Sunday, August 07, 2016

7 Tips for Your First TED Talk

In March, I gave my first (and so far only) TED talk at TEDx WayPublicLibrary

I think the talk went pretty well, but I finally got a chance to see the video of my talk, and I have a few tips, in hindsight, that I'd like to share so that your first TED talk is even better.

  1. Wear color. The TEDx background is black. If you wear a black dress like I did, you might look like a floating head and hands. 
  2. Wear something with large pockets. My dress had none, which meant I had to hold the microphone pack in my hand. 
  3. Convince the organizers to light and shoot video from above, rather than below. I don't think the angle in my video was the most flattering -- who looks best shot from under their chin? And the lighting made some weird shadows.
  4. S-l-o-w D-o-w-n. Both my movements and speech were a little too hurried, especially at first. I didn't realize how fast I was talking.
  5. Make the audience laugh early in the talk. I told a joke early on, and it helped me to feel at ease and more connected with the people listening.
  6. Outline your talk ahead of time, but don't script it word-for-word. I think this is one place where I succeeded. I had planned out the points that I wanted to hit and really studied those. I used the images on my slides as a way to remind me of those points. This allowed me to relax and tell my story without the fear that I would ramble on and miss something important.
  7. Be vulnerable. I told a story that was, and is, very painful to me. I had a lot of people tell me that they identified with it and had their own similar experiences. If I had kept things abstract instead of making them personal, I don't think I would have had the same response.

The video of my talk is embedded below. See the other speakers' videos in the .


  1. 2:27 PM

    I think you did a great job. Really good, interesting, fun.

    I watched the whole way thru and then went back and relistened to the first minute or so. I think your pace was fine. And you have a great speaking voice and stage presence. I am not sure I have ever heard/seen you speak before now.

    Agree, angle could have been better; however, I have seen other TED's where they shot from too far away and the angle was worse. Yours was not bad (I actually would not have noticed if you had not mentioned it).

    The thing about wearing simple and black is - it was not distracting. My thoughts were solely on what you were saying. (I am also someone who keeps her eyes closed at church so I am not distracted by the people around me. So that might just be me.)

    You did a good job, as you said, of speaking very naturally. And I loved your slides. Very unique ideas/pictures.

    Really fun and thoughtful.

  2. 10:41 AM

    Thank you, Vickie! I enjoyed giving the talk. It reminded me what I liked about teaching, that sense of connection.

  3. 12:15 PM

    Great job, Jen! Such a natural and engaging speaker and I really enjoyed the subject matter, very thought-provoking. I relate to your thoughts about work and its future so much.

    Your voice is so nice to listen to, btw! :)


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