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And this is what came out of our second round of coaching sessions with Jenifer:
A Spanish scientist / tech-preneur (Jenifer Clausell), a British innovator / professor /TEDx curator (Adam Montandon) and a Romanian speaker coach / business English trainer /marketer (yours truly) walk into a… video call.
They’re talking about an investor pitch that will make the Nordic startup scene remember the name Develop Diverse.
How did we all get here?
Jenifer started out as a scientist in cancer research. She noticed how the gender inequalities reflected from family life and society reflected into the work environment, even for highly educated women. used to be a scientist and researcher. She noticed how few women were working in her field, and decided to do something about it. She decided she couldn’t wait another hundred years for the gender gap to close on its own, so she started using her scientific research and tech skills in the field of cognitive gender studies and linguistics. This is how she founded her company Develop Diverse – currently a tech start-up helping companies build diverse and inclusive workplaces using Artificial Intelligence. More specifically, the tool is able to recognize gender, race and age bias in the language and images used across the company’s communication channels – including bias that is not immediately obvious, such as words subconsciously loaded with male / female, cultural or age-related values – and propose neutral alternatives.
Language that is not loaded with stereotypic terms, Jenifer says, can make everyone feel like they belong to that group.
Adam and I met Jenifer for the first time in the context of TEDxOdenseWomen, where Jenifer spoke about the impact of words on social and professional groups. We worked on her talk and it became a turning point for Jenifer as a speaker. A few months later, she became involved in the Katapult accelerator program in Oslo, where her “graduation” would consist of a series of pitches before various panels of investors. This is when we got in touch again.
And this is what came out of our second round of coaching sessions with Jenifer:
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“What we believe about the future determines our visions. And our visions determine our strategies, which again determine our actions.” says futurist Mette Sillesen in her TEDx talk from April 2018 in Odense, Denmark.
Mette has been working as a futurist since 2012, when she completed her Master’s degree in Innovation, Management, Marketing & Business Communication from Copenhagen Business School. She believes that technology can and will be used to enhance our spiritual side, and as a futurist as well as personally she is preoccupied with finding meaning as well as helping others in their search for meaning.
We felt this was a shared interest, so we talked to Mette about her speaking experiences, her preparation process, how she knows she’s reached the essence of an idea, and her views on what role public speaking is taking in society these days.
Speaking is not about delivering information, everyone can get all the information they need online. It’s about talking to the heart and your work in the world.
Ask yourself what is the one thing you want people to remember and what is the one thing they should do after your talk. Have a red thread through your talk, and make sure that everything you say is in support of your main point.
Mette’s preparation process
The “f*ck no” moment
Public speaking is becoming a profession. So we should do it professionally. Really know your content and know why you are standing there.
Everyone in the world has to take responsibility for giving people hope.
The TEDx talk High-Tech. High-Spirits that Mette is referring to in our conversation is here:
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The SCDiaries had a chat with 2018 TEDxOdense speaker Kay Xander Mellish. We kept it short and sweet and touched upon the fate of public speaking, then and now.
Kay is American-born and currently a dual US – Danish citizen, and has taken cultural awareness to a whole new level, as only a journalist can. Observant of seemingly unimportant habits and the cultural norms that are often taken for granted, Kay makes the best of both American and Danish humor and helps Danes and privileged immigrants understand each other better in their everyday working and social life.
Kay’s fourth book, Working with Americans: Tips for Danes is coming out this 4th of July. Coincidence? We think not 🙂
1. Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way: do you have stage fright?
I’ve done about 200 speeches and I still get a little bit nervous. But as soon as I get on stage I’m fine. I can give an impromptu speech about, say, vegetables – I’ll be totally cool as soon as I step up there.
2. Your worst fear when you’re about to do a talk?
That someone’s going to take me off the stage, ha ha. No, sometimes you get a non-responsive audience, usually because something’s happening in their lives that’s not connected to the speech at all. I spoke at one company just a couple of hours after it announced massive layoffs. They were a little down-in-the-mouth, but fortunately it was an upbeat speech, and later several audience members told me it had actually helped them take their mind off things.
3. Did you ever think you would become the successful speaker you are today?
No, the whole thing was an accident. The podcast lead to the book, and then someone who read the book asked if I could speak, and it all went from there.
4. First talk ever?
5. What do you like to have backstage?
At an event like TEDx, where you’re giving a unique talk for the first time – a room to block everything out.
6. How was TEDxOdense different from other events?
With a speech you’ve done repeatedly and refined over time, you can be on autopilot, you can hang out with everybody and watch your favourite movie when you’re backstage. By that point, your talk should be almost muscle memory – you shouldn’t be fine tuning it any more. But with a TEDx talk, a which was a unique and one-time speech, I needed full concentration.
