Training TED and TEDx Speakers: Conversation with Chantal Bossé

Created: Wednesday, January 31, 2018, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 am



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Chantal BosseChantal Bossé has been a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP since 2013, and as a presentation and visual communication expert, she spends her time between writing, training, coaching and designing for her clients and speakers. First a scientific, then an instructional designer in telecommunications, she started CHABOS in 2004 to share her passion for visual communications. Chantal and her business partner inspire and empower public speakers and business people to craft and deliver world-class presentations that generate success and results. From story, message, design, delivery, equipment, and event coordination, they help their clients shine in front of their audience.

In this conversation, Chantal talks about her role in training TED and TEDx speakers.

Geetesh: Chantal, can you tell us more about your role in the training and mentoring you do for TED and TEDx speakers? Also, is there a story about how you stepped into this amazing role?

Chantal: I have been following TED/TEDx talks for a long time, so when an industry colleague mentioned he was holding a TEDx event, I offered to help prepare some speakers. That was in 2012, and I got to coach a duo of young men, from a start-up, that had never set foot on a stage! I must say, it was a very interesting, and rewarding, first experience as a TEDx coach. Although they thought doing it as a duo would be easier, they soon realised it also brought some new challenges… like handling two remotes so they would not play pass-the-remote and risk dropping it!

In my role as a speaker coach, the first thing I need to do is discuss with speakers what idea they want to share, and how will their message fit in the event’s theme. That is where we start discussing how to structure their talk so they will bring value to the audience, and are remembered. And of course, we also must address the time factor: no more than 18 minutes, but it could be less! Making people understand that it is not about how long they will be on stage, but about how to structure their idea with impactful words. Longer talks don’t always gather the most views online. As a matter of fact, if people take a look at TED’s playlist of the 10 most popular TEDx talks, 7 of them are less than 13 minutes long.

Here is a very short talk (5.17 min) by David Gallo – Underwater astonishments, that got over 14M views!



Training and mentoring speakers, whether for TED and TEDx talks, or for any other speaking event, is also a very human experience. I might need to help more experienced speakers get rid of some bad habits, while making them understand preparing a TED/TEDx talk is not the same as what they are used to do. And sometimes I have to deal with a huge fear of public speaking – yes, it happened! The young woman decided to challenge herself to submit her idea, but when I contacted her to tell her she was chosen, she was dumbfounded. Thinking she would never be chosen, she felt safe. But having to face the fact that she was going to be on stage brought a lot of fear of not being good enough for it. How did it end for her? She got a standing ovation. 😉

Geetesh: As part of this training, what are the ideas that you exchange with the speakers, and is there a single, powerful thought that came up as part of your training that you can share with Indezine readers?

Chantal: In terms of ideas, there are 3 big ones I always share with the speakers I work with.

  1. Their content structure. Through the years, the ones that had the most success used this very simple structure:
    • Impactful introduction
    • 3 key elements that support their idea
    • A conclusion that helps trigger discussions, or has a very clear call to action, or a challenge for the audience.
  2. The use of well-chosen, meaningful visuals. Some speakers think that if they say they’ll use visuals, they must find something for almost every word that comes out of their mouth. That is a very stressful thought, if you ask me! Instead, we review their content and discuss what images come to mind. When we can find or create a visual without taking too much time, fine. If not, they get introduced to the magic of the black slide. Using a black slide, when we want to bring back the audience’s focus on us, or that the previous visual is not relevant anymore, is a very efficient way to keep the audience focused.
  3. There is no such thing as having too much practice. The more speakers practice, the more natural they become at delivering their “Idea worth spreading” – that’s TED’s motto. When your brain stops worrying about the content to deliver, you modulate your voice with the emotions you feel. And sharing emotions with the audience puts you on the path for a memorable talk.

As for the powerful thought I can share, I would leave readers with what I tell my speakers not long before they set foot on stage:

The audience wants to see you succeed. Just be your authentic self, it will have a good lasting impression. Breathe, smile, and enjoy the ride!

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