7 Things the Best Speakers Do: My Takeaways from TEDWomen with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 352

7 Things the Best Speakers Do TEDWOMEN

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I recently had the honor of attending the TEDWomen conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Over 3 days, I heard 35 speakers deliver their TED talks, on topics ranging from democracy to abortion rights, menopause to artificial intelligence.

Of course, as I was sitting in the audience, I was taking lots of notes on each speaker, how they structured their talk, the elements they included, and how they delivered it.

I’ve taken those notes and identified 7 key things the best speakers do.

Whether you’re delivering a TEDx talk, a keynote, a conference session, or a business presentation, you can use these 7 things to make your talks impactful and memorable.

Join us on November 16th for the Storytelling for Speakers workshop we’re hosting live on Zoom! Register at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/storytelling-workshop/

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com


Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/352

Sign up for our Storytelling workshop on November 16: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/storytelling-workshop/ 

Enroll in our Thought Leader Academy: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/academy/ 

Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolcox

TEDWomen: https://blog.ted.com/life-love-and-finding-a-path-talks-from-day-2-of-tedwomen-2023/

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352-SYB-Solo-TEDWomen.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

352-SYB-Solo-TEDWomen.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

I recently attended the TEDWomen Conference. Here are my top seven takeaways that you can use, on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast.

More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a political analyst, entrepreneur, and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies, and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience.

Hi there! Welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I'm your host, Carol Cox. I recently had the honor of attending the TEDx women conference that was in Atlanta, Georgia in mid-October. And of course, since I and speaking your brand are all about women's voices and public speaking, it was a must attend event for me and I'm so glad that I went. It was also nice to be back in Atlanta, where I went to graduate school at Emory University over 20 years ago. I can't believe it's been that long. Over the three days of the conference, I heard about 35 speakers deliver their TEDx talks on topics ranging from democracy to abortion rights, menopause to artificial intelligence. And what I really enjoyed about all of these speakers is that they were very diverse, not only diverse in race and ethnicity and topic, but also from all over the country and all over the world.

You may be wondering, what's the difference between this TEDx women conference and the TEDx events that you may have heard about, or that you've attended yourself in your local area, or that you want to apply to? The TEDx Women Conference is held once a year and it is part of the parent TEDx organization. And TEDx women was started 13 years ago, and so they've been doing it every year since then. This is the first time, I believe, though, that it was in Atlanta. And for the TEDx women conference, they're bringing speakers from around the country and around the world that can share with the audience something in particular based on who that speaker is or the organization that they founded or that they run. So let me give you some examples. One of the speakers was a woman who's a human rights lawyer from Ukraine. So she came to talk about the war in Ukraine and how much it's a fight not just for the Ukrainians, but really for all of us who value democracy. So she was uniquely poised to deliver that message because she is Ukrainian and she's a human rights lawyer. We also had Dasha Navalnaya, who is the daughter of Alexei Navalny. He is a Russian political prisoner who you may be familiar with his story. He's been a foe of Vladimir Putin for many, many years. He's pro-democracy, anti-authoritarian. So he led a big protest movement that happened in Russia.

I think this was back in 2014, about three years ago. He was rearrested. And his daughter is currently a student at Stanford University. And so she came to Tedwomen to talk about not only what her father stands for, but also how much she has learned from him about standing up for democracy and against corruption. We also had Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker. She talked about her new movie that's coming out in January, based on the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. The movie version is going to be called origin. That sounds incredibly fascinating. I read the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. And so the movie version is not a documentary, it's a feature film. It's a dramatization. So that's going to be amazing. We also had a war reporter named Jane Ferguson who's covered conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. We had a woman who, a Native American who's gone back to her ancestral homeland territory in the state of Georgia, so not far from Atlanta, Georgia, where the conference was held. We had a journalist who looks at climate impact and businesses. We had, let's see a woman who is a fashion innovator. Another woman from the Ivory Coast in Africa who's a sculpturist using her hair. That was amazing. We had Glenn Close, the actor, talking about mental health advocacy. We had a woman from Malaysia who's a conservationist talk about the conservation work she's doing there.

So you can see like a wide variety of topics and a wide variety of of speakers that they brought based on, again, kind of who they are or the organizations that they run. And of course, as I was sitting in the audience, I was taking lots of notes on each speaker, how they structure their talk, the elements they included in how they delivered it. I've taken those notes, and I've identified seven key things that the best speakers do. Whether you're delivering a TEDx talk, a keynote, a conference, breakout session, or a business presentation, you can use the seven things to make your talks impactful and memorable. There was one thing that a speaker did that I didn't. Expect, and you're going to hear about that towards the end. Now, of course, storytelling is a big part of what I'm going to be talking about. And we have our storytelling for speakers online live workshop coming up on November 16th. We spend three hours together live on zoom as you identify and work on your key stories for your story bank that you can use them in your presentations and your content marketing. We've held the storytelling workshop twice so far about a year ago, and then earlier this year. So we're doing it again November 16th. Attendees who participated in the past said that they enjoyed it so much because not only did they learn how to tell great stories, but they actually worked on their stories during the workshop and got our feedback.

