My TEDx Talk Transcription

Delusional Self Promotion: The Bridge from Ego to Empathy

If you’re a business communicator in the digital age, you know more than anybody how important it is today to connect with, and deliver real value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.


Unfortunately, this guy didn’t get the memo. You may have run into this guy during your business travels, and you soon realized that he wasn’t there to connect with you, no. The only thing he wanted to do is sell you something.

Now if you haven’t met somebody like this guy, I’m going to paint you a little picture. This is a true story, starring me.

So, I’m at this networking event. I have to admit, I’m not that comfortable networking. I’m an introvert, but I can do it when I need to, and I know how important it is. But it needs to be a comfortable thing, and this guy looked really friendly. So I summoned up all my courage and I went over to him, and I extended my hand.

His name tag said “Sam.”

“Hi Sam. How do you do? My name is Dana.” My handshake was firm and confident, like it’s supposed to be. But his handshake was like sticking your hand in a rock crusher, and he broke every bone in my hand. But he didn’t notice I was wincing because he wasn’t looking at me — he was looking through me, scanning the room for his next victim.

Well, this made me really uncomfortable, and I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go to the emergency room, actually. But instead, I stuck it out, and I decided to talk to him some more because I was fascinated by this point.

“So Sam, what do you do?” I remember him giving me some kind of 30 minute spiel. He didn’t talk about a product or service. He rather he talked about himself a lot. I smiled, and I nodded, and I seemed to be very interested, and I reflected back, “Oh yeah? How many? Yeah? Wow.” We exchanged business cards. Then I drew in some breath so I could tell him about me, and what I do. But before I could get the first word out, he turned and walked away. He walked away from me. From me! I was flabbergasted.

Don’t you know, like a few days later, I got an email from this guy addressed to, “Dear friend,” trying to sell me something. I hit the delete button so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

You know, if people like Sam treat people face-to-face the way he treated me during that awkward face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online where people like this have access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push themselves out everyday to potentially 10,000 people or more. When he’s really hyped up, he blasts email into your inbox, which forces you to hit delete, delete, delete, which could lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and not a little bit of loss of faith in the future of humanity.

You see Sam, which rhymes with spam, is a taker. He doesn’t give back. He talks, blah, blah, blah. He doesn’t listen. The only thing Sam is interested is in advancing his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being or just a means to an end maybe.

I’ve pondered this kind of behavior over the years, he’s not the only one. There are other people like him. I wonder, do people like that stay in business? Did he even have any customers who weren’t friends or relatives? I see it all the time. There are so many people who go into business, and all they talk about is themselves. Blah, blah, blah.

But I’m going to give him some slack. This is what people are taught. They’re taught that aggressive self-promotion is the way you’re supposed to grow a business. But you see, that’s old school thinking. Times have changed. Of course with every change, there is a little bit of chaos, some confusion, and a whole new set of challenges.

For example, there is more noise circling the globe than there has ever been in history. Yet we as business people still have to find a way to cut through that clutter and convey to people that we’re the best people to do business with. But we have to tread lightly because we don’t want to seem inauthentic.

Another challenge is it takes time, real time, to get people to know they can trust you. But the waiting makes us anxious. I mean, we have bills to pay, right? So we slip into default mode, which is shouting our promotional stuff from the rooftops again, 24/7, 365, “Me. Me. Me. Me.” It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey. If I can just shout loudly and often enough, customers are going to just jump right into my lap.” But the harsh reality is today’s consumer is immune to that, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If you really want to attract attention to yourself in this digital age, you’ve got to think and communicate in a whole new way. It might seem counter-intuitive, but believe me, it is so much more effective for achieving your business goals.

Now I don’t … I hate to be the one to say this. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t want to sound like the school yard bully, but you need to know — Nobody cares about you! But you know who they do care about? Themselves, right? It’s human, it’s natural. We’re built that way. We can’t help it, and we all think that we’re the center of our own universe.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be cared about, right? So now we’re thinking, “Well, how do I promote myself and have people care about me and show them that I care about them in return?” Well, here’s a little hint, something to think about; the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more people crave real, heart-felt human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not some faceless corporation. We decide if a business is trustworthy by how sharing its experts are, and how much we feel they care about us, and the community, and the world. That’s where the E-word comes in –empathy.

