Public Speaking Lessons from Presenting at TEDx

A headshot of a woman smiling. 

Taylor Williams

Creative Director at Guts & Glory Creative Consulting & Adjunct Faculty at the University of Florida

Taylor used her presentation skills to shape her TEDx Talk and a new book.

IDEO U COURSE COMPLETED: 

Impactful Presentations

_________ 

  “Don't look at Impactful Presentations as a course that's just about prototyping a product. This is about prototyping your message and your story and how you connect with other human beings.”

 

 

Can you tell us about yourself?

I live in the world of communications and storytelling and public speaking. I have a background in mental health as well, so when I was doing comedy in New York, I was watching comedians create what felt like ways of healing to me. 

In improv, you're connecting with a bunch of strangers until you build enough rapport to start thinking like each other. That is a magical space. In some ways it’s also like group therapy, with people trying to grow themselves, connect with other people, and figure out who they are.

You're also trying to speak to your audience and grab them where they are, so while you may not share the literal experiences of your lives, you can connect to the humanity or feeling or emotion that's there.

 

Why did you decide to take Impactful Presentations with IDEO U?

I was looking for what came next for me in terms of continuing education. How was I going to continue to learn and grow as a practitioner and a facilitator and a human?

IDEO U looked like a fusion of all of the ways that I like to learn and all of the ways that I like to teach. I liked that with Impactful Presentations, I could collaborate with a community, get constructive feedback, and have others give input into my thinking and work.

 

Why do you feel that presentations are important?

When we're presenting something, whether it's information, data, or research, we are telling stories. If people just hear a lot of details and context, it is information alone. But when they understand that there's a human being with meaning and intention, they're more likely to connect with the story or presentation.

Why should people care? You have to make people care, right?

An audience of ten people smiling and clapping.

As presenters, we have to use empathy to understand our audience and where they're coming from, but what we're also trying to do in talking about emotion and meaning is activate their empathy to connect with us. Then we really have something.

 


When we're presenting something, whether it's information, data, or research, we are telling stories.
TAYLOR WILLIAMS


 

What was your presentation about?

This idea of grief came to me sort of out of nowhere. When I was exploring this idea of grief, I was trying to do things like, “What are the sounds, what are the smells of that time?” Songs came up for me. Specific memories I shared with my best friend who died during this year. And songs that I sang to my children when they were really small. I had recently gotten divorced, and I was riddled with insomnia, but those songs grounded me to my kids.

 

It's helped me process, but also it is helping other people. People are giving me feedback that we need more of this—we need to start groups about grief. I think this class really teaches you to challenge yourself and to make those choices. Don't take the most obvious route that you're already good at. Do the thing that actually feels a little bit uncomfortable for you.

 

What have you done since taking the course?

By the time I started Impactful Presentations, I had written a TEDx Talk that I was supposed to give, and then the pandemic happened and it was canceled. It got rescheduled for six months later, and we did it virtually. Taking the course totally changed not what I was going to say, but how I delivered the talk.

 

I learned that I would be giving this TEDx Talk to an empty room, and I had to act as if I had a room full of people. We were supposed to have 1500 people, and instead there was one camera guy. 

I'd been in a lot of performative contexts before, but this class allowed me to think about how I say things and how I wanted to draw my audience in more. How could I say just a single sentence to bring back a memory or a feeling for people? It completely changed the way that I gave my presentation.

Shortly after giving that talk a friend called me and said, “You have to write a book, there's a book program that starts in three days.” I was just thrown in the deep end, and I wrote a book during the pandemic. Learning the presentation skills of reaching an audience was huge in writing the book too.


How could I even say a single sentence to bring back a memory or a feeling for people? It completely changed the way that I gave my presentation.
TAYLOR WILLIAMS


 

Any last advice?

Don't look at Impactful Presentations as a course that's just about prototyping a product. This is about prototyping your message and your story and how you connect with other human beings. All of us need that.

 

Read Taylor’s new book, Beyond the Words, or dig through more stories from our IDEO U learner community. And if you’re interested in learning how to give meaningful presentations of your own, check out IDEO U’s online course Impactful Presentations.

 


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