TEDxPiscataquaRiver Blog

Devan Meserve

Ever wonder what it's like to participate in TEDxPiscataquaRiver as a speaker? One of our many forms of preparation is an in-person group run-through 6-8 weeks before the event.

Voluteer Carrie Anne Harmon attended this first TEDx speaker run-through a few weeks ago at 3S Artspace. Here she shares a sneak peek of what's to come in May:

The TEDxPiscataquaRiver run-through event is a sort of dress rehearsal that serves several purposes. First, it gives the speakers an opportunity to share what they’ve been working on and get some feedback as they finalize their talk. Second, they get to come to the actual performance space where TEDx is happening and get a real feel for the stage. Third, it gives our speaker development team a first look at their talk and an opportunity to talk through what works best and what should be cut. And fourth, it gives the speakers a chance to interact with their fellow speakers and not only swap tips on nerves, prepapration, memorization, etc., but to build some team commeraderie before the big day.

Each speaker present (about half of our lineup was present for this one) gives a run-through of their talk, followed with discussion. We review the speech, comment on content, share advice and questions.

The group as a whole gets to really explore the creativity of the piece and improve on it in any way possible. There was incredible feedback provided on each piece from our past speakers and speaker coach team. We heard things like:

  • “People make decisions based on anecdotes.”
  • “How can we give the listeners action they can take to help with this issue?”
  • “The questions you ask throughout your speech keep the audience engaged and thinking.”
  • “Use photos to create an image for the listener and set the scene for your topic.”
  • “The humor in your talk really connects the audience to your topic.”

By the end of the session everyone was buzzing with inspiration. Each speech was unique, but all were stimulating and thoughtful.

The presentations from our speaker lineup this year are full of funny stories, passionate thinking, creative imagery, and motivating concepts. Many speakers are still working on the accompanyig slide decks and/or visuals for their pieces, and we’re excited to see what they have in store for us in a few short weeks.

Preparing and supporting all of our speakers is such an important part of organizing our TEDx event. The talks are one of the biggest reasons people come to a TEDx event (although others have written about additional reasons why you should attend a TEDx).

We’re very excited to share this incredible event with you on May 6th! Don’t forget that if you weren’t able to get tickets you can stream the event live, attend a live watch party, and check out any of the speeches on YouTube afterward!

Devan Meserve

Sara Curry of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth shared "On the Mat to Recovery" at last year's TEDxPiscataquaRiver event. Here she offers advice for all future TEDx speakers. 

Sara Curry

Photo: Sara Curry "On the Mat to Recovery" TEDxPiscataquaRiver, May 8, 2015 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth NH. By Michael Sterling Photography.

1. Prepare in advance—way in advance.

When I was asked to speak at TEDxPiscataquaRiver’s 2015 event, I planned to do what I usually do: mull over some ideas for a few weeks, write down some key points I wanted to address and speak off-the-cuff the day of the event. This works great when I’m lecturing on yoga to people who love yoga and are invested in the process for two to four hours. This doesn’t fly for an 18-minute TEDx Talk.

You have only 18 minutes to speak to people who may know nothing about your area of expertise. You need time to cut, edit and hone your speech so that you have maximum impact in minimal time. I made edits to the speech two days before presenting it when I found a more concise and effective way to convey the same point. 

2. Do what the TEDx team tells you.

You seldom see sub-par TED Talks and there’s a reason for that. The organizers are great at what they do, so listen up. Get your abstract in on time. Write your speech before the end of March. If they send you videos, watch them. If they offer a Skype run-thru, do it. If there’s a dress rehearsal, show up. If they tell you to practice in front of varied audiences, do it. Do what they advise. You may be an expert on underwater basket weaving, but they’re the experts on developing inspiring presentations.

3. Practice. Practice. Practice.

I know it was annoying when your high school coach told you there are only three ways to get good at basketball and they all start with P, but she was right. You cannot practice this presentation too much. If you’ve run through your speech a half dozen times, you’re not ready.

You need to memorize the speech forward and backward so it will roll off your tongue. The last thing your audience wants to watch is you searching your mind for the sequence of topics on stage or trying to remember the wording of a quote. Once you know the speech like the back of your hand, you can use that information to present a performance that will move your audience.

Practice it, memorize it, time it, record it, listen to it, and repeat. I used the voice recorder on my phone to record it at home and listened to the speech back as I drove to work each day. This will allow you to hear spots where you’re speaking too fast, and you can learn how to present your information in a way your audience can best receive it.

