TEDx Talk is a worldwide known conference held to talk about “ideas worth sharing,” but is it really necessary to have or achieve? Well, if you want to be a speaker that gets results, then it definitely is! That is what we’re going to talk about in this episode with Joia Jefferson Nuri all about what TEDx Talk really is, why it matters, and how to get in it. Joia is an ICF Certified Executive Leadership and Public Speaking Coach. Tune in and make TEDx more than just a bucket list- make it an instrument to advance an advocacy with your message!
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Your TEDx Talk – Why It Matters With Joia Jefferson Nuri
Before we get into the conversation with Joia Jefferson Nuri, I want to invite you to see where your presentation skills are doing by taking our free assessment. In four minutes, you can find out how your presentation skills are strong and where you might need a little bit of support. That is at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That is where you get where you are and where you might need a little bit of support to get the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.
My guest is Joia Jefferson Nuri, who is an ICF-Certified Executive Leadership and Public Speaking Coach. She works with executives and senior leaders who want to overcome their fears, increase productivity, unleash their imagination, and build strategic plans for themselves and their companies. She began her leadership journey as the third Black woman hired as a Technician on NBC News Worldwide and the first Black woman to serve as Technical Director for the CBS Evening News and for Face the Nation. She went to work as a Senior Producer at PBS, NPR, and C-SPAN.
Finally, after a few decades in network newsrooms, she formed the In The Public Eye Communications Company, where she worked with Harry Belafonte, and Danny Glover on their human rights work for a few decades. This work was conducted in the United States, South America, Africa, and Europe. After completing a Master’s program, she became an Executive Leadership and Public Speaking Coach, and she has served the Senior Management Teams at the Calvert Foundation, USAID, and Microsoft. In the District of Columbia government, she has worked with the leaders at DGS, OPC, and DOE.
The reason I asked her here is that she has written Fifteen TEDx Talks as a public speaking coach. She is an expert on how you get invited to be a TEDx speaker. “How do you write and perform your TEDx speech?” Since that is a question many people ask, I had a delightful conversation with her getting the whole scoop on how to do that. Here comes the interview with Joia Jefferson Nuri.
Joia Nuri, I am happy to have you as a guest on the show. Welcome.
It is an honor to be here, Elizabeth. I know about your show. I’m impressed by you. It is an honor to be invited.
We were both on a summit together. I heard your interview and said, “I need to know this woman. I’m excited to have you.” Before we go into the subject of TEDx Talks, should you, shouldn’t you, and all of that, let me ask you about who be your dream interview would be. If you could interview someone who is no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them, and who should be listening?
I had the honor and privilege to have worked with Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for a few decades. I have not interviewed them, but I was a communications consultant for their human rights work. I got to watch masters at engaging an audience and eye contact. I got to watch that for a few decades. Bobby Kennedy was my hero growing up, and Martin Luther King. The person I would like to interview who’s not with us is Jackie Kennedy.
I’m fascinated a little bit with her life. She suffered in silence, not on her husband’s infidelities, but being the First Lady. It is not until later years that we hear about how hard it is to be the First Lady, but she kept her personality and agenda. I like to know her impression of what happened in Dallas, who she thinks assassinated her husband, and who was behind Sirhan Sirhan to assassinate her brother-in-law and her children, and did she encountered John coming to heaven. I have tons of questions for Jackie Kennedy.
It is interesting to know the real person. You mentioned Harry Belafonte, who I knew of because my parents listened to him, but Danny Glover was one of my heroes. I always had the feeling he was a nice man. That makes me think about the public view. You are a PR specialist now and a speaker trainer.
I’m not a PR specialist anymore. I’m an Executive Leadership Coach and Public Speaking Coach. I was a PR specialist in another lifetime.
Executive Leadership Coach and Public Speaking Coach with a background in PR with a major resume. One of the things that I often think about is people like Danny Glover. How much of my impression of who he is has been shaped by the characters he played? Who is the real person?
