Leadership

5 tips for powerful public speaking, according to TED Talk coaches

Courtney Martin
Source: Ted Talks
Courtney Martin

You have 18 minutes to tell a story that your audience will remember. How will you do it?

"Successful public speaking doesn't require you to be comfortable with public speaking," says Tiffany Dufu, public speaker and author of "Drop the Ball," at a recent speaking workshop in New York. "It requires you being comfortable with yourself."

Tiffany Dufu
Rob Kim | Getty Images
Tiffany Dufu

In the era of live-streaming, when the speech of one mayor in one city can instantly become national news, telling a catalytic story — whether pitching your boss, a room of investors or even friends and family — is a critical skill. Two TED speakers who co-founded "Fresh Speakers, an organization dedicated to elevating new voices, recently coached on crafting and delivering at AppNexus in New York.

"It's power to be able to stand on a stage and have people listening to what you're saying," says Fresh Speakers co-founder Courtney Martin.

Here are five tips to tell an unforgettable story:

Invest in a story bank

Bookmark a few narratives that you've practiced sharing — not so many times that your audience is eye-rolling because you sound like a drone — but enough to remove the pressure of novelty. Your confidence and sincerity will beam, and your audience will connect with that authenticity. "No one ever cites a statistic or fact as what they remember," Martin says. Audiences remember story.

Vanessa Valenti
Source: Ted Talks
Vanessa Valenti

Forget your ego

Becoming a victim of your own mind can jeopardize a sincere and engaging speech. Think of yourself as a "vessel" for a "message," Martin says. Train your thoughts to focus less on you, and more on the story.

Mind the power of threes

People retain information in threes. For instance, organize your speech into two stories and a statistic. If you're teaching your audience how to bake a pie, give them three steps. "We hold onto three things," Martin says.

Find a friendly face

Ignore the front-row audience member slouching in a chair or tapping away on a phone. Instead, find an engaged listener — you back there, nodding and grinning — who is your new confidante. "Draw from reading a person's positive energy," says Fresh Speakers co-founder Vanessa Valenti, who was also part of the inaugural class of TED Residents, and regularly curates and coaches for entities like the Aspen Institute, The Gates Foundation and grassroots organizations.

Jargon is death

Leave the acronyms and insider speak at the office. Your audience wants to feel welcome, and relying on terms only you know reflects lazy thinking. "Disruption is a buzz word," Martin says. "Nine million people say it… What do you actually mean?"

Cast the line further to find a stickier word, she says.

See also:

5 communication tricks Warren Buffett and other successful leaders use to get ahead