I am an introvert and my heart starts beating like crazy at the thought of being on stage. But with Design the Life You Love, I had a message and a book to share and I learned to be an extroverted public speaker. I can even say there are moments when I am speaking in front of people that I feel a special connection with the audience and truly love being on stage.
Here is what I learned as I transformed from an introvert to an extroverted public speaker:
Lesson 1: Get a coach
As obvious as this sounds, it wasn't obvious to me until a friend of mine introduced me to Terence Mickey, a Moth storyteller, story coach and host of one of my favorite podcasts Memory Motel. When we met, I told Terence flat out that I didn't have a story, that I just wrote my book. It felt vulnerable to me to tell a personal story, so it took Terence the whole summer to coax mine out of me.
There is always a personal story. Get a coach to help you identify it and tell it.
Lesson 2: Rehearse
There is a reason actors rehearse and rehearse and rehearse again. Even the most talented people need practice being on stage. I totally ignored this until going on a book tour and feeling the needed to do a better job. I have since learned to rehearse my talks at home, on planes and cafes--anytime and place I can find.
Once you have your story, rehearse your story, timing, movements, your intonation, again and again. As they say, practice makes perfect (sort of, or at least it makes you better and better each time).
Lesson 3: Stick to the allotted time
Your organizer plans the whole event around a tight schedule and flow. They need that schedule to work like clockwork. They will tell you that you have 10, 20 or 30 minutes (my TEDx is the beginner's talk which is 13 minutes) because it's a big organization to pull off. Respect that time.
Going overtime is really bad manners. No matter how amazing you and your story are. Don't take your audience and your organizer hostage. Stick to your allotted time.
Lesson 4: Have a great first and last sentence
Lolita's 1st line is legendary, "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Mickey taught me you need a strong beginning and a strong end. I'm no Nabokov, but I try to have a punchy start and end. Here is my first sentence for TEDx, "Don't design your life if you already have a perfect life."
Write a strong 1st sentence and last sentence. Then fill in the in-betweens.
Lesson 5: Make it personal and honest
Make your story personal and honest, as difficult as it may to admit to your vulnerabilities and failures. That is what makes our stories human and approachable. Author Neil Gaiman talked about this beautifully in last Sunday's Brain Pickings:
"Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.
Having a place the story starts and a place it's going: that's important.
Telling your story, as honestly as you can, and leaving out the things you don't need, that's vital."
Lesson 6: Do dry runs
Do an off-Broadway show before you hit the big stage. Off-Broadway is the smaller venue with friendly audiences. I tell my dry run audiences (i.e., students at Keens School of Design), "I am doing this talk for the 1st time and I have a big talk coming up, forgive me as it is work in progress." I have learned that they love that they're a part of your process.
Plan some dry-runs in front of live audiences. It will help you gauge and fine tune your relation with your audience.
Lesson 7: It is not about you
I was invited to speak at Design Indaba (a premier design conference that inspired my post, 5 Tricks to Throwing a Conference That Inspires People) this March. I told my friend Scott Osman that just thinking about it made me nervous, and Scott said something that I will never forget, "Ayse it is not about you, it is about them, the people who come to listen to you."
David Brooks wrote about this in his bestselling book, The Social Animal, using the example of a tennis game. If you think about winning instead of playing the game, you'll lose. Just play your game.
Have fun with your next talk. And wish me luck!
Design the life you love!