by Samuel Osho | Feb 25, 2019 | Writing
The 10 Best TED Talks for Writers
The evolution of TED over the years is a true testament to the potency of compelling stories. These stories are birthed from daily interactions with ideas, people and places. TED has not only provided a platform for storytellers to share ideas worth spreading, but it has also created an open library of intellectual resources.
From its humble beginning in 1984, TED has evolved from a conference limited to topics on Technology, Entertainment, and Design to a wide range of issues – from governance to healthcare to business to psychology – in more than 100 languages. However, these short but powerful talks have served as a tool of change in influencing, educating and transforming the psyche of an unending audience.
In this vast library of insightful speeches, you will find stories that tickle your fancy as a writer. I have carefully rummaged through the endless stack of talks and searched for ones that will appeal to writers and authors. These talks are a blend of practical ideas and instructive insights.
Let’s take a look at my curated list of TED talks for writers.
My 10 Best TED Talks for Writers
The best-selling author of 2016 memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the awkward things we expect from creative minds – artists, writers, and geniuses. Gilbert’s story hinges on the overwhelming burden of innovative minds – staying creative and consistently churning out incredible works. The talk was topped off with a deliberate demystification of the sacredness attached to “being a genius,” showing that every human has a genius in them.
In this humorous talk, American writer Anne Lamott ponders on the timeless lessons she has learnt in her 61 years of existence. It is a bouquet of wisdom that equips your soul with inspiring insights on family, writing, death, the meaning of God, grace and what it means to be human in a chaotic world full of uncertainties.
Oscar-winning American filmmaker Andrew Stanton knows a lot about great stories and how to tell them, evident in the creation of “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” and “WALL-E.” His engaging talk is a map that shows you the path from the end to the beginning of compelling stories.
In a fast-paced world where charismatic and extroverted individuals usually take the front seats, it can be severe and daunting for introverts to be comfortable in their skins. However, in this exciting talk, Susan Cain extols the power of introversion while reflecting on how a massive chunk of creative minds – artists and writers happen to be introverts.
In a world of convoluted stories about Africa, award-winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie exposed the precariousness associated with believing a single story about a person, a country, and a continent. She told the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice as a writer while reading the works of other great writers. Adichie canvasses for well-rounded stories that have the power to heal our world and make it a paradise.
In this hilarious talk, writer and blogger Tim Urban shares about his ongoing struggles with procrastination including the adventures and the hard truths. He explores the logic behind procrastination and why the buzz of deadlines seems to suddenly reawaken a procrastinator’s dormant energy to complete tasks. While he is yet to find a solution for his chronic procrastination, his journey challenges us to think deeply about why it’s easy for us to embrace procrastination.
“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” – Lisa See
American psychologist and author Adam Grant delves into the unique traits of creative people and how they come up with great ideas. Grant shares his studies on “originals” – innovative minds who take responsibility for the ownership and actualization of their ideas. In this talk, you will be exposed to three unique habits of originals.
In the search for creativity, writers and artists go through pains, self-doubts, and fears. American novelist Amy Tan gives an in-depth analysis of the creative process while sharing her personal encounters with sheer serendipity on seemingly normal days.
Chicago-based Nigerian writer Luvvie Ajayi chronicles her fights with her phobias – from going on a solo vacation to swimming with dolphins to jumping out of a plane. The “professional troublemaker” talks about her rise to stardom as a blogger in the parlance of speaking truth to power. In her inspiring talk, Ajayi shares three questions to ask yourself if you are afraid of speaking up or keeping quiet.
American author of six novels, John Dufresne, delves into the art of storytelling in a way that appeals to fiction writers. The talk is a trip inside a writer’s mind and how a compelling story is created. Dufresne took his audience by the hands and showed them how to create a masterpiece that everyone wants to read and listen to. In fact, if you listen to this speech, you will be half-way into the completion of your short story.
