By Peter Kozodoy, Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising
This July, I was honored to do my first TEDx Talk in Virginia right outside Washington, D.C. I was one of eight speakers selected to speak from the red carpet in front of those iconic red letters -- and it was scary, exhilarating and fun. It took me three years (yes, I do mean years) of developing my topic, researching, writing and practicing to get to that point.
Once it was all over and I had the chance to reflect, I realized how much the whole process had been a teaching tool for my entire business. Here are three things I learned from the process and the performances that just might change the way you approach your business.
1. Being an expert was only half the battle.
All of the speakers were experts, but the audience reacted more to some talks than to others. Sitting through the speakers, it became clear that the best ones were entertainers as well as experts. They had a way of bringing their topics to life and using their entire bodies, facial expressions and vocal intonation to take the audience on an exciting journey. The best talks were about both educating and entertaining, and it made a huge difference in the impressions the talks made on the audience.
2. Mixing stories with facts gave the biggest impact.
Some speakers told amazing stories. Others had all the data to back up their claims. But the best speakers blended stories with facts, convincing the audience of their points emotionally and then underpinning their points with the facts their brains needed to fully accept the assertions. When speakers mixed stories and facts together in that way, it was a one-two punch that couldn't be ignored. This is an effective sales technique in disguise.
3. There is no such thing as too much preparation.
We did a full dress rehearsal the night before and I delivered a great run. I was a bit nervous, but not as nervous as I was the next day when we were on for the audience and cameras. The lights, the staring audience and those three cameras all bore down on me and I found my mind racing throughout my performance. It went by quickly, and I didn't stumble once, but that's only because I had rehearsed the talk three to five times a day for a whole week. If I hadn't prepared -- if I hadn't known that talk forwards and backwards -- I would have absolutely blown it. Thank goodness my training held me up while those nerves took hold.
All of these lessons have correlations both in your business and for you as a leader. First, you can’t just wow people with your expertise -- you also have to entertain them and be likable. One quick way to do this is to use humor in your talk, especially self-deprecating phrases that make you seem approachable and humble (just no humble-brags, please -- that will work against you).
Second, you can’t just tell stories or rattle off facts -- you have to speak to both the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain in order to make your point. One great technique is to tell a quick story that ends in a single, simple point, and then drive that point home with a relevant statistic that convinces the audience that your point is valid both in a real-world application and in a scientifically measurable way.
Finally, remember, you can't just wing it -- nothing beats great preparation. If you have a big pitch or presentation coming up, be sure to practice several times leading up to it. Consider practicing for an audience -- of family, friends or coworkers, so you can get feedback.
Think about your marketing process, your sales pitch or even the way you engage your team members. Basically, the whole TED process was a lesson in how to persuade people, which is something every one of us entrepreneurs must do. Whether or not you'd love to do a TEDx Talk one day, you'll find value in preparing one and going through the process so you can practice these persuasive communication techniques.
What would yours be about? I started getting ready for mine three years ago -- there's no such thing as starting too early.
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising.