Can You Spare 20 Minutes to Be Inspired for the Rest of the Week?

Caught a short video of a March 2011 TED Talk by Sarah Kay on the plane back to Los Angeles and, despite jet lag, the stiff discomfort of sitting for six hours, and airline food, found myself buzzing with energy and inspiration and itching to write.

Also, wound up surreptitiously wiping away tears in the middle seat of the cattle-car section surrounded by 200 passengers. Kind of an odd sensation, but Kay’s talk is filled with such wonder and joy, it’s infectious.

Notice I’ve waited till the third paragraph to tell you that she’s a…brace yourself…spoken-word poet. Before you say, “This won’t apply to me. I don’t write poetry; I write corporate communications/novels/speeches,” here’s a cheat-sheet detailing why it’s worth your while to watch:

You’ll learn how to write a speech that inspired two standing ovations
Effective writing is not simply a matter of Beginning-Middle-End, notes Kay. Sometimes creating a speech involves mixing it all up. You’ll see what she means as you follow the course of her speech, which earned its first standing ovation just a few minutes in.

If you’re uncomfortable giving presentations to large groups or support a senior leader who’s nervous about public speaking, you’ll see how passion for your subject can override shyness
“My knees still buckle every time I step on a stage,” Kay told the crowded auditorium. She was so excited and nervous about appearing at TED that it almost overwhelmed her ability to speak. But, her passion for her subject and deep respect for the audience carried her along on a wave of enthusiasm that enveloped the audience and made everyone in the room breathless with excitement. This talk doubles as a great training video for anyone who has to regularly give public presentations.

You’ll learn Kay’s list of four things that are key to making writing and messaging great
It starts at the intersection of what you (or a senior leader you support with your writing) are passionate about and what others (your audiences) are invested in.

You’ll find out – for work and life – how writing can help you problem-solve
“It’s not just the adage ‘write what you know,’” Kay said, “it’s about gathering up all of the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up till now to help you dive into the things you don’t know.” Kay uses writing to figure out things (and not just problems she’s having with writing, but everything) she doesn’t understand. Try it with a business problem, you may find you have a solution when your hand has finished moving across the page or keyboard.

Now, here’s your 20 minutes of Monday morning inspiration with Sarah Kay at TED 2011.

Sarah Kay is the founder of Project V.O.I.C.E., which teaches poetry in schools.