How to Find the Story You Were Born to Speak on Stage

We’re so excited to have Alexia on the blog this week with our first ever guest blog post!

Branded a “Moxie Maven” by the White House Office of Public Engagement for her unique approach to developing female leaders, Alexia Vernon has become a go-to expert for helping TEDx speakers, entrepreneurs, executives, and other thought leaders create, book, and perform their spotlight talks.

Beauty, moxie and brains…oh, my! 😉

Take it away, Alexia!



Have you ever watched a TED talk and thought to yourself, “wow, that speaker blew my mind with his or her story?” I remember the first time that happened for me. It was 7 years ago, a few weeks into the first semester I was teaching public speaking for the City University of New York. I was searching for material to share with my students, and I stumbled upon Majora Carter’s TED Talk, Greening the Ghetto. It busted open my views on what makes for an effective talk or speech.

Up until that point I had always begun with what I wanted to teach an audience. The problem with beginning this way, unfortunately, is that it sets a thought leader up to educate rather than illuminate. To speak to an audience rather than to speak with an audience.

In order to meet an audience where they are, and inspire them to take action to get to where they want to be, you have to begin with where you are. Or more accurately, where you have been.

What is a time where you experienced something that shifted your worldview or adjusted the trajectory of your life?


Perhaps it even brought you to your knees in humility and made you realize you were more resilient than you ever thought you could be.

THAT is where soul-stirring speakers begin.

They take an audience right inside THAT story.

Then, they facilitate ‘aha’ for their audience by connecting that experience to their big idea—what they want their audience to believe or do by the end of their time speaking.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to ask a provocative question.

For example, I will often begin a talk or keynote on the importance of finding your voice and using public speaking to build a business or a movement by sharing my first speech—the day after receiving headgear. I’ll save you about five minutes and summarize.

I bombed it. My classmates laughed. I cried. For years I didn’t step up or out for fear I’d have a repeat episode.

I always let my audience know why I’m sharing what I’m sharing, in this case because there are too many women and men like me who have created a narrative of who they are as speakers that gets them in their own way of making the impact they were put on earth to make. Then, it comes time for my audience—and when you speak, your audience—to do the work.

I flip the lens onto them and ask a question like, “What’s the story you have archived about who you are as a speaker? What are the places in it, whether true or not, that are not serving you? And if you reframe it, what will be the payoff?”

Then, I can continue on my merry way and argue on behalf of the idea I want my audience to adopt—in this case, get on stage and serve the people in the world who are hungry for your ideas.

While I’m not a fan of formulas per se, this basic strategy of beginning with a big story, using it to foster an ‘aha’ moment for an audience, and then moving into the meat and potatoes of a presentation is demonstrated again and again in TED and TED-style talks.

If you know that people can benefit from hearing about your life and work, you have a responsibility to get on camera, online, and just as importantly on stage to share it.

— Alexia

Alexia just launched a FREE video training program, Go from Hot Mess to Hotshot Speaker. If you have ever struggled with fear surrounding public speaking, have questioned whether you’ve got the goods to be an in-demand speaker, or simply wonder how you would ever curate the right blend of personal stories and expert advice to make big-time impact on an audience, this training was designed for you.

Grab the details on Go from Hot Mess to Hotshot Speaker and sign up here. You can also gab further with Alexia on Facebook and on Twitter.


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