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Cathlyn Melvin is a TEDx coach and copywriter whose insight has been featured via TEDx, Thrive Global, Fempreneur Online, The Writing Cooperative, and other outlets.
With a degree in theatre performance and over a decade as an actor, director, writer, editor, and educator, Cathlyn draws on her diverse experiences to help mission-driven experts design and deliver their world-changing messages through TEDx coaching and done-for-you copywriting services.
When she’s not writing or coaching, you might find Cathlyn baking something delicious made of chocolate or reading in the sunshine with her very snuggly and loudly purring cat, Tucker.
Are you ready to make the phone ring, the website ping and the bank accounting? From the skinny lessons that will make you wince to the tell all expose A’s. These everyday people, the guests on the show are doing extraordinary things in their business. Welcome to The Secret Life of local. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and founder of the Get found for local programme. Do we have a treat for you today? Put on those phones, pop in your earbuds. And let’s do this. Today, we’re sharing the secrets and going behind the scenes with a business owner to hear how Kathlyn Melvin has become a TEDx coach, and copywriter whose insights have been featured on TEDx and thrive global. But I’m gonna let her tell the story. So Cathlyn, tell us a little bit about yourself, and how the heck you got involved in TEDx?
Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to talk about all of this with your listeners. Absolutely. So my I’ve sort of taken a lot of lily pads to get to where I am now. And it’s interesting looking back and seeing how everything has kind of flowed as I hopped from one to the other. So the work that I do now is actually related to the my sport of choice way back in high school. Oh, wow, you wouldn’t have found me on the volleyball court or playing basketball. But my sport of choice was speech and debate. I was a competitive speaker for four years, and competed all the way up to the national level, and went on to coach a speech and debate team after I graduated to while I was in undergrad studying theatre. So since that’s what my degrees in and I spent a little over a decade working as an actor and director and theatre educator, before I made the switch into doing the work that I do now as both a copywriter and a TEDx coach. So I had started learning about copywriting during my time as a theatre artists because my first business was national touring children’s theatre here in the states where we send educators out across the country to work with different communities of kids to put on plays. And I was writing all of our content for our website and our social media in our emails that were going out. So that was really my introduction to what copywriting was. And so it created this really nice transition when it was time for me to leave the theatre industry to move into messaging. And of course, now, I work not only as a copywriter under that messaging umbrella, but also under that same umbrella is the work I do with business owners on their TEDx journey, taking them all the way from generating their idea to figuring out what events to applying for them to getting it all down on paper, and then up on its feet and ready for that final performance.
Wow. Well, let’s unpack all of that a little bit. So first off, as a speaking coach, I can’t wait to hear your tips for me when we’re done our episode today. Because I’m sure every time you hear someone speak publicly, you’re like, Oh, you don’t want to say that? Or oh, that’s not a you know, great word, or that’s got negative connotation. So I’m sure that’s really hard when you’re listening to other people deliver a message is like, oh, no, no, don’t say that. Right. Okay, and what kind of copywriter? Are you? Because I really learned to appreciate that there are nurturing messages, conversion messages. So what do you primarily focus on?
So a lot of what I do is conversion, copywriting focused on launch materials, right sales pages, I’ll write the sales emails that go along with it. But I also do a lot of other kinds of emails, I’ve written web, welcome sequences. I’ve written nurture sequences. And I really love emails, because every single email is its own individual thing. Like it stands on its own, it has to be super strong. But then when you’re creating a sequence, it’s also just one element of this bigger long form piece of communication. And so it’s super fun to me to figure out where all of those puzzle pieces go, what to highlight and each of them so that you come away with this really cohesive piece of communication
Exactly as they campaign when all is said and done because you want to walk someone through a journey, but but you’re delving it out bite size because we as consumers nowadays, we just don’t sit back and consume a whole bunch to get information from any type of business anymore. So yeah, I’ve, we work with a couple of conversion copywriters here. And I, they are totally worth their weight in gold. Because, you know, they help us make sure that things happen. So no, I think that’s fantastic. Absolutely. Let’s focus in on this TEDx work. Because, you know, one of the things that really attracted me to the information that you provided for me when we were getting ready for today’s episode, was the thought that, you know, the average person could be a TEDx speaker. So how the heck does someone who, you know might be listening today, actually look at that opportunity? How to how does someone become a TEDx speaker?
