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blog | December 19, 2016

Content Strategist Shares Coherent Ideas at the TEDxSMU Conference

By David Hopkins

Last month, I gave a talk at the TEDxSMU conference, and I also wrote about my experience preparing for it. I’m comfortable with public speaking. It’s never been hard for me to stand on a stage and run my mouth. However, I will admit sometimes when I sit back down, I’ll whisper to the person next to me: “Did what I just say make any sense?” There’s always a concern that my brain said one thing and my mouth decided to invent a new strange language that sounds an awful lot like English, but makes absolutely no sense. Every time, the concern is unfounded, but still ever present. Thus, when people asked me how the TEDx talk went, I shrugged my shoulders and say: “I have no idea. The video hasn’t come out yet. But people seemed to like it?”

A good presentation should have a comfortable auto-pilot quality to it. Here’s my approach. I write everything out. Word-for-word. I read over it a few dozen times, out loud, and make edits. Then I transfer everything to note cards — with a goal of trimming out as much as possible. I read through the note cards a few more times. Then, I make a note of two or three places where I can take an unscripted tangent. Yes, I pre-plan my tangents. It works. By the time I take the stage, I only look at my note cards if it’s absolutely necessary. The goal is to get so comfortable that I can simply talk without sounding scripted, but also without being too random. Apparently, it takes a lot of work to come across as natural.

The video is finally available, and I can safely say everything is coherent. Dare I even say it — I like what that guy up there was rambling about. He’s awfully clever.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at