Sharon Delaney McCloud giving her TEDx Talk at Cary's SAS Institute

TEDx Success

In Buzz, March 2020 by Lauren Kruchten

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How a local marketing executive prepared for a big talk on a tough subject. 

It took approximately 80 hours for Sharon Delaney McCloud to prepare for her TEDx Talk at Cary’s SAS Institute in December. It’s the most time McCloud, the vice president of professional development at Raleigh-based marketing agency Walk West, ever spent getting ready to give a speech. 

McCloud has been a public speaker and presentation coaching for years, so she’s no stranger to delivering speeches in front of large audiences. But, she says, giving a TEDx Talk was a completely different animal. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud
Sharon Delaney McCloud

“It was the toughest abstract I’ve ever had to write,” McCloud recalls. “I was very nervous that someone would look at it and laugh. I didn’t know what the reaction would be.” 

McCloud is an active member of the Global Speakers Federation and the National Speakers Association and has dreamed of giving a TEDx Talk on how and why people should speak with bereaved parents—or vilomahs, as she refers to herself after losing her daughter to cancer in 2005. Last October, McCloud finally got the opportunity to share her story through TEDxCaryWomen. Two weeks before the deadline, she submitted her application and, after a rewrite on the day of her late daughter’s birthday, she was accepted. 

Following her acceptance—and after signing several legal documents and consent release forms—McCloud was paired with speaker coach Stephanie Scotti, who coached at a Raleigh TEDx event in 2016 and regularly works with business leaders to prepare them for high stakes presentations. 

Scotti and McCloud worked together for the two months leading up to the TEDx Talk, to develop McCloud’s idea into an 18 minute-long speech using a process Scotti developed called the “CODE Process,” an anagram for Clarify your idea, Organize your content, Develop your media and Express and engage. 

Scotti says 80 percent of the time she spent with McCloud was dedicated to messaging and developing a strong throughline that got McCloud’s central idea across in one sentence, the hardest principle for TEDx speakers to achieve, according to Scotti. 

Stephanie Scotti
Stephanie Scotti

“I can’t even quantify the time and effort she put into preparing me,” McCloud says of her coach. “She was so caring and she challenged me in ways that I so needed. She was just incredible.” McCloud says one of the toughest aspects of her talk, for her personally, was memorizing the speech as she wasn’t allowed to use note cards or have slides to guide her through her talking points. Nonetheless, McCloud says, she presented her speech comfortably and received good feedback from audience members who were vilomahs themselves or had known bereaved parents.

“She did a marvelous job,” Scotti says of her trainee. “She was dedicated to the process and generous in her time and in her delivery. She was present to everybody in her audience. She wasn’t performing, she was just talking.”

Watch McCloud’s TEDx Talk and learn more about vilomahs at vilomahvoice.com

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