In the past year, I’ve been receiving many invitations to speak at larger events around the country, and have learned that I am not all suavity and self-assuredness in front of a large audience. Rooms are fine, but when it gets to a point where you can’t see the back row without a spyglass, I find myself lacking that Cary Grant Je ne sais quoi.
In preparing a talk for TEDx Chichester , Nancy Duarte’s new book Resonate was a great help. One of the first premises of the book is that we speak and present in order to create change. That might seem like a simple idea, but at first, I found my inner voice arguing with it. But the more I thought about it, then, yes, it made sense. The first draft of my talk was much more based on the idea of sharing information – in this case, about looking at paintings. (I’m still searching for that elusive topic that is going to allow me to tie my art life with my search marketing life – but I haven’t quite found it yet.)
As I thought about the topic more – and with Duarte’s thesis from “Resonate” in mind – my talk went through a big change. I asked myself, “What change would I want to make?” When it comes to art, I have some strong feelings about the kind of time people devote to looking. A little bit of research unearthed a Metropolitan Museum of Art study that found that people spend, on the average, 17 seconds looking at some pretty major masterpieces.
Another notion put forth in Resonate is that a talk is fundamentally story-telling. And in telling the story, we, the story teller, are NOT the hero. Instead, we’re the wise guide, like Yoda in Star Wars.
The team here will tell you how every time we write a proposal, we’re talking about story-telling – “Once upon a time” until “happily ever after”. There are a LOT of people out there today talking about stories and story-telling, and how it’s an important part of business. It ties in with all of the best organizational development thought, too, about how businesses should be led with vision.
Duarte’s book includes many analytic break-downs of well known talks. What it provides is not so much a formula as an illustration. After all, Martin Luther King and Benjamin Zander didn’t, in all likelihood, sit down and write out their talks with a predetermined notion of structure – but certainly, understanding the structure that they were able to intuitively create in their talks is eye-opening.
Giving the TEDx talk was a terrific experience – the venue was smaller and more intimate, and in fact, in my home town, and I was speaking on the subject of my truest passions. The next half-dozen talks on Social Media that I have scheduled, I’ll be more focused on the stuff of social media and internet marketing – material for which I’m also passionate, albeit differently. I can’t help but to feel, though, that the experience of pulling together this talk will be a milestone in crafting better experiences for my listeners.