A month ago today was TEDx Glasgow 2018, the second year I’ve volunteered as a speaker coach. It has been a great experience to work with Nick Earle, SVP Global Operations, Virgin Hyperloop One and Gillian Docherty, CEO, The Datalab and winner of UK Digital Leader of the Year Award 2018. Here I share some of my insights and reflections on the TEDx speaker coaching experience.
A key challenge is striking a balance between ‘what I want to say’ and ‘what the audience needs to hear’ to achieve maximum impact on the day and engagement with the talk once it’s live on YouTube. Part of the coaching role is helping the speaker connect their story to the audience and explore ways of doing that.
I had feedback that one of my most powerful questions was ‘how do you want the audience to feel?’ Whilst that might seem obvious, the corporate environment often sees speaking as adherence to core message and standard delivery. Whereas with TEDx the maverick is encouraged!
So feelings….what emotions do we want the audience to experience? Early connection with the audience is critical; in 12 minutes every second counts.
‘Who is it that’s walking on stage?’ is another powerful question in exploring how that connection can be made. A significant insight for me this time was that TEDx is fundamentally a personal process. So tapping into whatever has driven the speaker to apply to TEDx will reveal hooks that are gifts for a coach in finding ways to connect the speaker motivations with audience engagement.
One of the things I love about coaching is the absolute privilege it is to respectfully share in the world of another person for a time and work human to human to enable a goal to be achieved.
There are of course practical ways to connect with the audience; images being one. Both Gillian and Nick had excellent professional help with visuals, so as coach I advised on fine tuning of image content and sequence to enable maximum connection for the audience e.g. showing an autonomous vehicle with people inside.
Often there are complex concepts to be conveyed in a matter of seconds:
3D printing featured twice in Gillian’s talk – a breakfast and a heart transplant – amazing how one technology can do such different things! Although fascinated by 3D printing, I didn’t understand how it actually worked. Gillian explained it printed in layers and she had a very natural way of complementing the visuals with a hand gesture showing layering up. Body language thus enhancing the words.
With Hyperloop, there were technical concepts to be conveyed and I reflected that distinguishing between technical operation and user experience could help. It was great to hear after the talk that one of the positives of Nick’s talk was that he spoke to the audience as citizens.
A real bonus of being part of TEDx Glasgow is the fantastic team of people to work with; Gurjit, Iain, Pauline and Wendy do an amazing job of pulling it all together. The other speaker coaches are a brilliant group to work with and this year we were treated to an insightful learning session on Storytelling with Bob Keiller, Chair of Scottish Enterprise.
Really looking forward to TEDx Glasgow 2019!! Meantime take a look at these fantastic talks:
Nick Earle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZORdiH6pDyg
Gillian Docherty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjXa7ROwgq8