Our TEDxNYU Journey: Behind the Scenes & Step by Step Guide to Preparing for a TEDx Talk

This blog post will outline how my partner (Lea Roth) and I (Nastassja Schmiedt) prepared to give our talk “The Millennial Mindset Can Save the World” at TEDxNYU in April of 2017. I have included the actual talk 🙂 This post should be helpful for anyone who is preparing to give a TED talk / a similar big speech, or for anyone who just loves TED talks and is curious about the inner workings and behind the scenes! I tried to put together all the information I would have wanted to know before my first TEDx talk – so let me know if there is anything I’m missing or any other questions you might have in the comments below!

Just to answer some FAQs about TEDx right off the bat – TED Talks are influential shortform free videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, tech and creativity (we were invited to speak as the founders of Spring Up , our multimedia social enterprise cultivating a culture of consent and liberty for all). TEDx are independently organized events that follow the same structure and are officially recognized by TED but are not organized by TED itself. Each TEDx event is themed, for example TEDxNYU 2017 was themed “On The Brink” and each speaker’s talk addresses or responds to this event prompt.

We had actually given a TEDx talk 6 months before at TEDxWashingtonSquare (you can check out our last TEDx talk here), so we really thought about how we wanted to prepare and about the steps we took to get ready to give our second TEDx talk.

We skyped with the other TEDxNYU speakers and a writing coach (the lovely Lorelei Ormrod) for a few months talking about the events theme: On the Brink, and we became a community – giving each other feedback on drafts and brainstorming our thoughts on innovation and precarity. It was interesting to compare this coaching experience to our last experience receiving coaching and feedback on how to present and deliver our talk.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide that synthesizes everything we learned from being coached by experts and giving two TEDx Talks, download our “TED Talk Roadmap”. When you sign up an email will show up in your inbox with the resource! TED talks all follow a certain style of presenting information, and if you know the blueprint you can outline and then write a really compelling talk yourself.

DOWNLOAD THE TED TALK ROADMAP

By the week of the event each speaker’s talks had truly transformed – we personally had 9 completely separate drafts of our talk to finally get to the one we used – and the group’s ideas organically built on one another. While at first the idea of “On the Brink” was pretty scary for most of us – a moment of isolation, fear, and pressure – it became the space where breakthroughs and wisdom are held – a crucible as our fellow speaker Hannah Donovan put it in her talk. Since we were in Miami, not New York, we skyped in to each meeting, so we were so excited to finally be there, meet everyone in person, and see how the talks came out!

 

OUR TEDxNYU JOURNEY

Now we will dive into the preparations necessary in the critical moments leading up to a TEDx talk. Our trip started with a red eye flight from Miami to New Jersey – we stayed with a friend who lives in New Jersey just next to the ferry over to NYC. We flew in on Thursday morning for a talk on Saturday. Most people already live in the location where they will be giving a TEDx talk, but that is not always the case.

When we got to our friend’s apartment in New Jersey we were wowed by a gorgeous view of New York City – who knew New Jersey could be this nice?

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We immediately got to practicing our lines. That is definitely the key – practice, practice, practice. Your talk should feel like second nature to you.

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Then we took a much needed nap after pulling an all nighter preparing for the trip. Like I said – you should basically be able to give this talk in your sleep. We hand wrote index cards with our lines (writing by hand helps you memorize your lines – this is particularly important for us because with two speakers we need to have the right vocal cues for the other person to chime in).

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We woke up to a lovely dinner and conversation with the team at Design Angels of America. Quick plug – we are on the board of this fantastic organization that is in development. Design Angels uses evidence based design to create more holistic housing for youth (especially LGBTQ &  POC) experiencing housing instability and homelessness.

The next morning was the day before our talk! ahhhh! We woke up to some more awesome surprises – a beautiful and delicious breakfast (Thanks Leslie!!)….

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….& my new shoes had arrived in the mail! We reference a story about special shoes in our talk, and these are my special future freedom shoes – they were even cooler in person than they seemed online! Having one or two things that help you feel confident is a really great boost for your talk – you want to look and feel awesome. My ritual is to get a new pair of shoes (I got a great pair of black flatforms before our last talk).

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We packed up and got ready to head into the city – NYU got us a hotel room in the city for the night before so we could be close by and focus on preparations. Before we left the apartment we practiced a few more times and took some photos 🙂 Another pro-tip, while its easy to get super caught up in all the preparations, take some time to document this experience – you will be grateful later because you want to remember everything that happened!

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We took the ferry over to the city, and then stopped to get some flowers – it will become evident why this was so important for our talk!

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Beautiful right? Shout out to Fleurs Bella for having fantastic customer service and beautiful flowers 🙂 Its literally like a magical secret garden inside – plus super bonus for there being two friendly and gorgeous dogs inside! (not sure if they are always there, or just customers dogs, but it definitely added to the wonderland experience).

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We rehearsed our lines a few more times – including skyping some friends / family for rehearsal and feedback once we got to the hotel. The big insight from skyping the night before was that we knew our lines and that we needed to loosen up. Realizing that we didn’t need to get every single word perfect helped us feel more comfortable and helped our talk seem more conversational.

Then – sneak preview! – we set up our clothes for the next day’s talk in this snazzy closet that has an automatic light when you open the door lol. For our last talk we went for a more professional or business casual look like most people do for their TEDx talks, but this time we went for a more chill athleisure look that aligned with our Millennial topic.

