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TED conference coach Gina Barnett offers public speaking tips

03/18/2015 11:57 EDT | Updated 05/18/2015 05:59 EDT
When TED presenters get on stage, they aren't alone. They have help form Gina Barnett, a communications coach who prepares them to convey their big idea.

The TED conference is currently underway in Vancouver. It features speakers from around the world giving brief presentations on a variety of topics that are then broadcast to millions of viewers via the TED Talks website.

Presenters are under a lot of pressure, but Barnett helps them present their ideas on stage. Barnett is also the author of the forthcoming book Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success.

"These people are brilliant — most of them are doing deep, profound life work to make the world better and I just want them to get the message out," says Barnett.

Her most key message to speakers is to connect with their audience. For many, that means taking highly technical content and making it accessible to the general public.

It also means finding a way to look and feel comfortable on stage.

Here are her top tips for any presenter:

Be yourself
This can be difficult when your body is hijacked by adrenaline, which can cause tightness in the throat, sweating, and dry mouth. Find ways to mitigate that adrenaline rush, like relaxation exercises and positive self-talk.

Practice
Practice will enable you to be more comfortable with your material, so if you do slip up, it will be easier to pick up where you left off.

Get the right kind of feedback
Make sure the feedback you're getting is constructive and offers advice, not just criticism.

Listen to your audience
Be truly present on stage so you can connect with your audience. Being familiar with your material through practice will help. Make eye contact and try to be in the moment.

Barnett says the work she does with presenters essentially boils down to making them feel comfortable and getting them to enjoy the process.

"One of the things we talk about and really encourage people to do is think of it as a talk and not a speech," she says.

As for Barnett herself when it comes to the big day, that's a whole different matter.

"I'm a mess — all the tension that I've asked them to leave their body goes into mine," 

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: The coach behind the TED Conference speakers

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