My key learnings from giving a @TED talk

It’s been a few weeks since my first time giving a TEDx talk. It was an incredible experience and definitely a highlight in my life that I would forever cherish and boast about. But despite the high feelings I have, I’m still feeling pretty exhausted from it. Over and over again, I referred to this experience to training for a marathon.

At first, I felt like it was a great idea to sign myself up. It felt good to receive support from family and friends, but as more hours put in to it, the more I started questioning myself. Was this the right decision? Was I ready? Why did I sign myself to failure? It was a constant battle with myself and although I knew it was going to be less than 10 minutes, the pressure was burning and crawling deep into my skin. On the day of, I told myself if I could survive the first 2 minutes, I’d rock the rest. After I crossed the imaginary finish line and heard the overwhelming sound of clapping from the audience, tears went down my face. I’ve given it my all and I wished I did better, but I couldn’t do anything to change the past. Weeks have passed and I’ve gathered the courage to watch myself and I did better than I thought. Sure I stumbled here and there, but I was surprised I was able to carry on and avoid any awkward silence and ‘uhm’ and ‘you know’.

So what were the key things that helped me prepare for my TEDx talk?

1) Watch others

I’m not an expert in personal branding nor in social media nor in public speaking. I looked to others to inspire me. For a month, I vowed to watch one TED talk every night to get a feel and some ideas of how to structure my speech. At first I was only watching things that were relevant to my talk, but as I was running out of things to watch, I started watching other topics and they were incredibly helpful. People from different backgrounds share their stories differently, so it’s good to learn from all aspects and it didn’t hurt to pick up a few new knowledge too!

2) Practice, practice, practice

I read once in a book that Steve Jobs spent countless hours practicing his speech. I couldn’t believe it. He seemed to be a natural speaker and he looked so effortless on stage. Unlike him, I’m scared of public speaking. Actually, I’m scared of all kinds of speaking. Language has not been my best forté, both for English and Bahasa Indonesia (my mother tongue). I didn’t want to be a coward though, so I put myself to this challenge. If Steve Jobs spent countless hours, then I would have to spent at least triple that amount. Luckily for me, I have a pretty set work schedule so I could set out a practice time everyday as well. For two months, I spent at least an hour each day tweaking my speech, practicing a certain part, repeating some words over and over again.

It might seem a little crazy, but I practiced under different situations. I practiced my speech while I was stuck in traffic jam, in the shower, out in the cold, walking home in the rain, planking, and in different moods – hungry, too full, sick, sad, joyful. One thing that always throw people off during presentation is when they thought they haven’t practiced enough. I didn’t want to feel like that. So I practiced in these different situations, so if that thought ever come across my mind, I can shut it down and say “If I can practice in such weird situations, I could do it right here in full comfort.”


3) Have your own support group

I used to prep my own talk and wouldn’t ask anyone for feedback. I tried a different approach this time. I created a support group. I constantly asked them for feedback and practiced the delivery multiple times. At first I felt a little uneasy and embarrassed, but once I’ve overcome my own negative thoughts, I felt their support was really the pinnacle to my success. My friends wanted me to do well, so all the feedback given were crucial and I’m glad they were honest with me if they like/dislike a part. They really helped me shape my talk and guided me along and gave me encouragement whenever I need to.

4) Set your due dates

I’m glad the TEDxKids@BC team was pretty adamant about the due dates. We were instructed to send our slides and speech a month ahead of time. I was so nervous handing in the slides and speech because I was nowhere near ready, but I trusted the process and it worked. I ended up editing both components for the next two weeks and focus on the delivery for the last two weeks. If they didn’t ask for the slides ahead of time, I would still be scrambling and working on it til the last minute. It’s a good idea to have a schedule ahead of time and make sure you dedicate a good chunk of time to just practice on the delivery. I realized that when you’re up on stage, delivery is more important than the content itself. Sure content is king, but if the audience can’t hear the presenter, then it’s a loss cause.

5) Be humble

It’s easy to get your head up in the air when people likes your Facebook update, comments on your photos, high fives you, but I always tell myself it’s important to be humble. I didn’t become more of an expert after giving the talk, I just made everyone else the same level as I was. While it was great experience, my talk is nothing if no action is taken after. It’s also important to give back to the people that have helped us to get this far.

* Bonus tips:

  • No one knows your speech. So if you screw up, just keep going and make things up. I heard this before, but it was great to hear it from Richard Loat that day.
  • I always tell myself too that people are here for me and that I deserve to be standing on that stage. Positive thoughts really help you prepare yourself mentally.
  • Listen to some pumping music to relax yourself. My music of choice? Lose yourself by Eminem. Classic.

There you have it. A few tips for anyone that’s preparing a TED talk or any talk at all!

Curious to see how I actually did on stage? Here’s the video for it.

Let me know via Twitter: @stephawie if these tips help at all and/or I did an okay job delivering my first TEDx talk!


One thought on “My key learnings from giving a @TED talk

  1. Pingback: TEDxKids@BC Presents: Campfire Stories | An Interview with TEDxKids@BC Speaker Stephanie Wiriahardja from the Power In Me Conference

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