In his 2013 TEDxWilmington talk, “Why the Millennial Generation Isn’t Broken,” financial advisor and futurist Jim Lee describes people between the ages of 16 and 36 as a, “somewhat economically challenged generation.” As a rule, they live at home, do not buy cars, are not getting married until their late 20s, and in many cases, are not having children until their mid- to late 30s.
Clocking in at about six minutes, Jim’s TEDxWilmington talk video has been viewed more than 11,900 times as of May 28, 2017.
As easy as Jim makes it look, giving a TEDx talk is a daunting experience, often requiring months of preparation and having to meet the stringent deadlines enforced by the organizer.
“After I learned of my acceptance as a speaker, I had about three months to prepare,” says Jim. “It was my entire focus. I talked to myself a lot, and also to imaginary audiences. I’d talk to anyone who would listen to me, basically.”
The TEDx talk is a unique format from what traditional speakers are used to. It’s just you, alone, in the center of a circular red carpet.
“There aren’t any crutches,” Jim says. “There’s no script, no podium, and no one else on stage — just you. It’s a bit harder than just going in front of a casual audience, because you have a concise, memorized message to convey within a certain time, and again, it’s just you up there.”
Jim describes his initial feeling when walking to his spot onstage as “panic meeting preparation.” During rehearsal, there had been technical difficulties.
“The theater was working out some sound issues,” Jim says, “so as prepared as I felt I was, I knew I might need to improvise. The battery in the PowerPoint remote was dying. There had been speakers earlier in the day who were almost brought to tears because of it. You’ll see during the course of my presentation that I’m pointing at the sky with my remote, trying to get a good connection.”
Jim recommends that speakers keep their talks as short and memorable as possible.
“One of the lessons I learned when I was preparing for my speech is that if you don’t remember what you’re supposed to say, then no one else will remember it, either,” he says. “I was inclined to keep cutting out sentences and refining until I had something that was really tight and solid.”
Other lessons Jim learned were:
• How to use his hands while speaking, and how to stand with his feet a little bit wider than usual for extra stability and confidence.
• That it helped to annotate his script to remind him where to include pauses and which words to emphasize.
After his TEDx talk, and in the months after his video was approved by TED and posted on YouTube, opportunity came knocking.
“For one thing, there was a lot of local recognition,” Jim says. “I subsequently was invited to speak, and have the travel costs covered, at engagements in Hawaii and Australia, which was amazing. The TEDx video gives you almost a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, proving you can speak as a credible authority, in front of a crowd.”
Jim Lee is the founder of Strategic Foresight Investments (StratFi) and Delaware’s only professional futurist.