Speaking at TEDx Peachtree: Become the Vessel

Towed Out to Sea

A few weeks ago, I blogged about needing to make ideas more palatable.

Well, this afternoon I have an opportunity to strut my stuff at TEDxPeachtree. I’ll be speaking about how we don’t need heroes, and that anyone can use influence to affect societal change (you can watch via livestream at 3:05 this afternoon).

I have been preparing this speech for months now. With good reason… More than 5000 people are expected to watch the event in person and via livestream.

LiveYourTalk Founder and Speaking Coach Jill Foster has been working with me to maximize this opportunity.

We discussed a great deal about how my speaking has evolved over the past six years, how it used to be all ego, and now focuses on the delivery of quality information in an interesting, and even entertaining manner.

What Jill is worried about is me being too smart and intellectual about the concepts. So we deconstructed the speech, and rebuilt it for unity and contextual understanding of the oral word.

In Jill’s words, to make the TEDx speech work, I need to become the vessel, a vessel that safely brings great information to shore.

It’s become an interesting writing and learning experience, and I’ve learned quite a bit from Jill’s coaching.

Tips from Jill

Geoff Livingston

Jill offered several critical tips to help, including:

Master the Rubric: Speaking really masters the art of rhetoric. Jill has a specialized rubric that focuses on bridges, clarity, and repetition to make sure points are delivered well orally. So bridges and themes were added to the speech to master the rubric, and make the speech as accessible as possible.

Edit Relentlessy: Great composition requires consistent refinement and simplification (at least in my case). I’m not saying my speech is great. I am saying that it has been refined over a dozen times to make it as palatable and easy to digest as a live speech.

Practice: She was less concerned about my actual speaking style as presence doesn’t seem to be an issue, as seen here in a speech given to Triberr.

I wrote the TribeUp speech the night before speaking. For this TEDx effort, practice took the forefront so I don’t have the ums, you knows, etc. And I have been practicing daily for this speech over the past month. We’ll see if it pays off.

Listening to Yourself: One thing I hate about speeches is listening to myself. To help prepare, I recorded myself reading the speech, and listened to it over and over again. This actually helped me digest points and mentally associate key phrases with certain parts of the outline.

Why I’m Investing

Warren Landry Interviewed by May Yu and Jill Foster
With time and reflection, CitizenGulf has become one of my favorite social good projects. Jill Foster is pictured on the right.

Of course, I want to become a better speaker, and that’s part of my motive to work with Jill. And then there’s the whole fear of embarrassment at a TED event, extra scary given I will be speaking with no slides.

But there’s more here.

The topic and the opportunity means a lot to me. I’ve had the great benefit of working solely in the nonprofit space over the past few years.

During that time I’ve seen a nonprofit with a Klout score of 10 kick total butt and movements arise out of nowhere. I know what people can do when they have passion, care and a willingness to act.

At the same time, circumstance has forced me to move more than half — but not all — of my work into the for-profit sector. Currently, I’m the sole bread winner for the house, and that’s made nonprofit work a luxury I cannot afford full-time.

Circumstance may prevent me from working full time in the nonprofit space again. I will always have a hand in charitable work because it’s who I am and what I believe in.

But from a sector perspective, this may be my best opportunity to give away the knowledge so freely given to me by Beth Kanter, Katya Andresen, John Haydon, Frank Barry and so many others.

In many ways I see this TEDx speech — done right — as an opportunity to provide real meaningful knowledge and experience to people. Most importantly, the speech could give folks hope.

So it’s time to throw the dice, and become the vessel.


  • Good luck!

  • Geoff – Thank you a lot for your kind words and reflection. It’s been motivating to work with your grit these past weeks. I wish you a special experience today in Atlanta (and look forward to hearing what you and TEDxPeachtree valued most from eachother).

  • Sounds like it’ll be a good speech. It better be, cuz I’m changing my local travel plans to hear the live steam! No pressure though. :)

  • Good luck, Geoff. I’m sure you’ll be wonderful. I saw you speak at the Jugnoo event in Toronto and thought you were a terrific speaker already.

  • Practice makes perfect! It sounds like you’re prepared & passionate, which is a great combination. We wish you all the best today (& always!). Really enjoyed the tips; we sometimes forget the art of the spoken word since we’re often connected through the written word.


    • Lisa – Your point of ‘often connected through the written word’ and related vigilance as speakers stands out to me. Thanks for that.

    • LOL, and before TV, that’s pretty much all we had, radio programs and speeches, and live speeches, coupled with newspapers. It’s really the lost art in many ways!

  • Geoff, Jill coached me and because of her I was able to give my first keynote two weeks ago and will be keynoting again in London thanks to Jill’s awesome focus and wisdom. You have been giving great talks these past few years and I am glad we both engaged a mutual friend who can provide the insight and perspective we need to raise our game. Good luck today dude!

    • She’s really amazing, don’t you think? And good luck with your keynotes. I appreciate you driving by!

    • Steve — Thank you for your wonderful thoughts here. It means a lot. I admire the ownership you bring to your voice and sense of conviction. I can’t wait to hear how Boston’s keynote went.

  • Wow Geoff, your life’s work and purpose all being displayed in one hour on one stage called, TEDx!

    How awesome is that?

    To be invited here says your work is important to the planet and the peoples lives you will influence with your talk.

    At least that’s what some really smart people believe :)

    It’s not time to be nervous, it’s time to have the kind of impact in the world you’ve always known you were born to deliver.

    Take full advantage of the stage you’ve earned, Geoff – you’re right in the thick of living your vision and you’re just getting started!

    I noticed the date of this post, it was yesterday, so I’m looking forward to seeing it when the recording is available.

    Cheers to making a difference, sir!

    • You are so awesome, Mark. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I know as a blogger you get how much they mean. We get isolated in our ether castles. Your support is greatly appreciated!

  • Good for you! I wish more people would practice to eliminate the uhms, you knows, and such from their speaking, including a few CNN ancors. A speaker who speaks well, is a thing to behold, one who doesn’t, is worse than detention.

    I’m sure you were great.

  • Hi Geoff (and Jill!) love this, and it confirms my intent to work with Jill one day. Your point about about the rubric really stood out for me- its something I did not do well in my last talk even though I intended to. Something happens to the brain when you get up on stage, no matter how much your practice. I think it just takes more experience.
    Is there a link where we can see the final?

    • Thank you, Lisa. Yes, Jill is a fantastic coach, and I highly recommend her. The video should be live in the next couple of weeks. I personally plan on running for cover!

      • I know. I don’t blame you. Everyone told me to video record my practice speech, and I thought, HELL NO. I’m sure it’s awesome. We are our own worst critics.

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