Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash
Content by: Khuloud Kalthoum, Medium
Recently, I strolled onto a TEDx stage and delivered an 18-minute speech.It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was overwhelming. But above all, it was something I never dreamed I was capable of doing.
Arriving in Portugal without any public speaking experience, it was only after joining Toastmasters — which I attended for two years — that I began to try public speaking. This process taught me a lot about both verbal and non-verbal crutches that I could identify in any speech, especially my own, and introduced me to hundreds of powerful communication tools that could be mastered by anyone to help them rise to the top of their field.
When the TEDx date was announced, it gave me four months to prepare. Of course, I could have benefited from a whole year to prepare, especially since I was speaking in a non-native language, but I was determined.
As the big day arrived, and I stood on that stage alone, I was grateful for the whole team in the lead up to the event whose challenge, guidance, and support made it all possible.
In this post, I’ll be sharing the step-by-step method I used that any aspiring TEDx speakers can use to face their fear, take the stage, and make an impact. Better yet, these tips can be applied to overcome just about any challenge you face.
Step 1: Begin with the end in mind.What does success look like in this instance? It’s a question we need to ask ourselves far more often. When we answer that question, it enables us to begin with the end in mind so we can follow a simple process to get there.
To prepare for my speech, I was given small pieces of paper to write down a multitude of ideas that could then be either included or discarded for what would be an engaging 18-minute presentation (the TEDx time cap). This was brainstorm mode, so I wrote down anything that fit the theme of the event: non-conformity: building new traditions.
I knew that I wanted to talk about moving from Syria to Portugal, as well as why and how I processed the decision of taking off my hijab, but how could I possibly narrow those emotional and defining moments into just a few main points? More importantly, how could I give the audience some practical takeaways to benefit their own lives?
I had decided to give the talk in English, which is not my native language and added another layer of complexity to the preparation. For me, I discovered that the most useful method was to:
— Write the keywords in my native language— Enunciate keywords as clearly as possible, and— Slow down my speaking speed.
Giving a speech in a language different from your own can be daunting, especially when you’re sharing something personal and expressing emotions. However, writing the key points in your own language (rather than in the delivered language) will make it simpler for you to transfer the message and the main points.
Having attended two prior TEDx events, I could also visualize the type of crowd and energy I would face. This made it easier for me to group my major points into a few stories that fit into the time limit, which left me confident that the audience would follow my speech while being left with valuable takeaways to implement afterwards.
Step 2: Seek out (a lot of) help.Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of meaningful connections. Preparing for the TEDx talk, I was fortunate enough to work with truly exceptional coaches and I’m forever grateful to each person for their wonderful friendship.
Just a few to be exact…
— John Chang shared my passion and enthusiasm for the topic right from the beginning. He sent me daily prompts to work on my writing. I was also able to get feedback from folks at our mastermind group and practice my English.— I also wish to thank Chiara Monaci, a fellow Live Your Legend member. After each session, I not only got valuable takeaways but also felt uplifted and motivated to take concrete actions.— More than a speaking expert at Toastmasters Rui Henriques is also a trusted friend, advisor, and mentor. Rui, thank you for your continued guidance and inspiration.
— John Chang shared my passion and enthusiasm for the topic right from the beginning. He sent me daily prompts to work on my writing. I was also able to get feedback from folks at our mastermind group and practice my English.
— I also wish to thank Chiara Monaci, a fellow Live Your Legend member. After each session, I not only got valuable takeaways but also felt uplifted and motivated to take concrete actions.
— More than a speaking expert at Toastmasters Rui Henriques is also a trusted friend, advisor, and mentor. Rui, thank you for your continued guidance and inspiration.
Their guidance, feedback, and judgment helped me to structure my talk into a narrative that I believe the audience would find informative, inspiring, and entertaining — something far above what I ever could have done alone.
I was only able to find the right help because I’d made it a strong focus to add as much value unconditionally to as many people as I could. This meant when the time came, and I had a clearly defined objective, it was easy to engage the right support for the best end result.
Meaningful connections make it far easier to both give and receive, so today I encourage you to think about:
— Who do you have in your corner?— What value are you contributing each day?— Are people clear on where you want to go and how they can help?
Your answer to each of those questions will help you determine your next steps.
Step 3: Reframe through positive thinking.One way I was taught to conquer fear is to break the word ‘F.E.A.R.’ into an acronym that forms positive words, from which a positive affirmation statement would be revealed.
For example, a few days before the TEDx talk — when I was so scared I could barely think clearly — I was asked to do this exercise. My answer was:
F = FlyE= EnergyA = AuthenticR = Resilient
I turned that into:Fly with Energy. You have an Authentic story to tell, so be Resilient and share it.
Positive words are chosen because they can be modulated to create a positiveaffirmation, which in turn becomes something specific to solving your problem (i.e. to turn fear into fun and focus) quickly. This process harnesses the same energy you used to worry about the situation, and redirects it to constructive means that enable you to get the best result.
Next time you feel some type of fear, give that simple trick a try and you’ll be amazed at how empowered you feel.