But with the right plan and focus, TED Talks don't have to be scary. In fact, they present an utterly unique opportunity to connect with an audience over subject matter specific to your expertise.
Below are a few tips from own experience preparing for my first TED Talk. Hope you find them helpful!
1. Harness the power of anecdotes
Telling stories is a powerful way to connect with others. In my talk, I used an impactful experience on a bumpy flight as an introductory metaphor that teed up my thesis.
But remember: vivid specificity is more important than choosing a story that everyone will relate to.
Not only do real-life stories help your audience get to know you beyond your bio on the program, they'll also help you feel more comfortable onstage as you recount something you actually experienced.
And while not everyone in the audience will have had a similar experience to the one you choose to share, a detailed and engaging story can pull in even the most unlikely listener.
Avoid generic anecdotes in lieu of authentic experiences--your audience will be able to spot the difference.
2. Employ creative memorization techniques
Perhaps the most daunting part of delivering a TED Talk is the lack of a podium -- meaning no notes, no index cards, and definitely no teleprompter.
I hired a corporate hypnosis expert (Lilly Tam), she had me write my script in longhand (cursive) numerous times, then she used hypnosis techniques to help me reduce anxiety, boost confident and improve recall.
Every speaker is different, but most of us will succumb to nerves without a clear onstage road map. Do yourself a favor and commit your entire speech to memory.
3. Rehearsal isn't just for remembering your lines
It's obviously important to know exactly what you're going to say once you step onto that stage, but arguably more important is how you plan to say it.
Don't be overly enthusiastic to the point of being cheesy, but work to deliver your speech with tangible passion about your subject matter.
If your audience isn't convinced that you believe in what you're saying, they'll tune out immediately.
Rehearsing a talk alone is immensely different than delivering it to a full room of strangers.
You might feel totally calm about it in the privacy of your own home or office, only to start (literally) sweating or forget your lines onstage.
Prepare for this by giving your talk to a small group of friends or family beforehand.
4. Get right to the point
Nerves can create habits like throat-clearing, small talk, and stammering.
While you may be trying to appear conversational and unfazed, falling into lengthy digressions or leaning on cutesy introductions will lose your audience's interest.
You only have a limited amount of time on that stage, so make the most of it.
5. Draw from other's successes
You're not the first one to ever do this--so why not take advantage of past TED Talks for tips and best practices?
Watch a wide variety of speakers, even ones whose subject matter is totally unrelated to what you might be talking about.
Take notes--what works, what jokes landed, interesting structure, captivating stories -- and incorporate winning tactics into your own talk.
6. Get your bearings beforehand
Pacers, take note! TED Talk stages might seem big, but that comfy red carpet you're given to stand on actually has a diameter of only 6'.
Sure, you won't fall off the stage and into the audience if you overstep your carpeted boundary, but you should work to stay within your carpeted confines.
If you're concerned about this limitation, try measuring out an appropriately-sized box using tape rehearsing inside of it.
7. Finding the right coach
The most important part of my preparation process? Getting help from the pros.
I got more tips from corporate hypnosis expert Lily Tam, generational consultant Paul Moya, strategic performance coach Kymberlee Weil, and best-selling author and speaker Jeff Salz.
Reach out to people with experience and request a meeting, a call, or even one simple piece of advice.
You might be surprised how many high-level lecturers and seasoned speaking coaches will gladly help a first-timer.
If you're interested, watch my first TED Talk on managing workplace turbulence below: