In January 2020, I completed a longtime ambition of delivering a TEDx Talk (click here to watch my 13-minute talk, “Should Self Interest Motivate Service?”). I loved sharing a simple yet powerful idea to motivate people to serve others and help service clubs and non-profits become more effective at recruiting members and volunteers.
Friends and clients have asked for tips on how to deliver a persuasive presentation based on what I learned. Here’s what my TEDx talk taught me:
1. Embrace nervousness as a sign of excitement so you can turn it into positive energy and enthusiasm.
I’ve been a professional speaker for 16 years, and I always get butterflies in the 12 to 24 hours leading up to a presentation. Before delivering my TEDx Talk before 350 people, I experienced more butterflies than usual because I had been preparing my presentation for months—and thinking about it for years. To calm my nerves, I told myself that butterflies are a sign of enthusiasm and I should channel the extra adrenaline into sharing my idea with passion. This self-talk did the trick and I was excited to walk out onto the famous red dot.
2. Educate, entertain and inspire people with stories and meaningful facts to convince them to support your idea.
President Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Stories, preferably from your own experience, and meaningful facts need to be carefully woven together so people relate to what you’re saying on an emotional level. Winning people over to your idea on logical grounds alone is nearly impossible.
3. Make one-on-one eye contact with audience members rather than looking at your slides or props.
When you speak before a large group, it’s important for audience members to feel like you’re talking directly to them. To achieve this illusion (as there is no way to look at everybody in large auditorium), lock eyes on a specific person when making a point. Look at another person in a different part of the audience when making a new point. You’ll see me doing this throughout my TEDx Talk. Notice how I look up at people in the balcony. One of my favorite comments that I heard at the TEDx after-party was, “I felt like you were talking directly to me.” Mission accomplished!
5. Relax, speak slowly, breathe—and pause to emphasize points.
My TEDx coach encouraged me to start my talk by walking confidently out onto the red dot—and not say any for two or three seconds. In that moment, she advised that I take a deep breath and smile at the audience while looking around the auditorium. These actions made me feel relaxed and confident making it easier for me to slow down my delivery and pause as I shared stories and facts. Many speakers, including myself, have to practice pausing so audience members have the time they need to absorb what they’re hearing.
5. End with an uplifting story, callback or quote and a clear call to action.
The hardest part of preparing my TEDx Talk was crafting an impactful closing. Many TEDx presenters begin with a thought-provoking opening and have great content. However, when their endings aren’t memorable, the power of their message is diminished. After multiple drafts, I finally settled on a closing story that related to my opening and illustrated my central idea. I know that the ending worked well because people have told me that it’s the part of the speech that they liked best and that it has inspired them to think about ways to serve others. (Tip: If you can’t think of a great closing story, go to a quote finding website and find some wise words that will uplift people and inspire them to take action.)
Here’s wishing you much success in preparing a persuasive presentation that you deliver with confidence!