The Short Talk Expert
TED Talking for Leaders
Millions of people have viewed TED Talks. Hayley Foster, The Short Talk Expert, shares techniques she used in launching the first large-scale TEDx in history that have enabled even the most brilliant engineers, scientists and executives to simplify their messages and be engaging—a key leadership competency for leaders everywhere!
Check out this 60 Second preview of the episode!
Hayley Foster co-founded and organized TEDxNASA, the first large-scale TEDx in history – which immediately became the gold standard for the mushrooming TEDx movement we all know today. As a content curator and speaker coach, Hayley has developed techniques used with hundreds of stand-out speakers for TEDx and other high-stakes events. Hayley holds 5 TEDx licenses, has steered tens of speaker selection committees, and has coached over 500 TEDx presentations. Their resonance is indicated by view counts that can range from 100,000 to nearly 2 million, with 5 talks elevated to TED.com
Hayley is passionate about empowering influencers to identify and distill down messages to move their organizations forward. This broad corporate reach includes coaching CEOs, entire C-Suites of executives in global conferences, and even working teaching PhD statisticians and pharmacologists how to talk about what they do to each other and to outside work groups.
Hayley is the author of Don’t Tank Your TED Talk! 12 Mistakes Professional Speakers Make – which Distinction guru Scott McKain says, “Should be used as a guide, for all speakers, for all talks. “ Her Short Talk Big Impact keynotes and trainings are presented to organizations, associations worldwide.
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“The single most vital leadership behavior is modeling” – Susan Ford Collins, America’s Premier Success & Leadership Coach
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Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to promoting leadership development and sharing leadership insights. Here’s your host, The Leadership Excelerator®, Eddie Turner.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast
, the podcast dedicated to leadership development and insights. I’m your host, Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. I work with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact through the power of professional speaking, coaching, and facilitation.
Today, I’m talking to Hayley Foster, The Short Talk Expert. Hayley co-founded and organized TEDx NASA, the first large scale TEDx in history, which immediately became the gold standard for the TEDx movement we all know today. As a content curator and speaker coach, Hayley has developed techniques that she’s used with hundreds of standout speakers for TEDx and other high stakes event. Hayley has coached over 500 TEDx presentations. Her clients have had thousands of views and five of her talks were elevated to TED.com.
Now, why do I want to talk to a TED talk expert on the Keep Leading!® Podcast?
Well, Hayley has refined her techniques and she’s helped even the most brilliant engineers, scientists, and executives to simplify their messages while remaining engaging. I believe that that skill is a leadership competency. Yes, being able to distill our messages down to the most simplistic level yet remaining engaging is what leaders of the future need to master.
To that end, I’m excited to have Hayley Foster. Hayley, welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast.
I’m so pleased to be here with you.
What else should my listeners know about you and your incredible personal narrative?
Well, I started as a professional speaker and the TEDx movement had not yet begun. Since we launched the first large scale TEDx, this became a community service project that ate my life?
Honestly, yes. And so, having done six events in slightly under two years, my speaking business was going down and I was coaching all the time. And it was a business coach who said “Hayley, why don’t you charge for the speaker coaching thing you’re doing?” And so, in order to make the biggest impact for good during my time on the planet, I realized that coaching other people to amplify their messages that matter made a bigger difference than just my one voice. So, that’s how speaker coaching became what I did full time until people came around and said “Excuse me, Hayley. Could you tell us more about this TEDx thing? Can you teach us how to talk like TED?” And that’s how I started the part of my career where I speak on speaking, which is what brings me to your program.
So, you went from allowing something to eat your life to being able to eat from that activity.
Fantastic. Well, that is wonderful to hear.
Now, many of us are familiar with TED Talks, Hayley, but for those of us who may not be, can you please give us a little background about the relevance of TED to leaders?
Sure, I’d be glad to. So, the TED platform is dedicated to new ideas for spreading. It started as the TED Conference back in the early ‘80s but it wasn’t until the catalogue of the short talks by these world-renowned experts began being posted online to TED.com that ordinary people had access to them. So, the TED that we know, some of those talks up there are older and some have been generated over the last 10 years, and that’s when the explosion and the interest in these talks has happened. So, the meta view is that the mission of TED is innovation and thought leadership but, to your point, the lessons from TED are used by leaders at every level, from the middle management on up. They cause leaders to think differently about challenges and solutions. The talks are used in trainings by middle management. And more leaders, I find, would really like to engage their listeners and talk like the speakers they hear on TED.
And what’s the reason for that?
I think that it’s permeated popular culture, TED has, and it’s changed what the public expects of speakers. So, our addiction to YouTube videos has made an impact. So, we have to keep our talk short, which means 20 minutes or under. So, in order to be an effective leader, we must deliver what we mean simply in a way that the listeners are eager to listen and receive the information. Otherwise, we just simply lose their attention.
