We had TEDx Clapham curator Alex Merry on our stage this month. Enjoy Alex’s words of wisdom and let us know as soon as you land you FIRST or NEXT game-changing speaking gig.

Alex Merry:

Want to share your story on stage? Think again!

Last night I was invited to give a talk on what it takes to land a game-changing speaking gig and I spoke about why ‘I’d like to share my story because I think others will learn something from it,’ is the worst way you could answer the question: What would you like to speak about?

Ironically it is also the most common talk topic I get pitched when people apply to speak at TEDxClapham.

Now don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why.

Storytelling has become somewhat of a buzzword over the last few years, particularly in the start-up world.

‘Telling your story will help you create life-long fans that buy into you and your brand,’ they say. Sure, I agree with that. The ability to tell a story in the speaking world is incredibly important too. When told properly they bring speeches to life and often they are what we remember long after the speaker has left the stage.

The problem is people have completely misinterpreted this and as a result, they are wasting the major speaking opportunities that they are trying to bag.

Let me give you two reasons why in the context of the TEDx talks for example:

1. Their slogan is ideas worth spreading, not interesting people worth hearing about.

2. Personal stories mean everything to the person telling them, but very little to the audience hearing them.

Now you might be reading this and thinking, but I’m sure I’ve seen people tell their stories on TED and TEDx.

Ok, let’s take the three most watched talks of all time:

First up, Ken Robinsons’s talk on schools killing creativity. Stripped down, his talk consists of three stories that bring his idea to life. None of those stories are about him. Sure, he was in them, but only as an onlooker. Come to the end of the talk, while we might feel like he could be our best friend, we know very little about him.

Second up, Amy Cuddy’s talk on how body language shapes who you are. 90% of this talk is based on the research that supports her idea. Does Amy tell a story about herself? Yes. It lasts 2 minutes and it brings her idea to life. Do we remember her story after the talk? No (I just had to rewatch the talk to see if she did talk about herself at all), but we do remember her idea: don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it.

Thirdly, Simon Sinek’s talk on how leaders inspire action. He tells a story about Apple, Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers. We learn absolutely nothing about the man behind the talk.

The bottom line is this: telling your own story doesn’t require you to think and everyone has one. That is why it will never enough to convince an event organiser to give you a speaking slot on the major stage.

You need to focus on developing an idea; something that changes how people see your world. It needs to educate an audience, solve a problem and most importantly of all have the potential to create a lasting legacy.

Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? Anything worth doing normally is. Connect with Alex here or join us at one of our Speaker Training evenings here.