You can register as speaking your brand.com/storytelling workshop. Again, that's speaking your brand.com/storytelling-workshop. Now let's get on with the show. Let's get into my top seven takeaways of things that you can use to for your presentations. Number one is sharing a personal story. As I teased in the intro, a personal story shows why that particular idea matters to the speaker. It humanizes the idea. It allows the audience to connect with that speaker and with the message that they're sharing. I kind of think of it a personal story as the connective tissue of the overall message that's being shared. Let me give you some examples from some of the TEDx women speakers. One of the speakers is Jordana Iola, and she runs a pro-democracy organization. She shared the story of growing up in Ethiopia, where she's from during the civil war, and how she first recognized when she was in first grade, kind of the impact of the Civil War, and that that wasn't normal for other kids to to go through what she and her classmates were going through. And she said it caused a change in her worldview. So she led with that story in her talk, another other speaker, Diana Greene Foster, she's one of the authors of the Turnaway study. The Turnaway study looked at women who were granted an abortion when they went to seek one, as well as women who were denied an abortion when they went to go seek one because of the state that they happened to live in and the cutoff period.

And Diana Greene Foster opened her talk very powerfully by showing pictures of two women who each got pregnant back in the 1930 when they were teenagers. So she shares the example of one of the women who as a teenager, was able to get an abortion, and the other woman began because of the state that she lived in at the time, was not able to get an abortion. And then she revealed that both of these women were her grandmothers, one on her mother's side and one on her father's side. So then the speaker went into more detail about the Turnaway study, the data that they collected and what they found. And then she closed her talk with the outcomes of each of her grandmothers and what happened to them based on whether or not the woman was able to get the abortion. So really powerful because Diana Greene Foster, as the author of the Turnaway study, she could have just shared the data that was collected, the results that they found. But she really humanized the story and why this mattered to her, why she wanted to do this study in the first place by sharing the story of her grandmothers, there was Congresswoman Lucy McBath. She represents an area of Atlanta, and she actually delivered her talk virtually live, kind of like a zoom platform, because she had to be in Congress at the time.

But her, even though she was on a screen instead of live there on the stage, her talk was so incredibly powerful. She she truly just embodies the story and the message that she's sharing. Very sadly, her teenage son was shot and killed a few years ago in a random act of violence. And so she shared that story, and you could see how emotional clearly and obviously it still made her. And she said that my story would become her tool to end gun violence. And that's why she decided to run for Congress. And that is she was she's working to do. Another speaker, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, is the current president of the Morehouse School of Medicine. And she talked about in her opening of her talk about how a little pink house prepared her for her very first termination, that getting fired from a job. So this little pink house was her grandmother's house in Georgia, and she showed a picture of it. And then she talked about growing up. So, again, that these personal stories really do connect us as the audience to the speaker and why their idea matters to them and then, by extension, why the idea should matter to us. So number one is definitely a personal story. The second top takeaway is that most of these talks encourage us to rethink or redefine or reimagine what we already thought about.

A certain thing. So I liken this to a change in a mental model or a paradigm shift. That's one of the key stories that you work on in our storytelling workshop is a paradigm shift or a or a shift in your mental model. One of the speakers, Jane Ferguson, is a war reporter, and she explained how our perception of war has changed because there are more women war reporters and because there are more women war reporters. It has elevated civilian voices and showed how families and communities are impacted by conflict and war, not just kind of the state of what's going on in the battlefield. So that was really powerful. And she also talked about how reading about and seeing other women war reporters when she was young growing up inspired her that she too, could do this. Another speaker, Ayesha Nyandoro, talked about redefining wealth. What does it mean to be wealthy? It's not necessarily the amount of money you have in your investments or your bank account that there's so much more to wealth than that. So that was another idea of kind of redefining or reimagining. Esha Chhabra is a journalist, and she talked about redefining business, specifically this idea of regenerative businesses and regenerative businesses. Instead of asking, how much money are we going to make as a business? They ask, what problem are we trying to solve? And then how can we use business in a positive way to help solve that problem? So very much about redefining what the purpose of business is.