But some leaders may say “Listen, I’ve got something really important to say and what I’m going to say can’t be delivered in 20 minutes. It’s extremely important and extremely complicated. And I must really reach my audience by taking my time.” How would you respond to that?
I would say that Adult Learning Theory will prove that adults will not absorb the information that takes longer than 20 minutes to deliver. So, I would suggest to that person that they chunk it down. So, they can do 20-minute segments.
Do you have an example of such a person you’ve worked with who’s been able to do that?
Well, several, actually. So, while working with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I was able to convince him to take the hour-long presentation that he had and cut it into 20-minute chunks, which he then inserted at different parts of the program. And it made it much easier for the listeners to digest what it was that he was saying.
Another example would be any of the astronauts, engineers, scientists that I’ve worked with, because their talks are very complicated, what we’ll do is chunk down the information so that it’s in modules. And then the modules can be communicated in various meanings.
Wow! That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing those examples, Hayley. So, both in the business sector where you work with CEOs at the highest levels of major organizations and from a technical perspective at one of the most prestigious scientific organizations in our nation, helping even them, astronauts, those who are the most knowledgeable about our deepest space exploits, dissect and distill their content down to these shorter 20-minute or less modules. You have helped them to improve their engagement and their effectiveness as a result.
Yes. And, in fact, at Johnson & Johnson, I worked with the PhD statistician, some pharmacologist, just to be able to talk to people in their work groups about what it is that they do. And we use five-minute segments for them.
So, you even got it down to five minutes. That’s wonderful. So, that’s really encouraging for leaders who may believe that talks need to be long to be effective, that short and simple can be just as effective if not even more effective. So, thank you for sharing that.
I think one of the barriers is it actually takes longer to craft a short talk than it does to go on for a longer period of time because you have to be really clear about your messaging.
Yes. There’s an interesting quote by Abraham Lincoln that’s coming to mind. I can’t think of the exact words, so I won’t say it right now but it was something along those lines of it took him two hours to a one-hour speech or something of that nature. So, yes, that’s very, very true. If you got to give those shorter talks, it really does take a lot of time, especially to make it look as brilliant as you’ve made your folks look in that short amount of time.
Yes. Is there something about the techniques that you use with these speakers that help them to accelerate their leadership that you can share with our listeners?
Yes, yes, definitely. So, TED style is a genre of speaking. So, just like giving a closing argument to a jury, a Toastmaster’s presentation, TED style is a particular genre. And it’s a skill that can be mastered but with guidance and with practice.
Okay. Thank you, Hayley. All right. So, we’re listening to Hayley Foster, the Short Talk Expert, and she’s talking to us about what it takes to be effective as leaders in a short amount of time as we communicate. We’ll listen to more of Hayley’s suggestions and tips for us right after this.
This podcast is sponsored by Eddie Turner LLC. Organizations who need to accelerate the development of their leaders call Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. Eddie works with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact. Call Eddie Turner to help your leaders one on one as their coach or to inspire them as a group through the power of facilitation or a keynote address. Visit EddieTurnerLLC.com to learn more.
This is Patrick Williams, Master Certified Coach, and you’re listening to the Keep Leading!® Podcast with Eddie Turner.
Okay, we’re back with Hayley Foster, the Short Talk Expert, and she’s helping us to understand what it takes to be effective as communicators as leaders in a short amount of time.
Now, Hayley, is there something we can do, steps we can take to make our messages more interesting right from the beginning?
Yes, absolutely. Inspired leadership requires excellent storytelling. So, I’ll give you a few tips for that. One tip is the strong start. So, you must grab the listener’s attention immediately like a hook. You want to get rid of long introductions, preambles. We no longer tell people what we’re going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what we told them. We want to start with a bang. We want to say something provocative immediately. So, throw out a statistic that would be surprising. Put an image on the screen and that will make them curious or ask a question that they’re not expecting. The strong start is really important to draw them in with intrigue.
Well, Hayley, I think that you may have just disrupted the thinking of many of us who were In the learning and talent development field where that clearly is one of the things we were always taught – “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” So, you’re helping us to see it differently.
I do see it differently. So, a common mistake made by leaders is also making up their talking points in advance and then droning on through them. So, gone are the days of speaking to bullets on the PowerPoint. Don’t do that. What I prefer you do that will get you a better result would be to start with the core message. So, you might say “Well, what do you mean by that?” Well, I want you to ask yourself the question “What is the main message I want to convey to the listener?” And then once you’ve thought about it, formulate it into just a few sentences. That becomes the core message that you then build your talk and your PowerPoint around. So, that’s a new way to create talks rather than that linear method that you just recited. And so, you take the core message and that will only include the data, the charts, information, the images that support that core message.
And you have to keep in mind that writing for reading and writing for speaking are very different.
Yes. And explain that difference, if you will, because that is something that is missed by many people.
