Public Speaking Lessons from Candy Chang
Although talking about death is generally considered taboo, this TED talk from Candy Chang, titled, Before I Die, I Want To… was an inspiration. She explained the powerful way that death clarifies life and through her art, she wanted to bring that same clarity to her local community. So what are the public speaking lessons we can learn from this motivational talk by Candy Chang?
Candy’s pauses are powerful.
Many speakers rush through talks particularly when they are nervous and don’t allow enough time for the spaces in-between the words. Her pauses allow the audience to pause during the speech, which is EXACTLY the main message of her work!
She wants us to pause our busy daily lives to think about the bigger picture.
In addition, her pauses act to add more “weight” and seriousness to the entire talk while at the same time giving the audience time to soak in her messages. This was an extremely effective method of communicating this particularly topic. I wonder if she chose to do that on purpose or it was simply a natural extension of her personality? Either way, it was an effective method of using vocal variety to enhance her message. Body Gestures
If I could talk directly to Candy, to help her message be even more powerful and moving, I would suggest she use her body more purposefully. She stood still or rocked back an forth slightly at times, which conveyed either nervousness or grief.
I would have counseled her to use the stage more effectively by choosing different areas on the stage for each of the segments of her talk, starting and ending much closer to the audience. In addition, I noticed her looking down at floor of the stage (perhaps at monitors?) which was distracting because it broke the connection with the audience. Again, her message was about communities connecting and the breaks in eye contact did not support her message.
Her Emotional Breakdown
Talking about the death of someone that was close to you is extremely difficult to do on stage. Emotions of the speaker are heightened while on stage so, at times, it can be quite difficult to speak. In her case, sharing her experience of this death was critical to the talk and needed to be shared.
I would have suggested she practice that particular section more than any other part of the talk so that she was able to deliver it with confidence (but not without emotion).
Overall I enjoyed the talk because I experienced a similar feeling when I lost my late husband John. His death brought clarity to my life and I understand her desire to help others see death, not as taboo, but as a way to celebrate and reinvigorate our lives.
I thought our community here could also participate in her work by answering her question in the comments.
Before I die, I want to…
Before I die, I want to…reassure my children and husband that I love them with all my heart and that I am proud of them!