I mentioned Jordana's Eola earlier about the democracy organization that she founded, and she explained that we have to tell a better story about democracy. It's not necessarily we need to rethink or redefine democracy, but we have to tell a better story about it. And another speaker, Arina Karamanos Adrian. She is the former first lady of Chile in South America. And she is, as she explained in her talk, very much a feminist. And when her husband got elected, the president of Chile, she automatically was supposed to be first lady. And she explained in her talk that she thought, well, but I'm not elected, I wasn't elected, my husband was elected. How? Why should I have an unelected position, you know, a position of some power and influence. So she talked about how she set about dismantling the institution of the first lady in Chile when that was going on. And so she talked, talked about taking marriage out of the state. So really about rethinking and redefining what it means to be the spouse of someone who was elected. So that was a really, really fascinating talk. So that was top takeaway. Number two, get us to rethink or redefine or reimagine something. Top takeaway number three is say what the audience is thinking. Whenever we work with our clients on their signature talk and they'll say something to me like, well, but what if the audience wonders about this? Or what if the audience is thinking this objection and I say, well, then say it out loud.

Go ahead and say what you think the audience is thinking, because if they're thinking it and you acknowledge it, then they know that you understand them. There was a speaker, a psychologist named Gary Barker, and he talked about how we need a new model of masculinity. And he said towards the beginning of his talk, he said, okay, this is a hard conversation, but let's get into this. So he he just acknowledged it right away. And he also said, I'm not going to mansplain to a room full of women at the Ted women conference. So he very much acknowledged that, you know, he he was there talking about masculinity as a, as a male speaker, and he's not going to mansplain to the audience. But he said these things out loud. And not only did it did we then understand as the audience that he got it like he got the position that he's in, but then also gave us some humor. Another speaker named Freada Kapor Klein. She's a venture capitalist and a venture capitalist for good. I would like to say with her husband, and she talks about how when she back in the 1980s, when she got involved in the tech industry, she went to work for a company called Lotus.

You may remember them from a software called Lotus Notes. And then she mentions that she ended up marrying her boss, the founder of Lotus. And then and then she said, okay, but I didn't marry him at the time I was working for him. It wasn't until much later when I already had left the company. So again, she addressed what the audience was probably thinking because I was thinking at the time, like you married him and you were working for him at the time, but no, no, it was it was much later. So that's what I mean by saying what the audience is thinking. So as you go through your talk, as you go through your slides, as you go through your script, if there's points where you wonder, huh? I wonder if the audience would be asking questions about this or wondering why I'm saying this. Go ahead and say it out loud for them. Top takeaway number four is have a clear call to action. I was actually surprised that a number of talks did not have a clear call to action. They just kind of ended with maybe they wrapped up a story they had started in the beginning, or they kind of finished up whatever their point was. But as the audience, I feel like so many of us were hungry for a clear call to action because we wanted to know what we just heard this, this talk, you know, these these things that are clearly of concern for the world.

What should we do next? And it doesn't necessarily mean that there's always an easy pat answer, because certainly there's not. But still some things that we could do as the audience. Now, there were some speakers who did a really good job of having a clear call to action. One of them, Rebecca Mcmackin, she talked about creating gardens for biodiversity, and she had lots of great slides about the different gardens that they've created in New York City in order to bring back more insects and more animals by planting different plants that are good for the ecosystem there. And then she said something which I really like this analogy. She said lawns should be area rugs, not wall to wall carpet. And I'm thinking of my own lawn. And and so that, you know, this idea that we need to to have the, our yards and our gardens for biodiversity, not necessarily for what we think of as aesthetics. And she said we need to change our ideas of beauty. So she definitely had a call to action. As far as thinking about what you're planting in your yard. The conservationists from Malaysia, Juan Yusho, she talked about her interest in fireflies and how she got interested that when she was a little girl, she talked about joining her on this journey of conservation. So there was a clear call to action there. The psychologist Gary Barker, who I mentioned just a little while ago, he said that we need to transform how we talk to boys and men about how they care, this idea of caring for others.

So that was his call to action. And then another woman who's a professor, Ruha Benjamin, she talked about this idea of US utopia. So not a utopia or a dystopia, but an US topia that what we can create together when we're wide awake. She had a really, really powerful talk. And by the way, all of these talks that I'm describing, Tedwomen is going to be putting them online on their YouTube channel. I'll include a link in the show notes to kind of their general YouTube, so that you can find them as they go online. I know some of them went online within like the day or so after the talk, and some of them will be coming on later. So that was top takeaway number four, which is have a clear call to action for your audience. What can they do based on what they just learned? Top takeaway. Number five is to use humor and use it often. As I was sitting there listening to these talks, and a lot of these talks were very heady, very intellectual, but using humor not only helped to lighten it, but it really made us as the audience part of the experience. We're sitting here watching the speaker deliver their 10 or 12 minute talk, and it obviously is very one way the speaker is talking to us, but humor and laughter helps it to become more two way helps us as the audience become part of the experience with the speaker, instead of feeling separate from the speaker.

