Lessons from a great TEDx emcee

Everyone has the opportunity to watch as many TED and TEDx talks online as they like, but one thing is conspicuously missing from every one of those videos. That is getting to see the way that the speaker is introduced by the master of ceremonies. The emcee has an important role to play, but the is some divergence of opinions as to what that role is. Should the emcee function as an entertainer? As a nearly invisible bookmark between speeches?

Having attended a number of TEDx events I have seen a variety of emcees. Among the best of them has been Mike Watson (@emcmike) of TEDxCharlotte. At a regional TEDx Organizers meeting Mike shared his own opinions about what makes a good emcee. His lesson follows; do you agree with it or not?

Click here to download the PDF document.


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Why Become a TED Speaker?

What is TED?  What is a TEDx event?  Why would you want to speak at TED?

What is TED?  TED is an annual conference in California consisting of four days of presentations and interaction, and is a fount of wonderful ideas and learning.  It also provides inspiration to many thousands of people, through the posting of its talks on its very stimulating web site.

What is a TEDx event?  TEDx is the name given to local TED events.  Several years ago the main TED organization began licensing local communities to hold their own local or regional version of their conference.  These TEDx events (the “x” referring to local) are independently produced by volunteers.

The mantra of TED is “ideas worth spreading” and the speakers are chosen with that in mind.  For anyone who is going to address an audience, you can take a cue from that.  What is your “idea worth spreading”? That truth that you would most like to have your audience hear and internalize, or the action you want to galvanize in your audience.

The purpose of a presentation is often to plant the seeds of action.  Your well-chosen words serve as the fertilizer in this spreading of ideas.  Of course, some of my ideas have been compared to a type of organic fertilizer, but that’s another story…

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Business storytelling; creating your corporate myth

Any company’s products, services, and identity are perceived in a certain way. Think of those attributes as your corporate myth. To a large extent, marketing is the art of guiding what those perceptions come to be. If you don’t create your own story you can bet that one will be made for you.

Here is a fine short video which addresses the power of story and the making of a corporate myth.

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The #1 public speaking myth has been debunked.

From KIOS, Omaha Public Radio, comes this report, debunking a misconception trumpeting by public speaking instructors everywhere:

A new study finds that while public speaking might be the most common fear, it isn’t number one.

UNO Public Speaking Fundamentals program director Karen Kangas Dwyer and Speech Center Coordinator Marlina Davidson did the study. It revisited a 1973 study that found more people feared public speaking than death.

Dwyer says in both studies, people were given a list of 14 fears. Public speaking was checked the most often on those lists. But Dwyer says the original study had a key flaw: it didn’t ask participants to rank those fears on a scale. “And even though it’s reported people fear public speaking more than death, when we asked our students, and we had 815 of them who had not had public speaking before, we asked them to rank their fears, and death was number one.”

40 percent of people who took part in the 1973 study checked public speaking as one of their fears. 60 percent of students who participated in the UNO study did the same. Dwyer says fear of public speaking is common and treatable. UNO students take a public speaking course as part of their general education classes.
Dwyer and Davidson’s study appears in the April through June 2012 issue of Communication Research Reports.

It’s really too bad – this might put an end to the oldest public speaking joke around – the notion that most people when at a funeral would rather be the person in the coffin than the one delivering the eulogy.  Let’s agree that nervous though we might be behind the lectern, we’d still rather be alive.

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What kind of TED talk would Ralph Waldo Emerson have given?

One of America’s first professional public speakers, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a rock star on the lecture circuit back in the 1850s. He would have been a natural on the stage of TED.

More than a century and a half after Emerson’s day, TED is delivering professionally produced talks and entertainment to millions of people. Here is an interesting article in the New Yorker blog about the transition from Emerson’s public lectures to TED’s slick digital offerings, with links to five essential TED talks.

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