So something that’s really interesting about TEDx is that they’re not looking for quote, unquote, circuit speakers, they’re not looking for professional speakers who go from stage to stage and share one talk or one singular message across multiple stages, they’re really focusing on the idea that you have, that you can share out into the world that can ripple out and create a big impact. So you don’t need to be someone who has a tonne of public speaking experience. I recommend that if you’ve never, you know, done a Facebook Live, or you’ve never been a guest on a podcast, do a handful of those things first. But don’t get stuck in that because you don’t need to be a guest on 100 different podcasts before you’re ready for your TEDx talk, you just need to get some of those. Some of those like first step nerves out, being in front of an audience, even if it’s virtual, even if you can’t see them, as our listeners can’t see us right now. But so often, I think business owners, they know that TEDx is like this incredible credibility marker, they know that it can help expand your audience and your reach out and help sort of like lubricate conversations with clients or with media. And so they look at it and they go, that’s so important. And it’s something that I would really like to do I have a message on my heart that I would like to share.
But yes, exactly. And there’s so many things that hold you back. Because, you know, I think about myself, and five years ago, when I was doing some of my first Facebook Lives, or Instagram lives, or even YouTube videos, like you would try and try and try again, and then you would record remotely and you would upload, and you and then all of a sudden, somewhere along the way, you get so used to it, that you show up without brushing your hair. And when you have major catastrophes that we had one time when we were recording in the radio station, this shelf, our show notes sit on a shelf, and the shelf came crashing down, right as we hit the Go Live button. And so first, your first reaction is like shock. Oh my God, what’s happening, your second reaction is total and complete loss of control and laughter. And then the third thought that goes to your head is, oh, my God, I have to get through my show intro. So thank God, my, my guest, and when we sit in the station, my guests, it’s to the right of me. And she had completely lost everything. Like she was almost falling out of the chair with laughter. I had the people from the radio station are running in quietly to try and pick pieces up because they hear the bang, and I’m trying to get through to grow. But that’s the kind of stuff that like, I look back, and I just absolutely howl with laughter. Because, Oh, well. You know, like, I can’t say the word I want to say but it happened, right, and you just learn to roll with it. And I think that’s a really important skill for a public speaker, because stuffs gonna happen. And whether your mic crashes, or the TV screen comes crashing down at a TEDx like stuffs gonna happen, and you got to be able to go, Oh, that’s not good. Okay, let’s keep going. I didn’t do that. Oh, let’s keep going as well as I could have that day.
You know, it varies depending on where you’re at on a given day. Yes. When I was teaching theatre, we would get to the point in the programme where the kids were getting ready for their, their final performance. And we would always say, you know, things are gonna happen. We’ve rehearsed you know what you’re doing, but we really want to focus on what’s going going on on stage because in the audience A baby’s gonna cry. A Grandma’s gonna take four minutes to unwrap a peppermint, you know, things like that that are so distracting. Yes. But as long as you’ve prepared yourself, and as long as you’re grounded and in your message and what you really want to share, you can just keep going, yes, you can pause, you can laugh at something that happens, you can move forward and treat it like real life. Because you’re live on stage.
Exactly, yes. And I think the more prepared you are, the easier it is to be natural about those responses. When you’re not feeling as prepared or your messages in a synced as you’d like, all of a sudden, you know, you don’t know how to respond to that, because you’re so focused on that moment on stage. So the more comfortable you get, the more natural it becomes. It’s like, oh, okay, that happen?
Are y’all done grandma? Okay, we’ll move on now. Right? Exactly. Or, you know, it’s Oh, can I have one of those to grandpa? Right?
Like, you’re really good. I just kind of go with it. I know, we had one time when we were broadcasting live. And we were doing both radio station and Facebook Live at the same time. And you know how Facebook does? Like you can put all those like skins or whatever, when you’re live. Yeah, well, these rabbit ears got stuck. Right. So I had rabbit ears on top of my head, and they wouldn’t turn off. And in fact, people on Facebook, were trying to tell me, we’ll just click this. I’m like, No, I am they won’t go away. So I was doing the episode like this. And the unfortunate thing is, guest sooner nervous. So here’s me laughing and you know, having these years and she’s just mortified. I felt so bad for after she was like, Oh, my God, I didn’t know what to do. I’m like, Yeah, laugh. It’s all you can do. Right?
So and so that’s why I really liked to have people start out with things like going live, yeah, or guessing on a podcast, or even giving their own workshop or webinar over over the internet. Because that can help you just kind of shake that off and realise things happen, things don’t always go the way that that you need them to. And so once you’ve done that, once you’ve got a handful of those experiences, and you know, generally speaking, what your message is that you want to share, that’s when you can really get started. Even if you’re looking around and you’re watching other people’s TEDx talks, and you’re thinking, Oh, my goodness, they’ve been in business so much longer than I have, or, well, they’ve already written three books. And I’ve written zero books. The ones that we often see shared around, there are people who already were at a certain level of business. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be there at that same level before you give your TEDx talk. It is never too soon. Yeah, write your TEDx talk.