He chose those characters because they are close to who he is. He is a guy short of the color purple, which was out of character. He is a good guy. He is funny and easy. It is almost like he doesn’t realize he is Danny Glover. He will get comfortable in a room. We are invited to events and talk. He believes and causes passion. His fight for human dignity, human rights, and racial equality is like Harry Belafonte’s. He takes the career, keep in this more. Both of them were able to risk their careers but keep their careers and still hold on to their moral principles.It is possible to keep your career and still hold on to your moral principles. Click To Tweet
As a speaker trainer myself, I think a lot about perception. A lot of what I do is helping especially women manage the way they are perceived. The choice of the roles, not letting yourself be typecast, and things like that.
Danny has a wide range of characters, and so does Harry Belafonte in the films he plays.
One of these days, you and I should sit down with an adult beverage, and we can swap stories. I will tell you some Pavarotti stories. You can tell me some Harry Belafonte stories next time I’m in your part of the world.
You are welcome. I look forward to that.
The reason I wanted to ask you is that this show is about executive leadership, especially for women. How do you become visible and show your value? Visible and value is one of my trademarks. Whether you should do a TEDx Talk or not is one of the questions I get a lot. Since you have helped with written and organized TEDx experiences, I’m going to go to the specialist here. How did you start placing people on the TEDx stage?
One of my communications clients was invited to TEDx, which used to be Peachtree. Now, it is TEDx Atlanta. He was invited to be on this stage. He came to me because I was a consultant for his urban agriculture business. He said, “I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what it’s about, but look at this email.” I looked at it and was like, “It is TEDx. I have never heard of TEDx.” I did the investigation as to what they wanted, and they sent me a link for the application, and I needed a video. I handled all of that. I’m a professional writer. I work on every single project.
Every speech, testimony, and congressional testimony that I write, I take past this same writer. I took the application faster. We crafted it, and he was accepted. After that, I told people that I had done this. I was like, “I always wanted to be on the stage. Can you help me?” I know I have to research and talk to people. I talked to some people who run venues, who are the curators of TED Talks, how they get it done, and what is the ins and out. I read everything Google had to do with it and helped this one other person get on the TEDx stage.
The word starts to spread. You put in LinkedIn and social media. You are doing it. People started coming to me to get this done. It is now several years in, and I am stepping away from it. For the placement part, I still will help you write your TED Talk and perfect your performance. That is why I’m selling a tutorial on how people can do it themselves.
How do you get booked?
You can get invited on your own. This tutorial, which will launch on September 7th, 2023, gives you everything I know. Years of experience in this tutorial.
I have had clients who have worked on their TED speeches but none of them followed through to get the bookings. I’m curious, what does it take to get accepted? I had 3 clients who wrote 3 great speeches and, for various reasons, didn’t do the due diligence and the work to be accepted as a speaker.
You first have to have an idea worth spreading, the theme of TED, and is your idea unique. The idea cannot be the story of your illustrious career. Webster defines an idea as speech or something written that motivates people to action. It is a narrow definition of what an idea is. I have placed fifteen people on the TED Talk, and there is me. I could have done 80. That didn’t happen because people didn’t understand the idea concept. Suppose you get your idea, and it is perfect. It is worthy of sharing and spreading. You have to find a venue where your idea fits their theme.
I have also worked at TEDx conferences as a volunteer. I wanted to know what it was about. I had clients asking me about it. I have been handing out name tags and shepherding speakers back and forth. The geographic location matter. Could you be in a small town or do you have to be at Washington, DC TED Talk, the Harvard TED Talk or the Marin County TED Talk?
You are asking, “Would it be as important if you had a TED Talk from some small city in Oklahoma as it would be to have a TED Talk from something in Washington, DC?” It doesn’t matter for a couple of reasons. One, to get the license to be a TEDx curator, you are given certain standards. Your stage is always going to have that red carpet and the big TED lettering behind you. Unless you are at a salon or you are doing a youth TEDx, it is going to look the same.
When you finish your TED Talk, that recording is sent off to the big TED. They look through it and release it for the curator to share with you. Your TED Talk is only important because you took the link and you did something with it. I tell my clients who come in, “Why do you want to give a TED Talk? It is a bucket list thing, which is a fine idea but do you want to advance something with this message?”