Demonstrating empathy is one of the most important ways to show people that you care. It’s about sharing, exchanging ideas, it’s about listening to them, it’s about understanding their pain, it’s about solving their problems, it’s about treating others better than you treat yourself. Don’t focus solely on yourself, you don’t have to do that. Just stop drinking your own cool aid, spit it out.

Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Make them laugh, tug at their heartstrings. Model for them how to lead safe, happy, healthy lives. Every time you can, tell a great story. Empathy and value are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age, and I have a vision that if we can all change our mindset away from “me, me, me” to “you, you, you”, fewer businesses will fail, and greater goodness will expand into the universe.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every business has to decide that, too. So let’s choose the light.

Hey Sam, are you listening?

Thank you.

To view this TEDx talk on YouTube, click here.

Rehearse Out Loud

Does this sound familiar? You’ve got a script to memorize. Your method is to do it line by line. When you’ve got the first sentence memorized, you move on to the next and commit it to memory. Then you recite sentences one and two together. When you feel like you know it, you move onto sentence three, and so on.

But you may be doing something that’s setting you back — you’re not reciting your lines out loud. You’re mumbling them, or saying them in your head, even when you’re alone.

Experienced speakers and actors memorize and rehearse their lines out loud. In fact, they read their scripts out loud, over and over again, before they begin the memorization process. While reading, they listen for opportunities to emphasize certain words or phrases, when short or long pauses would create the best effect, what gestures to use for special dramatic effect, and where they’ll move on stage.

This method is called “motor learning,” (a.k.a. “muscle memory.”) When you repeat movements and variations of voice over a period of time, they become etched into your brain and when you’re on stage the movements flow naturally.

Some people are reluctant to rehearse their scripts out loud because they’re self-conscious. They’re afraid of appearing odd to the other members of the household. Rehearsing out loud also attracts house pets. I used to be reluctant to say my lines while I was driving, too, because I didn’t want other drivers to think I was nuts.

When speaking experts reminded me of the importance of saying my lines out loud, I threw self-consciousness to the wind and let it all hang out. The family gets used to it and stops teasing you, the pets are barricaded by a closed door, and other drivers don’t even notice you. And if they did, so what?

Oh, the freedom! Being able to let go gives you the opportunity to be your true self on stage. What’s more, the memorization process becomes so much easier because the more you practice, the more the material becomes ingrained.


Why I’m a TEDx Junkie

One of the major thrills of coaching TEDx speakers is watching them blossom from the initial creation of an idea worth spreading to delivering a superstar talk on the big day.

Another thrill is being involved (as a volunteer) with the planning and execution of a TEDx event, It gives us the opportunity to become acquainted with all of the speakers. These are pretty impressive people — thought leaders, authors, industry experts, influencers, or even just regular people with powerful ideas to share. We bond like family and keep the connections going, primarily through Facebook, because our speakers come from places around the globe.

Wise people say that helping people, being of service in some small way, is a “high.” They’re right about that. For me and the many TEDx volunteers and speaker coaches around the world, it’s an addictive (but benign) experience.

One of my clients, Tony J. Selimi, traveled all the way from London to give his talk, which was entitled, “Technological Armageddon: A Wake-Up Call,” which was about how human consciousness needs to evolve quickly in order to create artificial intelligence that is a boon to humankind, not a threat. It’s truly disturbing how fast AI is developing and what dangers lie ahead if it is not created with the best of intentions.

Tony is a human behavioral and cognition expert internationally knowns as “The See-Through Coach.” He specializes in assisting people from all market sectors and professions find solutions to their personal, professional, and business problems so that they maximize their human potential. He supports them on their journey to achieve excellence in all of the key areas of life; spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, business, money, relationship and love. He gave me a signed copy of his book, “#Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age,” and I can’t put it down. Loneliness is one of the sad consequences of living in the digital world, but Tony shows the reader how to defeat loneliness and live a more happy, fulfilling life. He also wrote, “A Path to Wisdom,” which is next in my reading queue.

If you’re a TED junkie, as I am, I encourage you to contact your local TEDx organizers and offer to volunteer.

A TEDx Speaker’s Experience, featuring Jim Lee

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.”

Click here to view Jim’s talk.

Jim Lee is the founder of Strategic Foresight Investments (StratFi) and Delaware’s only professional futurist.