4. Give this speech to anyone who will listen.

Did I mention I love public speaking? I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun to get to talk about a subject I know and love. It has always come fairly easily to me.

Once I got on board with the TEDx process, I planned to practice my speech alone until I had it memorized, and present it to the world on the 3S Artspace stage. Then I received a video from the TEDx team about the art of mastering public speaking and I realized the gig was up. I actually had to prepare like everyone else. I wasn’t some special public speaking expert who didn’t need to prepare like the rest of the world.

I walked and practiced while waving good morning to the other parents on the circle at my kids’ school. I gave the speech to my husband. My kids knew the opening by heart. I gave the speech to friends who came over for dinner. I presented it online to a panel of people I’d never met and couldn’t really see on the screen. They told me I was talking too fast and needed to add pauses so people could react to what I was saying. I presented it to my family, and my mother rewrote the ending that same night.

5. Don’t practice that day.

Every single study done on performance, presentation and test-taking shows that studying the day of has no positive effect on performance. In fact, studies show that sleeping on information improves your performance the next day.

So, DO NOT RUN THROUGH YOUR SPEECH ONE MORE TIME the morning of the event. This will only amplify your anxiety. If you did the work and prepared in advance, it will show on stage. If you didn’t prepare, one last run through will only make your attempt worse. 

Before you go to bed Thursday night, run through the speech one more time. Get a good night’s rest. When you wake up, have a good breakfast, get some exercise, shower and make your way to 3S Artspace. The work is done. Now you just have to go have fun! 

Trust yourself. You’ve got this. You know your topic. Remember the wise words of Mr. Rogers. “I like you just for being you.” You’re gonna be great!

6. Get present before you step on stage.

We undermine our success in public speaking by planning or worrying about how the presentation will go. “Will I remember the story about Gramma Cepp? Can I get the wording of that tricky quote?” To do our best, we have to operate in the now.

Before I walked on stage at TEDx 2015, I closed the door in the green room and practiced this breathing technique. This pranayama exercise helps in several ways. First, when you are controlling your breath for six seconds in and six seconds out, it automatically forces your attention to your body. While your mind can dwell in the past or the future, your body is always in the present moment. Attuning your attention to your body will drop you right back into the now so you can use all of your skills to perform your best.

I also love this version of pranayama before performance because it helps to loosen the muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back that tighten up when we get tense. In addition, it helps to loosen the muscles in the chest and rib cage so your trunk is open and ready for public speaking, singing, teaching or performance.

Thanks to 2015 TEDxPiscataquaRiver speaker Sara Curry for this helpful advice! For more information about speaking at a TEDx event, or for information about speaking at TEDxPiscataquaRiver, visit our Speaker Information page.

Crystal Paradis

WHAT:       For the first time, TEDxPiscataquaRiver, the fourth annual Seacoast TEDx event will be open to 200 attendees, doubling the audience size from our first three events. The theme is “On the Edge.”

WHEN:       9 a.m. - 5 p.m., May 6, 2016

WHERE:    3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St, Portsmouth, NH

DETAILS: Tickets to the all-day event (including lunch!) go on sale March 21st for $50 each, on the TEDxPiscataqua River website, www.TEDxPiscataquaRiver.com.

This year's TEDxPiscataquaRiver features 12 to 14 regional and national speakers, a selection of local performers and several curated TED Talk videos. Speakers and performers will be announced soon. For those unable to attend in person, the event will stream online live at TEDxPiscataquaRiver.com. All presentations will be posted to the TEDx Talks YouTube channel afterwards, so that fans can watch and share their favorite talks online. 

TEDx coming back to Portsmouth May 6, 2016

Download this photo high-res at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/95540615@N07/17837457065/
Photo by David J. Murray, Clear Eye Photo

More high-res photos from TEDxPiscatquaRiver can be downloaded at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedx03801/

Charlie Weinmann
United Way at TEDxPiscataquaRiver

How does a community change for the better? How do we evolve to create a lasting improvement in a society where not everyone is aware of the issue? These are questions Lauren Wool asks herself in her efforts to bring topics of change to light within Seacoast communities.

