Pearl Tan is an actor, director, producer and writer. After she presented Diversity Reimagined at Ted X, she talked to Barbara Harvey about what she learned.
BH: How did you prepare for the talk? PT: I rehearsed a fair bit. My voice teacher in drama school, Betty Williams, always drummed into us – learn the thoughts not the words. I found this helpful. I learned the structure of the piece then finessed over time. BH: How did you feel in the lead-up? How did you manage the nerves? PT: I was so nervous. I've never been that nervous before. In the weeks leading up to the talk, every time it would cross my mind I would get a nervous pang. On the day, I used tricks I had learned at drama school to warm up my voice and my body and shake out the nerves, literally. When I stood on stage, I took a moment to take a breath before launching into it, but I was so nervous I got lost a couple of times, but no one would know this but me – and now anyone reading this! BH: How did you feel you went? PT: I think it went well. I had an overwhelmingly positive response to the talk. When I sat down after finishing the presentation, I started rattling off in my head all of the things I could have done better. However, I soon realised that everything I thought I missed was not actually missed at all, and that the audience received my messages loud and clear. One of the things that worked was getting advice from my former fellow Presenting with Impact facilitator Barbara Harvey at Symes Group. Barbara encouraged me to be more theatrical and turn it into a performance. This helped to unlock me into a more comfortable and authentic space. Leveraging what I'm comfortable with – performing – allowed me to cut through and engage the audience. BH: What advice would you have for others delivering a high stakes talk? PT: Know the material through and through, to the point that it's almost impossible to get lost. Find a way to do it in your style and know your natural habits when you get nervous so that you can counteract them. I race ahead and speak extraordinarily quickly when I'm nervous, but knowing this allows me to take my time – and it ends up being still at quite a pace, but one the audience can keep up with. Lastly, practice, practice, practice.
Pearl's top five presenting tips • Welcome your nerves as a friend who is there to help you shine • Find a way to expel nervous energy that is comfortable/natural • Don't forget to breathe • When preparing, learn the thoughts, not the words • When preparing, focus on what your audience needs