I have a client, who is my first client, and we got him a second one. He talked about urban farming, how it rose the community, and how important it is to eat locally grown food. He took his link, sent it to the Kellogg Foundation, and got a $500,000 grant. I have another client who took her link and sent it to publishers. Simon & Schuster picked her up. Another person took their link and was able to parlay that into the position he wanted in Corporate America.
Would it be fair to say that this is part of your marketing collateral when you are marketing yourself and your ideas?
Absolutely. If you want to do it and sit it on a shelf, it is your idea. Generally, you should weave this into your personal marketing. Even if you have an idea worth spreading, that is not part of your wheelhouse. You are not going to get accepted. You have to prove that you are the subject matter expert here or a subject matter expert on this topic to speak about it.You must prove that you are the subject matter expert on a topic to speak about it. Click To Tweet
One person came to me. She wanted to talk about the small unit of revolutionary soldiers in New York that had tremendous success during the American Revolution. She had done enough Google searches and read enough books to know this but her occupation and education didn’t support her being the expert. I didn’t take her as a client. It would have been hard to sell to the curator.
You have an idea worth spreading. Assuming you got the idea, then what? What do you do?
All the information is in my tutorial. How do you start to search, and where on the web? You are going to start searching through 1,500 TED Talks in the country. The search is not 1,500. What you are looking for is a standard TED Talk. You are not looking for youth. Unless the environment is your expertise, you are only going to look through the TED Talks that are labeled environment.
A standard TED Talk is what we all see and love. You get other ones that still look the same way but it is an expert on medicine or the environment. You go through this site and look to see the TED Talk you are looking for, and you apply to those. Open the link. They will tell you all the things about that venue and curated site. They will tell you everything you need to know. Maybe that is not true. I tell you little small things you need to catch that took me a while to learn but I gave you that information.
How much time should one allot to creating your TED Talk and practicing your TED Talk?
From the time you are accepted to the time you hit the stage is about 90 days for most. Maybe it is a little longer than the lead time but it is no less than 90 days. You don’t start writing that talk until then. If you start writing your talk before you are accepted, you don’t know the theme is going to drive your narrative. The theme of something big and broad. The one I presented was reimagined but I had to craft and marinate all of what I was writing to fit reimagine.
If you think about it from the point of view of the producer and the organizers, who are mostly volunteers, as I understand, they are looking to put together a show. It is the way I used to put together a concert when I was in my opera days. They are looking to craft a show that will have a good beginning, a good end, and something that will take the audience through it. How much do you take into account the audience that you want to have for your TED Talk?
You don’t have to take that into account at all. You are not targeting this to a specific art audience. You are targeting the TED audience. The millions of people who do it. That comes to a certain demographic. People who watch TED have a certain level of education. They are people who are open to new ideas. Seek that out, pay money to be in the audience, do it, and spend time on their computer watching TED Talks. They are looking for inspiration. You, the curator, and the team of people they are working with have decided what TED theme works for them. A lot of times, the TED theme they do is particular to their community like TEDx Rubidoux. TEDx Rubidoux is a mountain.
Where is Rubidoux for international readers?
Mount Rubidoux is in California, not Los Angeles. They were TEDx Mount Rubidoux, and their theme was seeing beyond the horizon. Your TEDx has to fit into seeing beyond the horizon. The people who are in their feasible audience live in your community, which is why you hook the name and everything because you do need people to pay to buy the tickets to come.
Even though everybody is a volunteer, people come and pay to sit in that audience. You are not looking for the Mount Rubidoux demographic. You are looking for a TED demographic because that is what you want. When you are the producer or the curator, you want big TED to take your speakers and put them on their website.
Talk some more about that. That is a very important point to keep in mind. For our readers who have heard that there is a TED or a TEDx, what is the difference between big TED and TEDx?
In the late 1980s, two people formed TED. It is going to be this once-a-year place where people’s ideas in engineering, technology, and development come together to speak on this big stage. That was a big success. It became twice a year, and TED became international. There is probably not a developed country in the world that doesn’t have several TEDx events in their country. This is the late ‘80s.
