In his 2014 book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, Carmine Gallo declared, “You may never be invited to speak at TED, but if you want to succeed in business you’d better be able to deliver a TED-worthy presentation. TED represents a bold, fresh, contemporary, and persuasive style that will help you win over any audience.” He was right.
With each passing year, more and more professionals who work with coaches at Spoken with Authority want to emulate a TED-style in their briefings, research reports, recommendations, pitches, training modules, conference presentations, board meetings, and updates at organization-wide events. This dynamic style of speaking is characterized by compelling, concise messages delivered authentically, enthusiastically, and confidently with no lectern, notes, script, or teleprompter. It can be extremely time consuming to achieve; in fact, most TED and TEDx speakers script out their speech and painstakingly memorize it word for word.
We help our speakers achieve a TED-like presentation in a reasonable amount of time by guiding them through audience and situation analysis to inform a clear and logically structured presentation outline, using our Sandwich Structure Method. This method allows speakers to visualize the whole presentation on one piece of paper as they build it, and later helps move from idea to idea with without getting tripped up on exact wording.
After refining the outline to ensure it includes interesting stories and excludes overly technical details, we help speakers brainstorm visuals that they can incorporate via props, slides, handouts, etc., as appropriate to the speaking situation. Developing visuals in conjunction with the presentation allows speakers to rely the images as visual cues to remind them of what to say next.
Then, it’s time to start rehearsing with visuals and movement to get off notes completely.
Here’s what has worked for our clients:
- Speaking from a one-page outline rather than a script
- Using visual aids and movement to aid memory
- Rehearsing until the material is internalized and not memorized
And this is specifically how you can implement these three approaches in the presentation creation and rehearsal process:
For your first two rehearsals, rely on your one-page Sandwich Structure outline heavily and don’t worry at all about your delivery style; focus on the content of the presentation — getting familiar with it and identifying where you need to edit for clarity, relevance, and length.
During your initial rehearsals, expect a rocky delivery that comes in fits and starts. You likely will find it difficult to explain points clearly and concisely; transitions will be rough. Don’t start from the beginning every time you make a mistake. Get in the habit of continuing your presentation. After all, it is good practice for hiccups that might occur before an actual audience.
For your next two rehearsals, continue working off the outline you edited after your initial rehearsals and start practicing with any props, slides or other visuals you plan to use. These aids should be visual and not text heavy – refer to your one-page outline whenever you need a cue for what to say next. Don’t be surprised when you go blank and can’t remember what you wanted to say, forget to use a prop or advance a slide, or struggle with the wording of ideas or the transitions between points. This is normal at this stage of rehearsal.
For the fifth and sixth rehearsals, speak from the outline that you should know well at this point and with your visuals. Deliver your speech standing up, and whenever possible, with a setup that closely resembles the speaking situation you will encounter on presentation day. Consider using movement in the room or on the stage to emphasize the progression of your material and to tell stories dramatically. Purposeful movement, including holding props and pointing to the screen to describe an image, will aid your memory (this is what stage actors call “blocking”).
Expect to feel more comfortable with your presentation. It will come off your tongue much more easily at this point. You will start to form patterns in the way you say certain parts of the presentation, though each time you say it will be a little different because it is not scripted or memorized. This is what it looks like to internalize the flow and key ideas of a presentation. At this point in your rehearsals, you will notice that your visual aids or movements will help you recall your next idea, so you need fewer and briefer glances at your Sandwich Structure outline. (Note: visual learners may experience this more with slides and props; kinesthetic learners may experience recall more easily from purposeful movement. Depending on your learning style, you may want to focus more on visuals aids or body movement as you prepare to speak with no notes.)
For many public-speaking occasions, six rehearsals is a great goal – it will get you to a confident and dynamic delivery with glances at your notes during transitions. But to get rid of notes completely, it’s now time to get separation from your notes.
After your sixth rehearsal, put your outline nearby but out of sight (in a pocket or face down on a nearby table will do). Practice your presentation and challenge yourself to rely on visuals to cue your next idea and continue without looking at your notes, even if that means dropping some material or having a rough transition. Increase the physical distance from your notes as you continue rehearsing.
At the very least, you will need to practice with few or no glances at your notes several times a day for several days before your presentation. Ideally, the process of getting completely off your notes will take place as you rehearse several times a week for several weeks before your speech. The longer period of time you can practice with no notes, the more entrenched the presentation will become in your long-term memory and more confident you will be with no notes. This may take a dozen to several dozen rehearsals total.
Remember, the goal is to internalize your presentation and not to memorize it word for word. So, don’t apologize or go back and repeat a section if the wording is awkward or if you skipped a point. Smile and keep going. You will find that as you gain command of your speech content, there will be fewer hiccups in your delivery and when you do stumble, you will be able to recover quickly and gracefully.
Ultimately, you will know your material so well that you can be fully present in the moment, excited to share ideas with your listeners and not anxious about giving a speech without notes, in sync with your audience members and able to adjust or ad lib in the moment in response to them, and the most polished version of your authentic self. That’s the essence of the best TED speeches and the “bold, fresh, contemporary, and persuasive style” that Carmine Gallo presciently predicted would become a hallmark of leaders in business and other sectors.