And I think there are like, There’s levels of TEDx, right? Because where I live, we’ve had, you know, kind of a local TEDx. And, you know, a few people went on stage, you know, shared their message. And I don’t know that it really went anywhere for them. Like, it’s not like you then crawl up the ranks of a TEDx thing. It’s the national and the international ones, you know, that are a really big dream, I think for a lot of folks the thought of being able to be on that stage. How do you go from attending that local one?
Sorry, okay, you all TEDx events are local. Okay? So, a lot of the time when we talk about Ted, we say, oh, I want to give a TED talk, or my friend gave a TED talk. And what they really mean is those local TEDx events, and they can be a range of sizes. Some of them are highly established, some of them are newer. The first one happened in 2009. Whereas Ted, the parent organisation that’s been around since the 80s, and for a long time, they had one conference a year. Now they have to, but that’s where people like Bill Gates and Shonda Rhimes and Monica Lewinsky, give, give their talks at ahead. Okay, so the x what that means in TEDx is that it’s independently organised. So the organisers, they get a free licence from Ted, okay, and there are a bunch of hoops they have to jump through, they have to attend a TED conference, they have to go through training to be able to host their events. But there are over 3500 TEDx events annually around the globe.
Okay, I did not know this. Wow. So that’s how they that’s the common thread, though. They’re not all the parent count. Companies events,
Oh, yeah, they are often in under that umbrella. And there are rules that are set by Ted that TEDx organisers have to follow. But they all have their own energies, they all have their own processes, because they’re all independent. Yeah. And so, what you what you get out of TEDx, like so many things, you can’t just give a TEDx talk and assume it’s gonna blow up and change your life. But what it is, is lended credibility. So borrowed credibility when a TEDx organiser trusts you to go on their stage and speak live and give this talk. Then when you are talking to someone in the media, or you’re talking to a client, that credibility gets transferred to you. You’ve already been trusted by that brand guy. And we all have so much trust in the TEDx brand, right?
So you give your your talk, and then you need to talk about it, you need to share it, you need to keep bringing it up in order for it to continue to benefit you and your business. Exactly.
You know, it’s funny, it was probably three years ago now, because it would have been before COVID When our community had a TEDx talk, and I can remember two of the speakers only because I knew them as colleagues. And then I don’t think I’ve heard anything about it since. Right. And, and COVID, definitely changed. Like, I wouldn’t doubt that the organisers had intended for it to be an annual thing, because there’s a lot of time and investment in building the brand locally. And yeah, I can’t say that. I’ve heard boo about it since.
So yeah, that may just be something that that died with COVID.
Exactly. Yeah, that’s entirely possible. So if there’s 3500 of them around the globe, what do you see in terms of the trends, like do a lot of folks from a community that wouldn’t have a TEDx? Do they apply to them? Like how? So how do you make that leap? Now? How do you become a speaker for one of those events.
So usually, each event will publish their application online. And that can happen six months before the event that can happen three months before the event, I recommend giving yourself at least a six month runway. Because there first of all, there are a lot of steps to go through from figuring out what your idea is getting that really narrowed down niche down and refined so that you have this succinct and compelling idea worth spreading, figuring out what you want to get out of TEDx. So that that can then inform what events you’re going to apply for, and other things down the line. But that, that part of the process where you’re deciding what event to apply for, you might make a list of events that you’re really interested in, that are happening in the next, you know, six to eight months. And then you kind of have to wait and check back and check back until they they start putting their applications online. And the applications are different for each event. As is so much of the process. Yeah, so some organisations, some events will just have like a one level, you submit an online application and you get selected based on that application. Sometimes that’s just the first step, you submit that online application, and then they do a zoom interview with you. Or they have you submit a video of you talking some, some places have in person auditions that they bring people in for. So that whole process, it just it can really vary. And so keeping track of where you want to apply what that process is, like, if they give you that information upfront, sometimes they don’t give you that information upfront. You fill out the application and then surprise, they invite you to an interview and you’re like I didn’t know we were going to do an interview.
Hopefully keeping you on your toes even then.
Yeah. Because every committee, every team has different preferences of how they want to work that selection process and how they want want their processes to be.
Yeah. So if that was something that I was interested, I wanted to get that get out there and share my Google Message. Can I apply to any and every, you know, event that’s happening? Are they all listed on that main Ted site? Like how do I even find out about that stuff?