7. The hardest thing about doing a TEDx talk?
Not being able to refine the material over time: it’s a one-time thing. Watching the talk again, I kept thinking I could have given the audience more time to laugh here, or slowed down a bit there – but I don’t get to do it again. One and done.
8. Best kind of help you can get while preparing a talk?
Feedback on content and style of delivery before the talk – what works, what doesn’t.
9. Do you find it easy to adapt your language to second-language speakers of English?
Yes, and I do this in my talks – I use shorter sentences, simpler structures, and much more direct humor. Verbal language is always more direct than written language. When I write though, I use whatever vocabulary I want; people can either skip over what they don’t get, or look it up.
10. And in Danish?
I give speeches in Danish, and that can be a bit frustrating – you stumble a bit, as everyone occasionally does in a second language, and it’s hard to time jokes and be spontaneous.
11. What should speakers be wary of?
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, especially because as a speaker you get feedback mostly on ideas, and not so much on your delivery. You need to resist the temptation to pull out the same PowerPoint you’ve been using for the last 10 (or even 2) years. It’s like when you see a woman doing her hair the same way she used to in 1995, and thinking that because it looked good then, it still looks good now. Your ideas need to develop and move with the times. I don’t even agree with everything I said 10 years ago.
12. What’s your dynamic with other speakers?
Backstage at TEDx there was a very nice atmosphere, because the speakers are not competitors. But whenever I see someone new in my field, I invite them for a cup of coffee and try and get to know them. A former employer of mine used to say “We have no competitors, only potential partners.” So I like to invite the people in my niche to not be competitors, but potential partners.
13. Your least favourite thing about being a speaker?
It takes a lot of sales, marketing, and admin work. At least 75% of the work of speaking isn’t done standing on a stage.
14. Your work priority number 1?
Writing. That’s how I develop the concepts and ideas that I can share through speaking.
15. Why do you think speaking is becoming a job?
It’s the flip side of the internet: we’re so fragmented each of us sitting alone with our machines at home, that it’s nice to have a live person standing there every now and then. People like to be in groups with people sharing the same interest.
16. Where do you see public speaking heading in the coming years?
It will be a form of the entertainment industry.
17. Being a journalist yourself, do you like being interviewed?
Love it! A good interviewer can pull something out of you that you didn’t know you had, and can make you see a new point of view.
Thank you, Kay!
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“The small overlap between what we want to create in the world, and what is within our power to create, is the space that designers look for.” Emilie Møllenbach, PhD, Product Design Lead at MobilePay, Denmark, finds meaning in the exploration of human behavior and looks at how insightful digital design can serve as a model for a more honest way to be human.
Insightful Design for Giving a Talk
At one point in our coaching process for TEDxOdenseWomen, I told Emilie that if I ever start a blog about speaker coaching, she would get her own chapter. So here it is.
Emilie, put very simply, flipped a switch in my head, with this one thing she said in one of our sessions: “We’re raised in a mindset of scarcity”, she said, “in the constant fear that there is not enough in the world for everyone, and that we are not enough. And it’s just not true.”
Emilie herself had started on her TEDx journey from a powerpoint of 52 slides, in which she had her ideas written down. During each of our sessions, almost every sentence was a new opportunity for a yet another talk. Yet another rabbit hole to go down.
Lots of explaining, an infinite supply of ideas and lots of trying to be clear enough, thorough enough, comprehensive enough and good enough for the audience. As I’m sure many of you know, having a mind bursting with ideas is both a blessing and a curse 🙂
By the end of her coaching process, Emilie had zero slides left, and one message that came shining through:
Wake up, on the morning of your talk, and know that you are enough. If you’ve been picked to give a talk on a particular subject, it must be for a reason. Do justice to this reason and stay true to who you are. You don’t really need your powerpoint slides, you don’t really need the perfect shirt, and you definitely don’t need to explain it to death.
You are enough.
What you stand for, your raison d’etre, is what your talk should be about, and how that can help others. And not much else.
Emilie’s pledge for a mindset of bounty rings in my head to this day, every time I talk to a speaker, a conference organizer, a session moderator, and really whenever the idea of giving is being discussed. There is infinite creativity in the world, so be generous with yours and share it with whoever is listening. More will flow.
You have enough. You are enough.
And that is the essence of insightful (talk) design.
Thank you, Emilie!
Find Emilie on LinkedIn.
*Image credits: Jonas Vester Legarth | TEDxOdenseWomen & Emilie Møllenbach
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