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How to Give the Perfect Speech: Tips From TEDxToronto’s Resident Talk Maestro, Jeff Lohnes


Written by Christina Gonzales

Photography by Andrew Williamson

Jeff Lohnes is a man that feels comfortable on the stage. As the co-chair and former host of TEDxToronto, he’s worked with some of the most captivating speakers in the world. When he’s not running the annual conference, Lohnes keeps the momentum going by coaching a range of inspiring individuals (from politicians and entrepreneurs to athletes and actors) and connecting them to various communities. To say the least, he knows a thing or two about commanding an audience and owning the stage.

Get connected

“Usually, the gap is not connecting emotionally. Storytelling is how you have impact; it's very similar to advertising. How can you move the needle on the way people think, feel, and act differently after you speak to them?”

A recipe for success

“A talk should always have some combination of entertainment, inspiration, and education. That’s where we start, and then it’s about crafting the talk and picking the stories that will be the most relevant and resonate with the audience at the end. You need to have nuggets that are interesting – something your audience is going to go home and have to repeat to their son, daughter, wife, husband, and friend.”

Collect yourself

“In the moments before hitting the stage, remind yourself of the goal of your talk – why  are you going up there? Then take a couple deep breaths, and right before you walk on, get in the headspace of the emotion you want to convey. Calmness is the best default but for others, they may want to show energy and thus, an exciting thought can set their head right. [Ultimately] I like to remind people that it's important to know you won't ruin anyone's day with your talk. You have the opportunity to elevate their day, to inspire, excite, and educate people. So just go, be you, and everyone will win.”

Find a starting point

“I get [speakers] to write a goal for their talk. What do you want to change about how the audience will think and act? What do you want them do differently afterwards? I [also] get them to think about what the audience’s goal is. What does the audience actually want to get out of this? List your stories, experiences, research, and data [that you plan] to share, and then cross reference it with who you’re speaking to. That quickly becomes the filter for which stories you should share.”

Practice makes perfect

“Start practicing early, to refine and make your speech better. I really do encourage people to record it and listen to themselves – it’s one of the hardest and worst things for anyone to have to endure. It really does teach you how to do it better very quickly. The other thing is to present to others, and be open to their feedback.”