Thursday, December 11, 2014

Talk About the Talk: Caroline Goyder on confident speaking at @TEDxBrixton

(Editor's note: I'm launching a new series, Talk About the Talk, in which I'll ask speakers I've worked with to share their perspectives about giving big or important talks. First up is Caroline Goyder, who spoke this autumn at TEDxBrixton on "the surprising secret to speaking with confidence." It's a fit topic for speaker coach Goyder, who worked for 10 years at Central School of Speech and Drama in London and has an MA in voice studies from there. She's also the author of Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority

Some observers dismiss TEDx conferences. But in my experience, most organizers and speakers take TEDx seriously, investing many hours in preparation, talk reviews, and coaching. It's always an honor when a TEDx speaker seeks out my coaching to make sure she hits the mark. After all, some of the most-watched TED talks are, in fact, TEDx talks.

It's an even bigger honor for me to coach a coach, especially for a creative talk about our business. You'll find much to learn here, from her observations about preparation to the talk itself, which will teach you about using your voice. Goyder "walks the talk" with a smooth, well-paced, and confident delivery you'd be wise to emulate. Here's what she had to say about the experience.)

“So, you mean you’re doing a TEDx talk about talking ?” said my client with a wry grin, “No pressure then..?”.

Crafting a TED worthy talk seemed a daunting mountain to climb, as I embarked into its foothills.  How do you distil the content into 18 minutes? How do you make it work for a live audience and for Youtube? How do you take an idea and cook it right down to the essence, so that after all of that work it sounds conversational?

Three months work later, and a TEDx talk completed, I find that climbing the TED mountain has given me a new perspective.

In a world where we crave ever shorter, faster more distilled ideas a TED style definitely talks in pitches, presentations and conference speeches.

These are the lessons I learned for going from page to stage when it comes to the big talk, presentation or pitch:

Factor in Dream Time: If you’re asked to speak on any platform I’d advise creating a loose structure as soon as the invitation goes into the diary – a frame into which you can hang the ideas. Once you have that frame your unconscious will get to work and the idea will grow, even while you’re doing other things. Diarising space for this dream time is key to honing a talk that feels like you.

Find an Editor: It’s essential with a TED talk, key presentation or conference speech, or big pitch to have an editor to bounce ideas off. In my case this was the very eloquent and wise Denise Graveline. Working with her on Skype week each week allowed me to really get to the heart of the message and then shape it. I felt like I had a wise mentor and confidante on my lonely TEDx path. Expertise can make us myopic – an outside eye can help you step back from your knowledge to create content with impact. It can feel less than comfortable to share your stories, nuggets and key ideas in the raw and you need to find someone who will build confidence and give tough love when required.

Find the Fun: Once the core ideas are there, go further - bring them to visual life. Find the spark, the fun, the aspect that elevates it for you to an aesthetic plane you can enjoy, enthuse about, be elevated by. George McCallum in my case provided an amazing chest of drawers that looked like a human chest, not to mention the props within it. Finding someone who gets your vision is key. It will inspire me, made it visual and made it fun.

Talk Your Talk: Now, with the structure clear and the visuals on track, you have to get into training. Your talk will only be any good if you have said it enough that it can drop out of working memory and into the unconscious, so the lines will arrive for you one by one as you speak them. By speaking your talk aloud, and recording it, you start to learn what works and what doesn't. As the veteran US speech coach Peggy Noonan puts it, where you falter. alter. Make it smooth and fluent. You can then riff conversationally on the day, with the confidence that knowing your structure deeply gives you. This made all the difference on the day, right at the start of my talk when the mic played up, and air con gave me an unexpected wind tunnel effect  – because even as panic hit, I could keep going.

Let it Go: In the words of the legendary Hollywood film director Mike Nichols, then it’s about letting go. "Preparation is everything…now when I walk onto a movie set I don’t have a care in the world: I’ve made sure of everything. For me it’s just pleasure.”

If you’ve done the work climbing the mountain, when you get to the top relax, enjoy the view. Make the day of the talk easy, clear. Do what you need to do to feel at your most relaxed so you can walk out on stage and make relaxed easy conversation with the audience.

And for those who are curious – here’s the talk….

(George McCallum photo of Goyder speaking at TEDxBrixton with the chest of drawers he made.)

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