TEDxMelbourne Open Mic Night - Public Speaking

Episode 49 – Lessons from MC’ing TEDxMelbourne’s Open Mic Night

When you really want a ticket to a sold-out event, volunteer to MC it. Yep, that’s what happened and in this episode I explain how I got involved with TEDxMelbourne’s Open Mic event last Wednesday. The speech competition was won by Laura Youngson, who talked about playing soccer on Mount Kilimanjaro. She now gets to share her idea at the main TEDxMelbourne event Rebels, Revolutionaries and Us on Tuesday 19 September 2017. http://tedxmelbourne.com/


Open mic rules

There were twenty speakers in the competition and they each had three minutes to share their idea. The bell would ring after two minutes and again at three minutes. Most of them didn’t lose their train of thought when the bell rang!

1. Pick an interesting topic

TEDxMelbourne Open Mic Night Main Stage

I was only allowed to announce the speakers’ names and not their speech titles. The organisers wanted the speakers to reveal their ideas on stage. The speakers certainly kept the audience engaged with unique titles and topics e.g.

  • The Bank of Cancer (Aaron March)
  • Transforming shame into beauty (Clare Dea)
  • An app that tells you if your grandma is waking up for cookies at 3am (Dhruv Verma)
  • Schrödinger (Adam Ross)
    • Side note from Wikipedia: Erwin Schroedinger, was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory.
    • Schrödinger’s cat experiment: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor (e.g. Geiger counter) detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison, which kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.”

2. Just be human

TEDxMelbourne Speaker Briefing Open Mic Night

These are the key themes that I noticed in the ideas shared during the night:

  • Vulnerability
  • Courage
  • Empathy
  • Love
  • Legacy

3. Share your fire/passion

TEDxMelbourne Open Mic Night - Nic Sutherland

Each of the speakers spoke passionately about the topic. It was interesting to watch the different presentation styles used to capture the audience’s attention e.g.

  • Great use of pauses
  • Confidence when walking onto the stage
  • Thorough preparation and delivery on stage
  • Song and dance
  • Heartfelt personal stories

4. Keep us curious

TEDxMelbourne Open Mic Laura Youngson and Jon Yeo

Normally you hear people say you should end your speech with a call-to-action. I liked that several of the speakers left us hanging or hinted that there was more to the story…if they were given the chance to share it at the main event. I think it’s quite effective to leave an audience wondering, “What haven’t you told us?”

Laura Youngson won the competition and after her the event I asked if I could interview her on the podcast. She definitely has some interesting stories to share! Image from her public Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/laurayoungson/

TEDxMelbourne Open Mic Laura Youngson Mt Kiliminjaro

Congratulations to the twenty open mic speakers:

Aaron March, Adam Ross, Ashleigh Redmond, Clare Dea, Dean Landy, Dhruv Verma, Erwin Boermans, Fiona Grinwald, Jez Collier, Karthik Viswanathan, Lara Jennings, Laura Youngson, Nick Sutherland, Patrick Beraud, Sergio Brodsky, Stephen Witherden, Tian Septian, Tilka Brown, Tina Murray and Tom Haynes.

5. Timing is everything

TEDxMelbourne Team Selfie Open Mic Night

The TEDxMelbourne team planned their event very well. Running an event with several speakers is much easier when you:

  • Set clear expectations from the get go
  • Have a very clear run sheet
  • Have very clear roles for everyone
  • Stick to the time!

Thank you Jon, Mages, Danielle and the TEDxMelbourne team for inviting me to MC.


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