In conclusion, writing is both a craft and a form of art. You can learn to be better both in honing your creative and imaginative skills. I hope you found my curated list inspiring and full of practical tips that you can start using straight away in your writing engagements.
Perhaps, I have omitted your favorite TED talk for writers, kindly drop a note in the comment section below stating your favorite talk.
I’d love to check them out!
by Samuel Osho | Nov 27, 2017 | Personal Development, Speaking
Five Effective Ways To Overcome Stage Fright
Get it right! It is normal for you to feel a gust of nervousness whenever you are called upon to speak in public. Do you hear the bumbling of butterflies in your stomach whenever you hold the microphone? It shows that you are human and a complete human being with a functional nervous system.
This reminds me of a line from American humorist, Mark Twain: “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” This quote posits that all speakers are nervous or liars – meaning that the liars behave as if the nervousness is non-existent.
If you are observant, you will notice that this nervous feeling also shows up when you are about to write an exam, talk to your boss, or ask a girl out. This feeling of fear is the result of a rush of adrenaline delivered to the body in a bid to successfully accomplish the task at hand.
The point is that nervousness is more physiological than psychological; it starts from the physiological point (heart rate, sweating, and so forth) before it leads to the psychological effects of feeling upset and nervous. I advise you to see fear as a normal physiological stimulus.
It is as simple as your body trying to help you, and it is your reaction to the help that will determine the result you get. What do you do with it? The most sensible step is to use it to your advantage. Don’t let the sudden surge of adrenaline toss you into the depths of nervousness. Instead, use it as the springboard to soar to the heights of impeccable delivery. It all depends on you. You can direct the surge into a profitable channel.
American public speaking instructor, Dale Carnegie, has a string of comforting words for you:
“The ability to conquer nervousness and speak with self-confidence is not difficult to acquire. It is not a gift bestowed by Providence on only a few rarely endowed individuals. Everyone can develop his own latent capacity if he has sufficient desire to do so.”
Having understood the physiological origin of nervousness and its psychological capability, we can explore ways of overcoming it. In agreement with the words of Carnegie, be fully aware that the power to defeat nervousness resides in you. I’ll share with you some practical and sure ways of using the natural adrenaline surge to your advantage.
Be prepared. If you go to the venue two hours ahead of the speaking engagement but with an empty head, you might end up not getting good results. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. German artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, sums it up this way: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
Preparation is vital in public speaking and shows that you respect your audience. You don’t want them to go home empty handed without something new to hold on to.
Preparation Makes You Bold
Boldness comes naturally when you know what you want to talk about. I have seen folks preach a wonderful message from the pulpit in church and then later, have seen them stammer at a public discourse. This is because they felt confident and sound in the church message but knew next to nothing about the topic up for discussion at the public discourse. American author, Michael Mescon, emphasized the connection between stage fright and knowledge in a profound way: “Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you are talking about.”
Preparation entails doing elaborate research on the main subject of your speech by studying volumes of materials that can increase your knowledge. This usually includes reviewing potentially relevant quotations, statistics, biographical data, and transcripts. Be sure to separate facts from your opinions and ensure that the information is current and related to your topic.
Preparation Involves Background Check
Get your materials ready in advance, ranging from your visual aids to projectors (if any) to your index cards. The stage of preparation is very crucial and is synonymous with having a critical analysis of all the factors that can make your speech a success. If you’re not prepared and do not know what to talk about, you have just opened yourself to nervousness and it will enslave you until your time lapses.
Find out how many people will be speaking at the event. Will you be the first person to break the ice? Or will you be the last person to mount the podium after five other speakers? Check out the program for the speakers beforehand.
Ask yourself what you can do to get the attention of the audience, even if they are close to complete exhaustion, such as when you are the last speaker. Making a joke about being last can help ease the tension.
