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Lessons Learned Preparing for TED That Will Inform Future Teaching

Presenting a TED Talk was on my bucket list.

Ever since I saw my first one several years ago, watching them has become a ritual, and investing in new ideas has become an essential part of my growth.

All the speakers seem so poised and thoughtful and have amazing wisdom to share.

As a joke once, I said to a friend, "Why can't I do one of these? I'm doing pretty awesome stuff with my students, I'm sure folks would want to hear."

He agreed, but it didn't go much further than that.The fact is, as much as I love the idea of having a finished TED talk, actually doing the talk terrified me.

Speaking in general causes me a fair amount of anxiety. I'm sure you're saying to yourself right now, "but you're a teacher, you talk all of the time and you're all over social media!"

Yes, that's true, but that doesn't mean talking to adults is easy. Students are in my wheelhouse! Adults are tougher altogether. Plus a classroom is hardly an auditorium full of people or a live stream with unknown watchers.

Despite my experience as a speaker, the fears and nervousness haven't gone away yet.

So when I was asked to do a TEDx talk in January, I was thrilled and said yes immediately. Then quickly after the initial excitement wore off, I realized what it actually meant...

I would have to stand before a large audience to present a prepared talk about a topic I care about. But on this stage, I had a chance to really impact a large number of people.

And that thought made me want to throw up in my mouth.

But I have learned quite a bit from preparing for this experience as I never back down from a challenge. As a teacher and model of behaviors, it's essential to really take on challenges head-on and try to succeed as much as possible and then share that experience with kids.

Here's how it will influence how I teach kids to publicly speak:

  • It's all in the preparation. Before you speak, make sure you know what you want to say. When I speak at conferences, I'm more inclined to wing it and read the room, but for this experience, I had to write a manuscript, have slides and prepare a lot. Despite this preparation, if I had the chance to do it again, I'd probably be looser once it all started. I'd give myself permission to deviate from the plan once the plan was well prepared. I'd trust myself more because I knew what I wanted to say.

  • Practicing to try to memorize as much of it as possible took work. For several weeks, I read aloud in front of a mirror, practicing my pace and making sure to not use verbal fillers.

  • I recorded myself to hear how it sounds to know if I'm speaking up or slowing down for emphasis. I then listened to the recording often and rerecorded it a few times to ensure minimal stumbling.

  • After the audio recording, I also did a video recording to see myself presenting with the slides. Timing the slides is a challenge for me, but something that can be practiced.

  • I'm coming back to preparation as the only thing that will kill the nerves. The more prepared I am, the more confident I feel.

  • Eye contact and crowd involvement are essential when speaking for a period of time. We need to engage our audience because this is who the presentation is for.

Bring your passion to what you do and that will read when you share. I'm extremely passionate about my subject matter and because I'm being me, the audience will tell. My story is one that I'm proud to share and I'm glad I had the chance to share it.

When game day came, I was ready, but couldn't wait for it to be over. Now that's it's over, there are a million things I would have done differently. For the next one, I will not use the stand and trust myself more. In the end, I know my content, so I don't want the crutch.

How do you prepare for your big speaking moments? Please share your tips and how you've shared them with students.

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in June 2016.


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