Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 Ways to Give a Talk that Matters and Wows

By Guest Blogger, Lynn Johnson 

Lynn Johnson
I recently gave a “TED-like” talk at the How Kids Learn II Conference in San Francisco entitled "Igniting a Compassion Revolution". My 18 minute talk was about igniting a compassion revolution by putting girls center stage. Judging from the responses I got afterwards, I did a good job. I heard stuff like: “Stunning!” “A real highlight!” “You were so f#@ckin’ amazing!!”  More formal testimonials and video to come.  

I learned a lot.  I want to make sure I capture that learning so that I can do even better next time.  Hopefully, this learning can help you too.

1. Start Strong.  End Strong.  A good talk is a call to action; an opportunity to connect with future members of your tribe.  So, you gotta connect with them right at the very beginning.  Pull out all the stops.  But I don’t just mean with fancy technological bells and whistles.  Those are cool but it’s more important to connect with the audience heart-to-heart.  Same thing with the end.  Leave them wanting more of what you got.

2. Focus on your Why.  In my talk, I wasn’t just sharing the whats of my Go Girls! program, I was sharing the why.  When Simon Sinek taught me to “Start with Why,” I took it to heart.  Don’t just share what you do, share the underlying beliefs that inspire you to do it in the first place.  That is what will inspire your audience.

3. Tell the Truth.  I discovered yesterday that it is okay to make the audience a little uncomfortable.  I decided to start my talk by performing an original poem (see point 1).  In it, I allowed myself to get vulnerable as I shared feelings and experiences from my own girlhood.  Doing this made my audience trust me, even though I was saying things that weren’t so easy to hear.  And you don’t have to scream and be aggressive with the truth.  The truth is powerful enough by itself.  As long as you authentic, you can always make a connection.

4. Never Apologize.  Allison and I teach girls all time how important it is not to apologize for each and every mistake.  We women do this all the time.”Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to use this.” or “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t get enough time to practice.”  Or whatever.  Don’t do this.  Ever.  If a mistake you make hurts someone physically, emotionally or spiritually, then, apologize.  Otherwise, just let it be a mistake.  Let “oops” replace “sorry.”

5. Look Good. Just like you spend time crafting and rehearsing your talk, working on your timing, prepping your slides/cue cards, etc, you should also spend some time to work on how you will look while giving the talk itself. I know some of you won’t want to hear this but, believe it, this point is very important. But make sure you look like yourself. Don’t dress to look like some character of what you think you should look like.  Take my experience.  In my ongoing quest to become the bad ass power lesbian, Bette Porter, I had it in my mind to buy a suit.  That felt like what I should wear to speak in front of important people.  So,  I shopped everywhere. In stores.  Online.  Nothing looked right.  Then, I found a dress on the coolest website ever.  I bought it and it looked incredible on me.  The color, the fit, the style perfectly matched my body (which is nothing like Bette Porter’s) and my personality.  And I looked great.  So, I felt great.  And that always helps.  So, please, do yourself a favor and look good.

Lynn Johnson is the Co-Founder & CEO of Glitter & Razz Productions. She knew that she wanted to be an actor when she was just 5 years old and has spent her whole life centered around the learning, teaching, and creation of theater.

After graduating from Northwestern University, she founded TurnStyle Teen Theatre, a multicultural teen ensemble. The company used the process of creating original productions to explore themes central to the lives of its members. Later, in Chapel Hill, NC she designed and directed a number of community-based educational programs that focused on literature, oral history, community building, and personal narrative.

Lynn transferred her direct youth service experience to work as a trainer and organizational development consultant at the Community Network for Youth Development (CNYD). Lynn is also a founding member of OutLook Theater Project (with Rebecca Shultz), a community-based professional theater company that explores social issues from a queer perspective.

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