By 2006, someone suggested to them that TED should become regional and licensed to people regionally. That would be here in this country and abroad. That became TEDx. The path is you have to get invited to a TEDx. TED will consider you for their big stage, and people will be invited. If you are not invited to show up to their big stage, and they like you enough, they will put your TEDx link and your video onto their website. Anybody that looks at TED and looks up to you, come up with it. That is a bigger exposure.
Your TEDx Rubidoux and TEDx Wilmington, where I was, will still have a website. You will still be available on YouTube, whether big TED picks you up or not. I go in, type in TEDx, put my name in, and there I am. Take that link, which I have from all my clients, and put it on my website. People can look at it. That is nice if Ted picked you up and put you on their website. The power of your TED Talk hinges on your marketing.
What do you say to clients who say, “I don’t know if I have a unique idea and if I have something worth being a TED or TEDx Talk?”
I tell them a little bit about the process of finding that in your wheelhouse. I have done 16 TED Talks and turned down 80 people because they couldn’t figure out the idea.
How could you start thinking about what your topic might be? For those who are reading, I talk a lot about how you position yourself as a strategic thinker and, ultimately, as a thought leader. Strictly speaking, a thought leader is someone you are called a thought leader for your ideas more than who you are. My friends who do thought leadership full-time tell me that. I’m curious how you have people figure out what their topic might be.A person is called a thought leader for their ideas more than who they are. Click To Tweet
“What part of life annoys you the most in the work you do and the community that you work in?” That is the first question. “What part of what you do, what part of what is the center of your life, annoys you the most? Do you have a recommended solution? Is it workable? Can you convey that on a page for 6 minutes, 9 minutes or 18 minutes and you do that? Once you discover that, can you convey it? Does anybody care?”
That is where the audience comes in.
You have to talk about things that people care about. A client of mine did a TED Talk in Whiting, New Jersey, on June 25th, 2022, and the theme there was A Meaningful Life. This executive didn’t come in with his resume but he came in as a Black man who had a child who died. He talked about how he had a meaningful life and how he got there but the child died, and there was nowhere for him to go with his one Men Don’t Cry and Black Men Don’t Cry because there is this thing that he carried with himself.
He talked about that search for a meaningful life in pain. He got picked up before COVID but COVID happened. we circled back around and got picked up again this time because everybody wanted to hear that story. Everybody wants to step into the psyche of a Black man who suffers all the slings and arrows of our culture, and then his child dies. It is like there is nowhere to go. You have to find that level of passion that you want to talk about this, that badly, that people have to hear this. That is where you start to find your idea.
The passion, and what is the problem that you would like to talk about? Even if how do we think about it? I often tell my clients to get together with a couple of friends and a bottle of wine and complain. I was like, “You have permission to complain for about an hour. Take notes, come back and say, ‘What could we do about it?’”
I would recommend, for a TED Talk, it is not with your friends and with wine. I would say a pen and a notebook, where you keep that notebook with you. It is something that slips into your purse, jacket pocket, briefcase, and desk all the time. You write things down. Each idea might be different but which one did you come back to? Which one can you structure what the problem is? What has been hindering the solution? What your recommended solution is, and what do you want the audience to do?
Out of curiosity, you have a call to action at the end of your TED Talk. Do you think people do? Do you talk about what the results might be when somebody says, “Is it going to make a difference?”
I have one client who talked about her rape in college. She talked about how she suppressed it for 30 years. She finally came to the conclusion that she had to find this man and told him to account. She lays out how she held him to account. She started a movement called How To Me Too. Now she has women from around the country coming to her asking for advice on how to hold men accountable.
We all know that Harvey Weinstein and all the big famous men who lose their jobs. What happens if you work in the Post Office and you are being harassed or raped? What do you do? Did she affect change? Yes. Is she still doing that? Yes. It is important. Where I came out, mine was a real magic fourth estate. I want a fourth estate is what Thomas Jefferson called newspapers because he didn’t have media. He had newspapers.
For our international readers, the fourth estate is the press and the media.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights called the Media, which was only newspapers in the 1700s, the fourth estate. The fourth estate in the constitution has a certain responsibility. Having worked for several years in network television news here in the United States before all this coaching and communications work, it was my contention that 24-hour news where news outlets have opinions is destroying our democracy.