Wool has been the Senior Director of Community Impact at United Way of the Greater Seacoast in Portsmouth, NH since 2004. Last year, United Way was chosen from a pool of non-profits to attend the TEDxPiscataquaRiver im[PACT] session. Wool’s partner, Dave Johnson, gave a 90-second pitch about the organization’s mission, and a challenge that required the help of the community.

“We wanted the audience to know that United Way is the go-to place for anyone wishing to make a difference in their community through volunteering,” Wool said. “We know the community needs. We know how to help and we make those connections every day.”

*Watch this laugh-worthy video Wool and Johnson submitted as their entry for the im[PACT] session:

Wool says United Way’s goal is to provide opportunities for individuals in the community to give back, either through donating or volunteering, although it can be difficult to rally any troops. The chance to speak in front of a highly engaged audience meant that Wool had an ideal platform to spread her organization’s message and recruit people to help. Wool was able to have conversations with members of the audience who were intrigued by United Way’s pitch for improvement, gaining confirmation from several people that they would commit to helping United Way in it’s efforts.

United Way was also able to connect with members of UROCK Marketing, an organization that helps enrich small business practices around the Seacoast. The entire United Way staff attended one of the infamous UROCK parties, where they created a “vision board,” meant to generate ideas for approaching business partners and populations touched by United Way investments.


Wool says there are currently two projects in the works that she anticipates will produce results worth talking about within the next six months.

“United Way is all about lasting change,” she said. “Some of our work is made visible immediately, while some work takes time to percolate and then materialize visibly.”

TEDxPiscataquaRiver is meant to unite those who are passionate enough to generate enough discussion to create a movement. Past audiences have proven to be powerful in their influence, creating synergy between presenters and audience members alike.

Others like Wool have benefited greatly from listening to audience’s suggestions and ideas, as well as learning from other presenters. After all, great change is bound to ignite in a space filled with passionate thinkers.

“We were thrilled to be in the company of so many actively engaged community members who want to make a difference,” Wool said.

Crystal Paradis

TEDxPiscataquaRiver is returning in May of 2016, and we're brainstorming around theme, topics and questions to shape the discussions of our next event.

What big questions have you encountered in your work this year? What concepts have hit you as really interesting or intriguing? Have you been wondering what is behind certain trends or why people keep having the same types of arguments?

We'd love to hear about the things that have tickled your fancy and piqued your interest this past year, both globally and locally, across science, technology, art, sociology, philosophy, medicine, entertainment, business, social justice, design and education. 

Here are some guidelines from TED on coming up with topics and questions for a TEDx event:

  • Ask new questions - When creating your list, you want to highlight ideas that most people haven't thought about before. Don’t aim to reinforce world views.
  • Think local - Consider choosing topics that TED can't address on our global stage. What new ideas are being discussed and created in your community? What critical issues are big thinkers and innovators talking about in your local community?
  • Think global - Think about how you can reflect your community outward to the world. What could the rest of the world learn from your community? And alternatively, what could your community learn from the world that they don’t know?

We'd love to hear what topics interest you — as a community member of the greater Seacoast area and as a global citizen. 

Please suggest a topic or question here:

suggest a topic

Crystal Paradis
Suggest a theme for our next event

We're really excited this year to be kicking off organizing our 2016 TEDx event by asking our community for input on our event theme. You have until midnight on Sunday, September 27th to submit your theme suggestions — and if we pick yours, you'll get two tickets to the 2016 event.

It's important to note the difference between a TEDx theme and a topic or subject. Each TEDx talk is about and "Idea Worth Spreading" on one specific topic or area of expertise. A theme, if a TEDx event chooses to have one, is a concept broad enough to apply to a wide variety of topics and speakers from diverse backgrounds.

One example of a theme that the Portsmouth community might be interested in discussing is "Growth" — this could apply to our rapidly growing city, the growth of an individual through a life-changing experience, the growth of a child's mind during its formative years, the growth of the farm to table movement, etc.

TED and TEDx events often have themes that are catch phrases or dichotomies: Mavericks & Misfits or The Substance of Things Not Seen

We've even put together a Pinterest board of TED and TEDx themes for inspiration:

Pinterest screenshot of theme ideas 

Do you have an idea for a theme that would be broad enough to encompass a lot of really cool talks and performances? Please, let us know!

You have until midnight on September 27th to suggest a theme. If yours is picked, you will win two tickets to the 2016 event, which is happening next May.

Learn more about what a TEDx theme is or make your suggestion of a theme for our next event here:

Suggest a Theme