I also got this awesome nail polish that matched the shoes – the color looks like gold from the outside, but it’s actually rose gold like my shoes so I was pleasantly surprised when I put it on.

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Then – going with the Millennial theme of our talk- we decided to Netflix and chill. We watched “Abstract,” the Netflix original documentary series about design… would definitely recommend it!

Finally, before going to bed we did a practice round (or two) of Lea’s crown braid to make sure it would look right. We decided to leave it in overnight with a little cap thinking it might actually help with the slightly worn look & maybe even get it to stick down to their head a bit more (FYI- we were right! It looked even better the next morning).

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You want to have as much of the prep ready the night before because the morning of the event is a huge rush and a lot of things can get lost in the moment.

THE DAY OF THE TALK 

It was finally the morning of our TEDx talk. We were excited and nervous – due to some scheduling miscommunications we weren’t sure when we were going to be speaking in the line up, so we wanted to get there as early as possible for dress rehearsal.

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We put our kicks on and headed out into the world!

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Once we arrived it all finally felt real – we put the flowers in our hair and did our dress rehearsal.

We had a lovely group of friends who came to watch our talk, so we greeted them and pretty soon it was time for the event to start! Pro-tip: having friends/family attending makes you feel way more supported and ready. Try to invite them as far in advance as you can so they get tickets quickly when tickets open for sale and can make sure they clear their schedule since it is usually an all day event (also try to get some comp tickets from the organizers).

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Wazina Zondon started off the day with a fantastic talk entitled “Breaking Into Unconventional Spaces” about language and the similarities and differences between coming out as queer and Muslim (check it out here!)

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There were a few more awesome talks including Abby Lyall & Hamdan Azhar (which have not been posted yet.)

Finally it was time for our talk!!!! We were super nervous and psyched, but the audience was amazing and honestly it was over so fast! Its weird how months of preparation can be over in less than 15 minutes.  Pro-tip: make sure you ask your friends to take some photos of you on stage, it will most likely take a few months for the video of your talk to be posted and you will want some evidence that it actually happened!

Here is the description of our talk: “According to most science fiction, humanity’s future is bleak. As storytellers, Nastassja Schmiedt and Lea Roth know that what we imagine we are likely to create, so in this conversational and entertaining talk they share the three components of the millennial mindset we all need to build a future we actually want to live in.” Please let us know what you think in the comments section of the talk on youtube!!!

Then it was time for lunch – finally a chance to take a breath and catch up with our friends who came to support us.

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Pretty soon it was time for 4 more awesome talks, including Phillip Gladkov’s talk about his upcoming documentary “5” an in-depth walk through the full state of New York, Alejandro Crawford’s talk “The Lost Entrepreneurs” about nerdy kids stories and access to entrepreneurship, Hannah Donovan’s talk “Get on Your Brink” about leadership and the crucible as I mentioned before, and Jayeeta Basu’s talk about neuroscience and her research on alzheimer’s disease and PTSD at NYU’s Basu Lab (her talk has not posted yet either).

After the event ended we had some time to hang out with the other speakers and organizers, as well as take some photos with the TEDxNYU sign. Pro-tip: the other speakers are most likely awesome, you will want to connect with them! If you have a chance to chat at the event, great, but most of the time they have friends and family there too and its hard to have a real conversation; you should exchange information and try to plan to meet up and chat with them later or another day to develop this connection.

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Before everyone headed out we took a photo with our framily (friend fam) who came to the event – shout out to y’all 🙂 You made this experience so much more fun and made us feel really supported.

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Here’s a photo of all the speakers together:

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And here we are with the awesome TEDxNYU team – made up of some fantastic students plus Lorelei Ormrod, an NYU professor/our writing coach. The team did a great job putting this event together and supporting each of us in the development process. Quick shout out to president Nasrin Jafari – she is doing some really cool education work in New York & you can check out her work/blog here.

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We signed each other’s posters like it was the last day of highschool, and were giddy that it was over and had come out even better than we imagined!Collaborating with the team and other speakers was challenging but feedback improved everyone’s talk 150% and we all made each other better. That poster and the memory of this event is something we will treasure forever 🙂

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After the event we went to get some drinks & celebrate with friends. Pro-tip: You will want to celebrate after, so plan something in advance! We made a fb event to meet up at a pub nearby afterward to celebrate, that way people who couldn’t make it to the talk could still see us and join in the celebration fun.

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We had some great & intense conversations about sci fi, media, and representation. IMG_5414IMG_5417

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Afterward we stopped by our friends’ trendy downtown office for some deep convo & pizza. Although the TEDxNYU team had lunch for everyone, our adrenaline was pumping and we barely ate, so making sure we got some food was important.

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Lea had some visionary thoughts in this mod chair.

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Then we went up to the rooftop for the sunset & some lolz. IMG_5463IMG_5485

It was surprisingly cold…IMG_5469

At the end of the day we headed back to New Jersey to process and reflect. IMG_5538

We finally had a chance to open up our TEDxNYU goodie bag with these awesome gifts!IMG_5492

So that’s how we prepared for our TEDx talk and celebrated after! I hope this post was informative and helpful 🙂 good luck on whatever you are working on! Let me know in the comments if you have any follow up questions or if you have an awesome TEDx talk you think we should all check out.

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