Deborah Abrahams - speaker's coach

'It's like we're creating a sculpture'

March 06, 2014 Behind the scenes

Q: So what are you working on with the speakers at this point?

DA: Getting them to decide what’s their ‘idea worth spreading’. It’s like we’re creating a sculpture – they’re providing the clay and then we need to build the structure inside to support it. I told that to Vera Winthagen and she really understood what I meant.

All the people we’re dealing with have lot of experience with public speaking, but a TED talk isn’t a lecture, it’s not a presentation. What’s interesting about this is making the personal connection, what drives you, what inspires you, what makes you have to give this talk.

Q: So far you’ve talked to three of the speakers. What’s your impression so far?

DA: What I like about Vera Winthagen is that because she’s a designer she understands it’s about how you connect to the audience. Not just to send a message and tell the audience something, but to trigger people. She comes from a design mentality so she thinks in a very wide focus. So if I’m saying, maybe there’s something you could do to connect with the audience before they even come in, she really picks up on the idea.

What I find interesting about the Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani is that his medium is an image, a cartoon, and the challenge is how you translate that into a talk. Not that he has nothing to say – he has lots to say! He’s an incredibly engaging guy. One thing that sticks with me about our conversation is that as a critical cartoonist living in exile, for him social media is more than just a way to keep in contact with friends or promote your business – it’s a lifeline.

Andro Vos [speaker's page coming soon - ed.] from the Netherlands Forensic Institute is amazingly energetic, passionate. He has a real need to speak, in a positive way. I said, you’ve got great ideas, but we need to get the structure right, and he’s really open to working like that.

His main thing is that you should live your dream. For him that was setting up a forensic training facility in Africa. What’s amazing is that he went out on his own initiative to set it up. He and his wife promptly got robbed at gunpoint. It’s ironic, because his work is about finding the truth about crime and he was the victim of crime. But in fact that incident brought him closer to realising his dream. But I won’t say more, as I might be giving away things he wants to say in his talk.

Q: So is your job as a speakers’ coach more about the content or about the way people deliver their talk?

DA: Well, they provide the content, but I help them home in on the big idea and create the structure. Some people obviously need more help than others. Then in the next stage we’ll be working on the visuals, and how they give the talk – that’s just as important. It’s where my background in performance comes in. But you can ask me more about that in a week or two!

 

Deborah's website: www.deborahabrahams.com

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