Timing is Everything

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For many speakers, even great speakers, one of the biggest challenges of speaking at TED is the length. Now they've changed the link requirements over the year currently, as this is produced, the maximum length of a speech at TED is 18 minutes. Why people have trouble with that they're used to speaking for a full hour or two hours or a training for a day. So a part of what you have to do if you're going to be a dead speaker is you've got to have the discipline of figuring out what's most important, and what you can deliver in 80 minutes because you can't just speak faster, that's not going to cut it. You can't cram more facts into a PowerPoint slide because it's highly unlikely they're going to let you use a PowerPoint slide and if they did let you you wouldn't want to because that's horrible way to run a presentation.

You've got to make the most with the time you have if Lincoln is getting Birgit dress can make one of the most memorable speeches ever in just a couple of minutes, two to three minutes, then you need to be able to figure out how to communicate in 18 minutes. Now, sometimes they have even greater restrictions on time, they may tell you, your maximum is 14 minutes, it could be even less. Don't complain. Don't whine. Don't say yes. And think Well, once I get up there, they won't pull me off.

It doesn't work like that you need to plan accordingly. And what that means is you have to be a better editor. As Mark Twain once said, I'm sorry I wrote you a long letter. I didn't have time to write you a short letter. It's actually harder for most people to give a good 18 minute speech than it is to give an hour speech for an hour. You can be less disciplined.

You could sort of meander around, you can kind of go with the flow. You can be inspired with 80 minutes. You've got to have a plan and you Got to stick with that plan. And that means you don't have extra time. Now, here's the thing. Some of you think, well, 18 minutes, I've done that, here's my speech, I read it silently and it was only 17 and a half minutes, I'm in good shape now.

People read silently, much faster than they read out loud. And you read much faster out loud to yourself in a room standing in one place than you do when you are walking around, pausing and looking at people. So in order to get your time, right, you're going to have to practice your speech in front of live audiences. And if you're just practicing with yourself for one or two colleagues, if you're trying to hit that 18 minute mark, I wouldn't go more than about 16 and a half minutes if you're practicing in a small room with just one person because it will take you more time you'll pause more when you're giving the actual speech in a large room, you pause. You need that pause to sort of drift out across the room let people reflect on what you've said, you hit a really important point or you ask a rhetorical question.

Your paws will be longer in a larger room, so it will take you more time to give your speech. Ted takes this very seriously. And I commend them for it. There are a lot of people in the world who have good stuff have good content, but they just go on and on and on forever. And Tad does not really want to have someone with a big stick or a cane to jerk you off after 30 minutes. So they do a really good job of managing expectations before you get on that stage.

When they say 18 minutes, they mean it. If they give you less time than that they move It that means more preparation on your side. It means more rehearsal. It means more editing. I don't mean you have to memorize every single thing and know where you are by the second as your speech is progressing. But you are going to have to take certain message points that you are going to remove certain stories that maybe people love when you give your speech normally for 45 minutes or an hour.

You've got to really get people your best stuff. Now the way to figure out what that is, quite often is to speak regularly, and ask every audience you ever speak to. What did you like about my speech? What did you like about my presentation? This is a tip. All great speakers do and that is, after you've given a speech, it could be at a university, a conference, a meeting.

If you're talking to more than 10 people, someone's likely to walk up to you and say, Hey, great speech today. Don't just say Oh, Thanks a lot glad you enjoyed it and walk off. Say thank you tell me, what do you remember what stood out? I do that all the time. And if someone says, well, TJ, your speech was just great. It was fantastic.

You're full of energy and passion, you're a real pro. If someone tells me that, then I know my speech was a complete utter failure. I don't want people commenting on my style. I want them remembering the very, very specific message points. I want them remembering those stories, because that's what sticks with people. The fact that they thought you were professional or you didn't seem nervous, who cares about that?

You've got to get your audience to remember your key idea. So what great speakers do is they use every single speech as a mini focus group, the audience from that speech to make their next speech a little bit better. So let's say you have a topic That you speak on quite often and you normally speak for an hour. If you give that speech a dozen times a year, and you consistently ask people, what do they remember, there's probably going to be a huge overlap a couple of stories or a couple of points. That's what you're going to use for your TED Talk. When you're giving your TED Talk, that's not the time to try new stuff.

This is not amateur hour. Those of you old enough to remember you get on Ed Sullivan. That's not the time you try a new song for the first time. That's the time you play your absolute best song that you've played and you've rehearsed and you know, it's great. You want to give your best stuff out because your audience could be huge. Now, not every Ted speech is a huge audience winner, but there are a lot of TED speakers on arcane subjects who are Have a million views on their YouTube channel alone, that doesn't count all the other places, the speech may show up.

So it could be the largest audience of your life. Even if you're on TV a lot, it could be the largest audience really listening to you for a sustained period of time and not just a soundbite on the evening news that may have millions of views. So that's why it's important to really make sure you have your best stuff. And you're essentially the producer of the show. Yes, Ted is the producer. But you're a part of this, you're at least a co producer.

So you've got to come in and have your content at the set period of time. It's not like a news crew coming, shooting your whole speech and then figuring out what the best parts are for the evening news. You don't want to have to be edited. You want your whole speech for beginning, middle and end to be watched. You want To stand on its own, you want to make sense. You want to move people, you want them on the edge of their chair, the edge of their couch, watching you throughout the whole speech.

And that's part of the beauty of having the speech for 18 minutes. It's simply harder to bore people and to lose them speaking for 18 minutes versus for two hours. Now it is possible to bore people after 18 minutes, it's possible to bore people after 30 seconds. So it's not something that cures all the ills you can't say Well, I know I'm kind of boring and tedious but it's only for 18 minutes. Remember, most of the people watching your speech or not they're in the room live watching you on Ted. They are watching you online.

And we all know how online attention spans are people can sometimes tune out after two seconds. There are plenty of website my own websites I'm lucky that people stay longer than 90 seconds on my website, so to actually capture someone and hold their attention for even 10 minutes, much less 18 minutes is a huge accomplishment. So you've got to make every second count. 18 minutes is actually an incredibly long time. When you're going at with from the mentality of every second counting, that's why you don't see speakers start off with. Well, good morning.

I'm so happy to be here. That's such a great honor to be here at TED. I watch all the TED speakers and I'm a huge fan. It's been a lifelong goal to speak at TED and, you know, thank you for that wonderful introduction. I didn't deserve Oh, boring. Cut it out.

Get rid of it. Start, not necessarily by being funny. Start not by necessarily being dramatic, but start your speech by saying something interesting. That's important to your audience. So that's another way this discipline of having 18 minutes is very, very helpful. Because most speakers even get speakers that go through all this boilerplate nonsense before they start their speech.

You don't have time for that. You gotta hop right in, deliver something valuable engage people, in gross them, right from the beginning, the first second or the first few seconds, you need to hook people because you're saying something interesting. And you're distinguishing yourself from all the normal horrible speakers they see everyplace else in life. So 80 minutes or less. It's all the time in the world if you make every second count,

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