And you can add humor by doing funny asides, you know, maybe some self-deprecating humor, if that's appropriate. Obviously, parts of the stories that you're sharing, you can add some funny parts. A lot of the speakers had funny cartoons or funny gifts or funny memes on their slides. One of the speakers, Dr. Maria Sophocles, she's an a gynecologist, and she opened her talk with with the phrase my vagina has betrayed me, explaining one of her patients who had come to her. And she was she. Her talk was about menopause and it was so funny. She was a great speaker. And just the way that she kind of used humor really helped me to remember the talk much more. That's the other thing with humor, it actually makes your talk more memorable. Another speaker, Mary Ann Sieghart, was she did an incredible job. She had one of the best Ted talks there of the three days. She was actually a guest on this podcast when she talked about her book, The Authority Gap. And I'll make sure to I'll go find a link to that episode so you can go back and listen to that. That was episode 277 from May of 2022.

So about a year and a half ago, that was one of the most popular episodes I've done about the authority gap. So Mary Ann Sieghart talked about that in her Ted talk, and she also used a lot of humor, which again, made it more made it memorable. So that was tip number five is use humor and use it often. Number six. Top takeaway. Number six is show. Don't just tell. Obviously, as speakers, we're so good at just explaining our ideas, explaining our concepts, explaining the points that we want to share. So it's a lot of telling, but you also want to show and showing can be done through storytelling. It also can be done through your slides, having really nice images or graphics on your slides using video, video clips, having those funny GIFs or funny cartoons. Not every speaker use slides. Some speakers had no slides whatsoever, which is completely fine. Some of the speakers had quite a lot of slides, like the woman who talked about the gardens for biodiversity. She had a lot of slides to show different parts of New York City and the gardens that they were creating. Other ones had short video clips, maybe 10s 15 seconds long, but the slides were nice because it provided another visual, a visual impact to the words that the speaker was sharing. It also kind of broke up the content a little bit, because we could look at the slide and, and then also follow the speaker alternatively.

So that would top takeaway number six is show. Don't just tell. Top takeaway. Number seven is be energetic in your delivery. The speakers to me that were the most memorable and had the biggest impact you could see and you could feel the passion that they had for their message. Their energy came through. They moved with purpose. So on. When you do a TEDx talk or a TEDx talk, there's that red circle, that red dot. So you need to stay on that, that dot when you're delivering your talk mostly for the filming, so that you're kind of like contained within one area. And the and speakers who moved with purpose. So they used that red circle very deliberately, so they would move to one side of it and then talk and they'd say, move back to the center and then talk. That was really, really compelling. There were a couple of speakers who moved way too much, probably out of nerves. They just kind of kept wandering around the whole circle. And I just wanted to, like, grab them and say, no, no, just stay put. Either just stay put in one spot or move with purpose. But don't just keep wandering around because it's really distracting just to kind of see them wandering around because you're looking at them more than you are listening to them. The other thing about being energetic in your delivery is active storytelling.

As you're telling stories, really get into it really kind of kind of act out some of the things that you're doing. A lot of the speakers did that, and that was also it was good to be able to watch, because it kind of brought home the message of the story, even more so now. I mentioned in the intro that one thing that I didn't expect that one of the speakers did was that in the middle of her talk, and this was probably about two thirds of the way through. She stopped and she was in the middle of the stage. She stopped. She said, hold on a minute. She went all the way to the edge of the stage where there was, I guess, some water in her notes. She went to get a drink of water, and she looked at her notes, and then she came back. And of course, the audience was so supportive, like, we we applauded. And, you know, whenever there were a couple speakers who maybe who had messed up a couple of times and, you know, either they forgot what they were going to say or they kind of tripped over the words and the audience would applaud because, again, in the filming, that stuff is going to get edited out for the final video version of it. And the speakers knew that. But I really didn't expect that she was just going to kind of flat stop, go get a drink of water, look at her notes, and then come back.

But she did. And I really give her so, so many props for doing that, because that's not easy to to do that when you're on the tedwomen stage. And I think back to my own experience delivering a TEDx talk back in 2016 and how I desperately needed water, and I didn't want to stop to go get it. And now she's inspired me that you can definitely do that no matter what stage that you're on. Hopefully this has inspired you to work on your presentations and your storytelling. Don't forget that you can join us on November 16th for our storytelling for Speakers Workshop. We're live on zoom together for three hours. You're going to learn how to tell great stories, and you're going to identify and work on the key stories for your presentations and your content marketing. You can get all of the details and sign up at Speaking Your brand.com/storytelling workshop. Again, that's speaking your brand.com/storytelling-workshop. And that link is also in the show notes, in addition to our storytelling for Speakers Workshop. What I just went through with these top takeaways is what we work on together with our clients and our Thought Leader Academy, as we help them develop their thought leadership and their signature talk. We're taking applications now for our January start date. You can get all the details on apply as speaking your brand.com/academy in that speaking your brand.com/academy. Until next time thanks for listening.

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