Everything you need to know about your future TED Talk with Cathey Armillas

Everything you need to know about your future TED Talk with Cathey Armillas




In December 2019 I did my TEDx talk… and it was a typical Christine story.

I had invested a huge amount into an opportunity to get on stage with speakers, to be introduced to people who hire speakers for events, and specifically, to get a TED talk event. What happened was that they couldn't guarantee that the right agents would be there, so in the end, nothing really came out of it. Me, being frustrated and impatient, decided to go on the TEDx site, look at all the different talks that were happening in my vicinity, and I just emailed five different spaces where I saw that it would be in the next few months and where I felt my topic would be a great fit. The next day, I had an answer – I booked my TEDx talk for December!

Got the TED talk – Now what?

I knew that this was big. Everyone wants a TEDx or a TED talk, their logo is something that has quite a lot of clout, being on their YouTube channel is just something really, really amazing. But, I had no clue how to do that talk. That is where Cathey Armillas, creator of the “How To ROCK a TED Talk' program came into my life. We got in touch and we had an instant connection. We talked about so many different things and it was an incredible experience for me. It was just easy. Don’t get me wrong, there was work in it, but it had just a beautiful flow. 

Pick the right TEDx coach

I think that there is a lot of anxiety about TEDx or TED talks, and I really want to get that out of the way, because I've seen two different ways of having coaches:

  • those who script the whole thing with you and you need to practice it word by word
  • and Kathy, who believes that everyone has a TED talk within them

TED talks are all about spreading ideas, so if you want to do a TED talk, you have to have a good idea that you're sharing. According to Cathey, if you are doing a TED or a TEDx talk, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “If I was giving a talk on this topic, what would everybody expect me to say?”  Write those things down and you do not say them. Your TED talk should be unique. Your idea doesn't have to be unique, but the way you present it should, because nobody else has the same experience as you.

Biggest TEDx challenge

Cathey shares that one of the biggest challenges for a TED or a TEDx speaker is to bridge the gap between what they know and the audience. When you're an expert in something and you do something all the time, you get really geeky about it and you think about it more than anybody else does. This creates a blinder for you and you don't understand that 90% of what you know, people don't ever even think about.

So, when doing a TED talk, it is important to focus on one thing as opposed to pouring out all your knowledge. Because, at the end of the day, when you're done with a TED talk, you should change the way somebody thinks, acts, or feels. 

Doing a TED talk is an intense process. It's not tough but it's an intense process. You do need to question yourself, you need to “blank slate” yourself, and start from zero, reconsidering the whole topic. Doing all of this on your own can be extremely difficult for most people. So, having a coach can make all of this so much more simple and easier.

The worst thing you can do as a TED speaker

Cathay points out that one of the worst things you can do as a TED speaker is memorizing a script. According to her, you should internalize your talk and not memorize it. When you internalize it, and you know where your starting point is and what your destination is, you can get to that destination in many different ways. This allows you to connect and interact with your audience, and get them to that destination that you want.

People know when something is scripted because it's too perfect and they know that there's this big wall that you haven't broken through. It's better to be a less perfect version of you and be live with your audience than to be a perfect version of something that was written on a piece of paper.

Your TED talk idea

When you are doing a TED talk, you're always being vetted on your idea. Your idea has to be something that you never really talked about before. Some TED events vet differently than others.

  • Some figure out the topics that they want first and then they go out and find amazing people who do those things
  • Others allow people to submit their ideas,  and then they decide if it goes with their theme.

So, if you want to to a TED talk, look at the TED and TEDx events that are around you, look at their past videos, do your research because you should be vetting them as much as they're vetting you.

Congratulations, you booked your TED talk

Once you book your TED talk, you need to present your idea in the best possible way, you have to find the best way to hold this idea in light. One of the things that Cathey loves as a coach is that she gets to work with a whole bunch of people doing a whole bunch of really cool things in various countries, various industries and there's no cookie-cutter way to anything.

  • Is your idea something that the audience won't understand?
  • Do you have to lead them along the way first?
  • Is it something they've heard a million times and you have to say something shocking in the beginning?

With TED talks, you have your audience and there's a whole array of thoughts and beliefs and yet you have to make it universal, you have to think about everybody in your audience.

The cool factor

One thing that Cathey puts a huge emphasis on is what she calls a “cool factor”. Don't do something that you think is cool because you think it's cool. Some people do some really cool things and it works, but you definitely have to check yourself and make sure that is something that it’s really going to work and not just you trying to be really cool. 

Hopefully, this has been helpful to any of you who are thinking about doing your own TED or TEDx talk and if you are interested in connecting with Cathey, you can do so by visiting her website, Linkedin and Instagram.

- Christine
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