How to Be a TED-Worthy Speaker

I want to radically transform people’s lives.

I want to be THE go-to expert in my space.

I want to have a waiting list of people ready to work with me.

I want to cross six-figures.

 I want to hire a team. 

I want to stop worrying about money.

I want to create epic experiences for my audiences.

For almost a decade, even though speaking was my primary source of income and I had a bunch of sexy clients and meaningful media recognition, my presentations were not game changers for an audience. While I appreciated that people would tell me, “Alexia (or Lex), you are so inspiring.” Or they would say, “Lex, you are such a great speaker. You never say ‘um,’ ” my audience members rarely signed up to work privately with me. And my clients, unfortunately, rarely recommended me to their colleagues for future speaking and business engagements.

The problem? I was working too hard to educate the people I spoke with, to prove my credibility, and as a result, I was getting in my own way of being a compelling, TED-worthy speaker.

I now know that transformational, TED-worthy speakers are people who possess the ability to create big shifts in their audiences’ thinking, that lead to big shifts in their behavior, that enable them to achieve extraordinary results.

And while the best speakers always have their own ‘secret sauce’ for how they do this, there are certain behaviors and skills that anybody can bring into her speaking to be successful – whether one is delivering a keynote, presenting a webinar or delivering a business presentation.

First, it’s important to have a big idea at the center of a presentation.

TED uses the phrase, “ideas worth spreading” intentionally. Begin by identifying the idea you want to persuade your audience to take action on, keep this idea front and center throughout your presentation, and make sure every story, fact, quote, etc. that you introduce is helping your audience understand and want to take action on this idea.

Second, as both a speaking coach and former TEDxWomen organizer, I have witnessed some powerful storytelling over the years. And I don’t know any great speaker who does not use stories in her presentations.

The key is not telling a story just because it’s interesting or entertaining, and rather using stories that can facilitate ‘aha’ moments for an audience by forcing them to think deeply, think differently, and take action as a result of this reflection. While you might be telling your story, deliver your story so that it can facilitate deeper understanding for your audience.

Third, if you are committed to being a TED-worthy speaker, you must drop the expert shtick!

While it’s important to know your content, it’s equally important to let your audiences come to their own conclusions and to see where you are still learning and growing. As a speaker it’s your right and responsibility to ask your audience questions. To be vulnerable and allow them to really see you. The ability to speak and be truly seen by your audience, rather than hiding behind statistics or a fancy slide deck, is the art (and at the heart) of being a great, transformational speaker.

Fourth, irrespective of how you want to be using speaking, if you are committed to being great you will practice. A lot. And aloud!

TED and TEDx speakers are very rehearsed. My clients typically rehearse one hour for every minute they speak when creating a new presentation. However, rarely are they memorized. It’s through the process of actually rehearsing their words, their gestures, their movement and even their facial expressions that what they are saying gets committed to memory and their delivery gets solidified.

Fifth, because TED-worthy speakers put so much of themselves into their presentations, they are often filled with a lot of “sensation” when they get on stage. And sometimes, even when they think about performing and being seen by an audience.

However, these speakers have practiced shifting from thoughts like, “Am I prepared enough?” or “Will my audience like me?” to “How can I serve and connect with my audience as fully as possible?” And as a result of this subtle but significant mindset shift, the butterflies move quickly through.

What I want for you, whether you aspire to deliver a TED talk or want to use speaking to fill your business offerings, is to recognize that TED-worthy speakers train much like an athlete would. And the training is holistic – mental, physical, at times even spiritual. I am probably one of the least likely people to be a speaker and speaking coach. As a child I had a speech impediment. The first time I gave a speech I was laughed at. And for years any time I spoke publicly, my body would shake and my voice would quiver. But I have done the work, the right work, and that’s why I love supporting visionary entrepreneurs and leaders to find the confidence (and competence) to speak with heart, power and for maximum impact.

If speaking is something you aspire to do, and do well – and profitably – I encourage you to make it a priority in 2017! And I have a free, Step into the Spotlight Speaker Challenge, kicking off at the start of the year. In the 10-day challenge, I will show you more specifically how to overcome any fear and anxiety you experience when speaking, how to begin to curate the right content for your TED-worthy presentation, and the many opportunities that exist to use public speaking to grow your business.



Branded a “Moxie Maven” by the White House Office of Public Engagement, Alexia Vernon is a women’s empowerment speaker and a speaking coach and mentor to executives, entrepreneurs, coaches, NYT bestselling authors, media personalities and change agents. Alexia (and her clients) have spoken on stages including the World Domination Summit, INBOUND, Spark & Hustle, the Transformational Leadership Council, for numerous Fortune 500 companies and at TEDx events around the world. Click here to grab Alexia’s free, 3-part Hotshot Speaker video series so you can go from a best-kept secret to an in-demand speaker in your industry. You can also ask Alexia your speaking question in her Facebook Group, the Spotlight Speakers Salon.

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