prep for a big talk

Lucy Rogers attended my workshop on creating a TED-quality talk. It's designed for people aiming for a TED or TEDx conference, or those interested in adapting the TED style of speaking for everyday presentations. We went through the mechanics of preparing such a talk, from scripting and memorizing to delivering it, and teamed up participants to hone their content and make it suit the form. In this workshop, most of the participants had the goal of giving a TED or TED-like talk, and came to the workshop with ideas about their topics and audiences.

Lucy went on to speak at InspireFest in Dublin, giving a talk on space debris, using the workshop tactics (and even a fellow worskhop participant) to develop it. In her "Talk About the Talk" post about her experience, Lucy Rogers said, "Immediately after the talk I had some great feedback – both on twitter and in real life. I even got asked if I had given it as a TED talk – and that I should. I was really chuffed by this - I was aiming for the “TED Quality” talk that Denise had highlighted in her workshop." Lucy shared what worked and what didn't work, along with her script, in the post linked above, so you may benefit from her experience.

2 new workshops ahead

In the end, whether a workshop can help you build a better talk depends on many factors: Your intention, your preparation, and your participation...and doing more work after the workshop, in most cases.

I'm bringing my workshop on Creating a TED-Quality Talk to Washington, DC, in January 2016. The workshop will repeat, with a session on January 14, and an identical session on January 28. I'm limiting participation to just 5 people per session so there will be plenty of opportunity for hands-on work and discussion, as well as your specific questions. You'll get the benefit of my experience coaching more than 100 people for talks given on the TEDMED stage, on TEDx stages around the world, and on many more people who've given talks in the style of TED after our coaching. All registration closes December 31, or when all seats are filled--and they are filling--but you'll get a 25 percent discount if you register by October 30.

I love both Cate's and Lucy's examples, because the workshop participants got some independent (and unwitting) feedback that mirrored what we'd talked about and learned in the workshop--that must have felt great!  Come join us in January and find a way to shape your own good future feedback on a new style of speaking.