“There’s this public perception that NASA is dead. That the space shuttle stopped flying and all of a sudden there’s no more spacecraft out there. But a lot of what NASA does is robotic exploration. And we have a LOT of spacecraft out there. NASA is far from dead.”
Of all the speakers I coached, my proudest moment was when Viet took to the stage and captivated the San Diego audience with his team’s incredible game-based Eyes on the Solar System website.
Viet had not done much public speaking, although he had recently spoken at [email protected]. For that presentation, he had been asked to demo the software, and then fairly last minute was asked to talk more about himself and how he got his job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He ran out of time, and the whole experience was nerve-wracking for him. While he had demo’d the program many times, he was used to having open-ended time slots, often hours, where people could drop in and out. For our talk he had seven minutes.
- First I had him show me the program and its capabilities, so I could see its coolest, most visual aspects.
- Any time he used highly technical terms I noted it, and asked him to think about more user-friendly ways to present the same information.
- We talked about his personal story and why he was passionate about space. When he told me about the astronomy book he had received in 4th grade from a neighbor, I knew that was a great hook for his opening.
- While I knew that he would need to get into the program demo pretty quickly, it wouldn’t be a great talk if he didn’t give some context for himself, his work, and why he was passionate about space and the project.
- We created a framework for the “cool”… starting in San Diego (and making the comparison to Google Earth, something the audience would be familiar with), and then zooming out to three different locations.
We hit on the high points of the program, with its ability to:
- see what the satellites look like
- move back and forth through time
- show real time (and accurate) data
- visualize what’s happening with space travel in three dimensions
- use it yourself from home for free
He spent a lot of time practicing on his own, and then I gave him some feedback on rehearsal day to help with his stage presence.
As you can see, he rocked his talk. If you look closely you can see that he is still nervous, but his rehearsal and the strong framework we created allowed him to relax and let his natural charm shine through.
He is the only one of our speakers—so far—to have his talk accepted onto TED.com. Congrats to everyone on the team, including Blayn Beck, our amazing video god, for making this happen!
Want to fly along in outer space with actual NASA missions? Check it out. It’s free!
If you have an upcoming talk and need speaker coaching, please contact me. I’d love to work with you to craft your compelling story.