As I’ve been readying for my upcoming TEDx talk for the past month, I’m reminded of the French quote actually by Blaise Pascal and often attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot & Cicero to name a few:

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. 

When I do my workshops whether on team building or communications or leadership or branding they are typically full-day offsites. If it’s a keynote or a breakout session at a conference they are 1-2 hours.

But a TEDx talk is confined to just EIGHTEEN MINUTES!

When I first wrote my upcoming TEDx talk on Aligning Your Purpose, Passion and Profit it incorporated the emotional story of my mother’s passing which is also in my book. It was a pivotal moment in my life and I also recognized it is a powerful learning lesson for others that I try to share with as many as possible. When I recorded the first draft I was at 33 minutes. 15 minutes too long.

So Mom’s story came out and I had to re-think the whole core of the talk.

The process of whittling a 33 minute talk down to under 18 minutes, AND make it meaningful and powerful for the audience, is daunting! (The same is actually true when developing a keynote vs. a workshop – often times people think the value is based on how much time they book you for; the reality is the value is in how quickly you can make meaningful impact that will endure.)

Getting Ready Can Be MessySo what does it look like behind the scenes of readying for a TEDx talk? First I write it all out – I do a brain dump of what I want to share (3 key areas and what stories/content to pull in). Then I start to summarize it into an outline with key thoughts and summarized talking points. Then my love of large Post-Its emerges. And I paper my office walls with talking points, turn on the camera and record my talk. When I find it hits 33 minutes I start cutting and slicing. Moving content around to make a new flow. (Thus you’ll see layers of post-its atop one another).

This goes on for many, many rounds. Until ultimately I have the content down.

Then I set a timer for 17 minutes and record again (and again, and again). I anticipate between 15 and 20 more rounds of this before November 3. First it’s to be so familiar with the content and the flow that I cannot forget on stage where I am. And that enables me to focus beyond the content and onto my audience’s experience. I now look at the ‘production / performance’ for the last dozen rounds. Where to move, when to pause, when to inspire laughter or lower my voice to touch their heart, and make sure that I am not just ‘presenting’ but ‘communicating to connect’ and create real impact.

It’s getting less messy now that I’m in the refinement phase. But it’s the same process for me getting ready, even as someone who speaks professionally, as it is for anyone making a presentation. To that end,

I encourage you to set your goals, dig in, go ahead and get messy – whatever that may look like for you – and make it happen!


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