I got invited to panels and all sorts of forums to talk about this. What’s interesting is that I sat next to some of my former colleagues who were still doing that, and I got to defend my opinion. Would I have gotten those invitations without a TED Talk? No. My resume and the TED Talk made me enough subject matter expert to be invited. Did it change? Did we get rid of 24-hour news? No. They didn’t do that, but I got heard.
They should watch your video tutorial. If they haven’t gotten to that yet, but they are reading this, where does one start? What is the first step?
Your idea was spreading. The first step before you look for a venue, before anything, and I would recommend you watch as many TED Talks as you can so that you can start to shape your idea worth spreading and also shape the language around it.
That makes me think about where Imposter syndrome comes up. What do you say to your clients if they say, “I have watched a whole bunch of TED Talks. Will I never know something like that?”
As an Executive Leadership Coach, I don’t believe Imposter syndrome in and of itself exists without the inner critic. Imposter syndrome is a result of your inner critic. This is the difference. Imposter syndrome is where you land that you are an imposter here. Your inner critics started talking to you about this. It comes back to something in your childhood that told you, “You were less than that.” You keep playing it in your head. My clients would tell me things like, “I will never rise to the level of TEDx.”Imposter syndrome in and of itself doesn’t exist without the inner critic. It is the result of your inner critic. Click To Tweet
I also want to say that all of my public speaking clients are not given the opportunity through me to get on the TEDx stage. They come to me for public speaking coaching for the reasons they want to do public speaking coach. Ninety-nine percent of my TEDx clients simply came to me to get on the TEDx stage. That was a whole separate marketing thing that I do.
If their inner critic is telling them that you can’t be on the stage, then we need to talk about your self-opinion. In all of my public speaking coachings, the first class is about your self-opinion. We build a toolkit to help you recognize when your inner critic is talking, how you are going to respond to it each and every time, and how you are going to respond to the crafty little changes that and critic has the ability to do.
We move into public speaking in the second session because they get hard work to do to battle that. If you have an idea we are spreading, and you still think you can’t rise to the occasion, we start there to get rid of those notions because if you look at enough TED Talks, you realize everybody is on that stage, every demographic and level of health. I have seen people in wheelchairs sitting on stools. I have seen old and young people. Everybody fits on that glorious TEDx stage.
Joia, this has been such a delight. I’m so honored. I am going to have you back. We’ve got other things we are going to talk about. I’m excited to have you here. This has been helpful. I appreciate It.
I’m very glad.
Thank you so much. This has been Speakers Who Get Results. If you enjoyed it, please go and rate us, especially on Apple Podcasts. That is the rating that people track, but also on any, wherever you use and enjoy. Subscribe to us on YouTube. If you like it, spread the word. Joia Nuri, thank you so much for having been a guest.
Elizabeth, it has been an honor.
I will see you at the next one.
- Joia Jefferson Nuri
- In The Public Eye Communications Company
- TEDx Rubidoux
- TEDx Wilmington
- Apple Podcast – Speakers Who Get Results
- YouTube – Speakers Who Get Results
About Joia Jefferson Nuri
Joia Jefferson Nuri is an ICF Certified Executive Leadership and Public Speaking Coach. She works with executives and senior leaders who want to overcome their fears, increase productivity, unleash their imagination and build a strategic plan for themselves and their companies.
Joia began her leadership journey as the third Black woman hired as a technician at NBC News worldwide, the first Black woman to serve as Technical Director of the CBS Evening News and Face The Nation. Next, she went on the work as a Senior Producer at PBS, NPR, and C-SPAN. Finally, after more than two decades in network newsrooms, she formed In The Public Eye Communications and worked with Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover on their human rights work for over a decade. The work was conducted in the United States, South America, Africa, and Europe. After completing a Master’s program, Joia became an Executive Leadership and Public Speaking Coach. She has served the senior management teams at Calvert Foundation, USAID, and Microsoft. In The DC government, she has worked with the leaders at DGS, OPC, and DOEE.
In addition, Joia has written Congressional and City Council Testimony, keynote and commencement speeches, and 15 TEDx Talks as a public speaking coach.