So, one of the things that’s wonderful about TED Talks is the feeling of authenticity. And that comes from a conversational tone. It’s as if the speaker is having a conversation with you, even though you’re in an audience of a thousand. When you write for reading, it doesn’t work that way because writing for reading requires correct grammar. It takes away the conversational tone.
Okay. Thank you, Hayley. That is definitely something to consider as it will make it sound stilted and take away from the authenticity in a conversational manner that we want to have when we’re delivering. And that adds to our credibility, quite frankly, when we’re speaking.
So, what can we do to make what we say more memorable?
Many leaders want their people to leave their talk or presentation and take action. So, in converting TED expertise for use in business, I use four key elements of short talking for business. And as a leader, keep in mind that all of your oral communication must adhere to this. And here are the four pieces. It has to be Understandable, Memorable, Actionable, and Repeatable. You want to think about what you want people to walk away remembering. I call this ‘Walk Away Talk’. So, what will someone in the meeting recall and repeat after the meeting has ended?
Then there’s the second point and that’s two parts. First, you have to make them want to take action because remember we said that you want them to leave remembering and you want them perhaps to take action. And a great way to do this is to include relatable stories that are inspiring and then be sure to be clear about a call to action that you want taken. So, they get excited by the stories that are relatable. And then when you tell them what you want to do, as a result, they are eager to jump out of their seats and go tell their coworkers what you wanted them to remember and then they’re eager to get started on the action you want taken.
Okay. Thank you, Hayley. And what techniques can a leader use to make their message more actionable? You gave us four steps there. Let’s just think about the actionable component.
Well, it depends on what it is you would like them to do. The first thing is you must be clear. They must understand what it is you’re asking them to do. I know that sounds pedestrian but I have worked with leaders who’s had this idea that people understand what they’re thinking. They sort of they live in their head with them. And they don’t do a good job of communicating what it is they really want. And then it depends on whether they’re expecting a team to come up with how to execute on this or they have the action item and what that action item is but clarity is the key problem 9 times out of 10.
All right. And what will be the result of incorporating these techniques in our role as leaders?
Well, the ability to short talk is now a leadership necessity. So, when you use these techniques, they will up level and accelerate your leadership and your leadership excellence. People will only listen to you if you make them want to. And talking short will make the difference in whether you keep their attention.
All right. And is that the key message that our listeners should take away from our conversation today?
I think that the key message has to do with how to construct a talk differently, as you mentioned. So, I think the thing that the leaders are most prone to create blitz on a PowerPoint and speak to them. And changing the way they think about the talk construction is really key. Once they learn to figure out what the core message is, what the main message they want to convey to the listener will be, and build the talk around that, it will change everything.
Thank you. And here on the Keep Leading!® Podcast, we like to give leaders a quote or a story that they can think about to help them keep leading. Is there a short quote or a story you’d like to share with us?
Well, I was very fortunate early in my professional career to learn from Susan Ford Collins who is America’s Premier Success and Leadership Coach. That was not her title at the time all those years ago but what I learned from her is the most valuable leadership behavior is modeling. The people do what we do, not what we say. And so, to connect that to short talks, just imagine how interested and excited your people will be to attend meetings when the entire organization is talking like TED, just like you.
All right. Well, that sounds wonderful. That is indeed a goal for organizations and leaders everywhere to aspire to.
Hayley, how can my listeners learn more about you?
Well, they can go to my website www.ShortTalkExpert.com. They can follow me on twitter, @HayleyFoster; LinkedIn, Short Talk Expert; Instagram, @HayleyShortTalks. I also have a book called Don’t Tank Your TED Talk: 12 Mistakes That Professional Speakers Make which is available online and at the Apple bookstore.
Alrighty. Well, we’re going to put all that in the show notes so when folks visit the Keep Leading!® Podcast
, website, they will be able to access that information along with the transcript of this episode.
Hayley, thank you so much for being a guest and helping us learn what it takes to be more effective as a leader by using the principles from TED.
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
That concludes this episode, everyone. I’m Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, reminding you that leadership is not about our title or our position. Leadership is an activity. Leadership is action. It’s not the case of once a leader, always a leader. It’s not a garment we put on and take off. We must be a leader at our core and allow it to emanate in all we do. So, whatever you’re doing, always keep leading.
Thank you for listening to your host Eddie Turner on the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the Keep Leading!® Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. For more information about Eddie Turner’s work please visit EddieTurnerLLC.com.
Thank you for listening to C Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.
The Keep Leading!® podcast is for people passionate about leadership. It is dedicated to leadership development and insights. Join your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® as he speaks with accomplished leaders and people of influence across the globe as they share their journey to leadership excellence. Listen as they share leadership strategies, techniques and insights. For more information visit eddieturnerllc.com or follow Eddie Turner on Twitter and Instagram at @eddieturnerjr. Like Eddie Turner LLC on Facebook. Connect with Eddie Turner on LinkedIn.