Exhilaration! My joy knew no bounds when I found out that I was selected for a TEDx talk. Along with it came an immediate apprehension as there was not a lot of time to prepare. I was asked to deliver a speech about my idea–I had so many ways to convey my idea, and so many stories to share! I wasn’t sure what to share and what not to, and because of this it took me a while to hone in on a specific idea with my background story, with help from my coach, Frank King.

Once we decided on the core idea that was worth sharing and one that would tie in with my story, I was able to get my speech preparation going. Here are some tips from my learnings:


Identify the Central Idea or Message to Convey in Your Talk

What is the key takeaway you want your audience to remember? Make sure your talk revolves around this core message. Jot down your thoughts and stories pertaining to your idea.

I had six weeks to prepare and fine tune my idea by then. I knew I was going to talk about my life story and use certain incidents as examples to convey my core message of self-advocacy in healthcare–how being one’s own advocate is very important, especially when it comes to health.

My message – Importance of self-advocacy in healthcare.

Understand the TED/TEDx Format

Familiarize yourself with the TED/TEDx talk format. Speakers are allotted around 18 minutes or less to present their ideas. This time constraint encourages speakers to be concise and impactful.

For TEDx Taft Avenue, speakers were given only 10 minutes to present their ideas. To share my life story in 10 minutes was challenging. I took the maximum time to figure out what to cut, how to keep it concise, yet give enough examples to clearly convey my message of self-advocacy. I was snipping portions right up until the day before my talk!

Create a Well-Structured Talk

Organize your content in a clear and logical manner. Divide your talk into sections with a natural flow that supports your core message. Consider using the classic storytelling structure (beginning, middle, end) or the problem-solution format.

Being a Toastmaster, I always think of any speech/talk as stories with a beginning, middle and end, finally tying it all together. I created my talk with the same structure. I decided to start the talk with the announcement of my cancer and kidney failure. An opening should always be attention-grabbing. Your closing is as important as the opening. End with a powerful and memorable conclusion that reinforces your core message and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

Tailor Your Visual Aids

I personally did not have visual aids, but for those who had a brand or a topic requiring visual aids, a slideshow presentation helped. I was told to keep the slides simple, where they complement the talk and not distract. Avoid images/gifs that could distract from your talk. If you think you might lose the audience at a certain point, a visual enhancement may help.

Practice, Practice, Practice, and Seek Feedback: 

Time yourself. Rehearse your talk multiple times, ideally in front of friends, family, or colleagues to receive feedback. Practice will help you refine your delivery, work on your timing, and build confidence.

Thanks to our diligent TEDx event organizer and my coach, I was able to practice my talk several times and get some valuable feedback. I practiced in my Toastmasters club as well, where all the club members had very valid feedback to offer. I actually think my speech took a nice turn, where I was able to tie my story more effectively to my main message after implementing some of the suggestions offered by my club members.

Presenting on Stage:

Be Authentic: Be Yourself During the Talk.

Let your personality shine through and share your passion genuinely. Authenticity helps create a deeper connection with the audience. Since my talk was my story, I was able to be myself.

Be Amplified:

Show confidence, and authority. Slow down and enunciate, so everyone can understand you. As a Toastmaster, I know that pauses and silence speak volumes and can be used for emphasis. This was one tool I used throughout my talk.


A note to remember. TED may not publish all the TEDx speeches, especially if there are references that don’t have proper citations. I was told that it could take a minimum of two months to publish. Since I referenced a medical article in my speech, I went back and forth several times with TED and it seemed to take forever for them to publish my speech. But yeah! My speech finally got published and it was an experience I will cherish forever.

Check out my talk:


Shoba Rao, DTM is the author of “My Race Against Death”, TEDx Speaker, Cancer Survivor, and a Kidney Transplant Survivor. Her speeches come from her experience of going through three cancers and a kidney transplant. She is a strong advocate for patient’s self advocacy when it comes to their health.