Speaking Dynamically On The TEDx Stage: 9 Tips To Delivering A Compelling Speech

By: Dr. Sheena C. Howard, TEDx Speaker and Creative Entrepreneur

After my TEDx talk dropped, I received a lot of emails and questions from people wondering about my experience as a TEDx speaker. In this article, I will address some of the frequently asked questions around being a TEDx speaker as well as how to deliver a compelling speech, regardless of the venue.

I am a Professor of Communication, so I had a bit of a leg up on the public speaking aspect, but for those who are not immersed in the world of public speaking, this article is a snapshot of what I teach my students and clients. I also address the question, “How did you come up with your TEDx topic?”.


If you ever end up on the TEDx stage or have to deliver a very important speech, use these techniques to really bring your speech to life and leave a lasting impression on your audience.


Connect With Your Audience

1.Tell stories. It’s easier to get your message across when you use interesting and memorable stories. When you enjoy your own tales, your enthusiasm shines through. This is especially true when delivering a TEDx talk, the formula is to use storytelling as a way to connect with the audience. That’s why you notice, every TEDx talk speaker is sharing a personal story. Data shouldn’t be dismissed, but stories are the essence of the data.

2. Focus on friendly faces. Often times, making eye contact is tough because most of us are nervous about public speaking in general. If crowds make you nervous, scan the room for individuals who are smiling and making eye contact. Imagine you’re talking directly with them.

3. Encourage conversation. Great speakers also know how to listen and promote interaction. Show up early so you can chat with others beforehand. Invite questions and comments. On the TEDx stage you can’t really have too much interaction because you’re there to deliver the speech you practiced, but engaging with the audience after your talk is a great way to have more impact. Also, telling stories during your speech is a great way to generate more conversation after your speech. Think about what you can share in your speech that will give the talk longevity long after you have delivered the talk. In general, it’s always great to ask the audience questions and get them involved, if you can. Otherwise, find ways to craft a speech that generates more conversation after your talk.

4. Give generously. Public speaking isnt about you. While you’re working on the technical aspects of crafting a coherent speech, keep your purpose in mind.What do you want to share with others? How can they benefit from what you have to say? Approach public speaking, especially TEDx talks as a vehicle to help your audience and make the world a better place. One of the questions I am asked often is how I came up with the topic for my TEDx talk. I started with experiences in my life that had affected me the most, then I thought about what I learned from those experiences that could best inspire and empower my audience – from there, my TEDx talk topic idea became easy to formulate.  

Delivering a Dynamic TEDx Talk

5. Practice regularly. Voice training is like any other skill. Take advantage of opportunities to work on your performance. Record yourself with your phone or computer so you can identify your natural strengths and areas you want to work on.

6. Study others. See how presidents and anchormen engage their listeners. Watch videos of the most popular TEDx Talks but also videos of your favorite talks (the best and most inspiring speeches, are not always the most popular), listen to podcasts, and read transcripts. Take notes about ideas you want to borrow and build on. Adapt their lessons to suit your own style. There is also great research all over the internet about the dynamics that resonate most with the TED audience – such as hand gestures and moving around on stage. Those are two things that help the audience connect with you. More on body language in a few.

7. Eliminate fillers. Too many “ums” and “uhs” can undermine you credibility. Plan for transitions so you won’t be fumbling for what to say next. If you need a second to reflect, try pausing instead of filling the gap with meaningless language. Tuning out internal and external distractions can also help you stay on track. Also, pauses during a speech, can be very powerful.

8. Watch your body language. Mastering nonverbal communication will reinforce the positive impression your voice makes. Stand up straight so you look open and relaxed. Use gestures to emphasize key points and keep things lively.

9. Acknowledge your feelings. Even movie stars and self-help gurus can have stage jitters. When you’re feeling anxious about addressing a group, accept your feelings and transform them into positive excitement. Take the focus off yourself and concentrate on how to help others.