Find out how much time will be allotted to your speech. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, once said, “If I am given six hours to cut down a tree, I will use four to sharpen the ax head.” I hope you get the message. Preparation can never be overemphasized. Preparation of what to say and how to say it brings out the best in you.
“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you are talking about.” – Michael Mescon
Even the pros practise and you should practise your speech too. I was surprised when I saw the picture of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo on Facebook training on the pitch of the Santiago Bernabeu just the day following the glamorous win of his third FIFA Ballon D’Or, as the Best Footballer in the world in January 2015. He had just won an illustrious individual award yet he was back on the pitch practicing the next day.
American communicator, Somers White, insisted that the success of a speech is determined long before the speaker mounts the podium, “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the Speaker steps on the platform.”
In his illuminating book, How To Develop Self-confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie revealed how some famous speakers prepared for their speeches.
“Lloyd George, when he was a member of a debating society in his hometown in Wales, often strolled along the lanes, talking and gesturing to the trees and fence posts. Lincoln, in his younger days, often walked a round trip of thirty or forty miles to hear a famous speaker like Breckenridge. He came home from these scenes so stirred, so determined to be a speaker that he gathered the other hired workers about him in the fields and, mounting a stump, he made speeches and told them stories.”
Practise, practise, and practise! Practising is a sure antidote to your spell of nervousness. Just like Lloyd George, you can talk to the trees in your backyard and make gestures at the pedestrian lights on the walkway while going to work. Absorb the material as much as you can. You can even rehearse in front of your family members or close friends. Whenever possible, practise with the podium or a platform you are likely to use for the live delivery of your speech – this goes a long way to prepare your subconscious mind for the work at hand. Imagine yourself giving the speech and act it out.
3. Make Your Audience a Circle of Friends
Be early. Punctuality is the soul of business—perhaps the soul of public speaking too. In my first days of public speaking, I would go early to the venue and make friends. It is easier to speak with a group of friends than with a band of strangers. You feel comfortable and more at home while talking with them. This is a helpful pointer for starters in the industry of public speaking.
Going early to the event will remove any surprise that you might possibly encounter. It helps you understand your audience, and adjust beforehand if adjustment is needed in your speech to suit their social class or literacy level. Arriving early will also help you to have a feel of the platform/podium as you envision yourself standing there, ready to give your speech.
This rule has saved me several times because the audience often related to me as a part of them because I was yet to be introduced. Later on, when you are weaned from the fangs of stage fright and nervousness, you might not need to do this anymore.
In December 2012, as an intern in Schlumberger Nigeria, I knew I had to give a presentation on a tool to a group of field engineers and specialists. They were experts and they were also my managers. I had all the excuses in the world to panic and be nervous.
Having prepared well for the presentation, I stepped out to face the audience, about sixty people in number. I started changing gazes and speaking to every area of the room when I noticed a man sitting in the second row of the middle column. What caught my attention was the decorous smile which painted his face creating lovely ridges and contours.
Whenever I was about to succumb to the monster of nervousness, I would look at his face and strength would surge through me. This was when I discovered the power of a smiling face and how far it could go in boosting your confidence.
You’ll always have one person with a smiling face in the audience who is interested in your speech. Locate that light and harness the energy for your use. It is like getting a cookie at the beginning of the speech, and you delicately munch on it until the very last word.
5. Relax and Speak Like a King
Speeding through your speech is likely to accentuate your nervousness. Don’t be in a rush to start your speech. Take a deep breath and let the rays of your eyes acclimatize with the eyeballs of your audience.
Relax and speak like a King and a Queen, like that special person they have been waiting for. Whenever I take a deep breath, it is tantamount to letting out the wind of nervousness and mounting the wings of confidence.
Finally, if these methods are practically applied, then your stage fright and nervousness will be a thing of the past. I have used these methods and they have been of tremendous help, especially when I am to engage an entirely new audience.
It is your turn to share with me. I am curious! How did you overcome stage fright? Have you tried any of these five ways in the past?