So every event that happens is listed on ted.com. If you just if you Google TEDx events, there’ll be a page on ted.com That that pops up. It’s not super user friendly. But you can find the basic information of when and where. And then as far as can you apply to all of them? It depends on the event, right?
So some depends on their criteria, because some may have a criteria to be local only, where others probably are opening it up a little bit broader, depending on the size of the event, I’m guessing.
Yeah, so most TEDx events do accept applications from wherever. But everyone smile, you’ll run into one that, for instance, TEDx Surrey, outside of Vancouver, right? They only want people who are local to, to the Vancouver area. Got it? Most of the time, that’s not a restriction, but you do have to watch for it. Because you don’t want to waste your own time filling out an application that you’re not qualified for. And you don’t want to waste the organisers time either.
Yeah, exactly. No, that makes perfect sense to me. And, like, how, how would you recommend to someone when you’re coaching them? How do you recommend finding or fine tuning that topic?
So there’s a process that I take my clients through, that I asked and then we work together. Right now I work one on one in early 2023, there’ll be a group programme available. But even in the group programme, every student will get a one on one session with me to refine their idea worth spreading, because it’s so foundational. And it really is, like me putting my brain on the idea. Yeah. And together working, working ourselves through drafts of that idea worth spreading until we come up with, with the one that we’re really focused on and gonna send out.
Yeah, so do you find that you fine tune the I’ll call it the topic almost like the subject line, and then you flesh out the meat? Or do you find that you flesh out the meat and then solidify from a sales standpoint, what that topic is going to be to, to make it most likely that the person is accepted.
So the idea worth spreading is really the core of the whole TEDx thing. Yeah. So wrap. So we definitely want to start with what is the message? What is that idea? And from there, then we can expand and we can say, Okay, what sort of support do we have for that? Do where, where have you seen this happen in your life? Or where where is there other expert evidence that we can pull in? But the idea itself is is the starting point.
Okay. Okay, that makes much more sense to me, Catherine, we only have a couple or a few minutes left. So you’ve talked a little bit about a programme that you’re wanting and talked a little bit about your own business and things like that. So So give us a little bit of background on what that might look like, and then share how we can get a hold of you.
Yeah, so point of clarification, what the what the programme or process looks like. So with my one on one clients, it’s a four month experience. And it’s sort of divided into two phases. So in the first phase, we’re really focused on nailing down that idea worth spreading, and figuring out what events you want to apply to and then customising those applications. And that’s something that we go pretty deep into because customising each of your applications to what that event is looking for is a game changer. That’s a huge differentiator. Exactly. So that’s the first phase. And that lasts about six weeks. And then we move into a 12 week ish phase. In total, it’s 18 weeks, but depending on where your strengths live, that can that the six and the 12 can can meld together a little bit. So the second phase is all about getting your ideas down on paper. Doing the drafting and the editing, I work alongside to give comments and with my one on one clients, I do a full final edit. When we get to the point where we’re like, this feels like it’s 99% there. Yep. And then we work together on memorization. There are a lot of tools that I bring in from my experience as an actor and a director that I help my clients through that process because the memorization can can be Big mental hurdle. So having that guidance is really invaluable, and then getting it up on its feet. And I direct the talk in a similar way to how I might direct a play note with focusing on intonation and pacing and movement and how, what should I just do here? Should I Inna? Exactly. So that by the time you get to your event, you’re super ready for a really confident and powerful and joyful
TEDx experience. Exactly.
Ted, it’s really important to TEDx that you can back up your idea. Absolutely. Like, yeah, if you’re, if you’re using data, it should be from a peer reviewed
Exactly like real science, right? Yes. Yes, they
have a rule that they call no bad science.
Yeah. Okay, Cathlyn, we are at a time tell us how folks can find you your social channels, and then we’ll have to wrap up.
Yeah. So the first place that I want to direct people is to my TEDx planner, it’s a free resource on my website, at rate cat creative.com/tedx. Planner. That’s ri ght creative.com. And then if you want to find me on socials, I am on LinkedIn. Kathlyn, Melvin, I am on Facebook. You can find my business page, right get creative, or my personal page is public and it’s used for business venture capital in Melbourne. And then the third one that I’m fairly active on his Instagram at Right cat creed.
Awesome. Well, that is fantastic. Katelyn, thank you so much. TEDx is something that’s always piqued my curiosity. So when you reached out about doing a podcast, I thought, Oh, this will be a great conversation. If you are interested in being a guest, you can contact me at email@example.com, or find us on our social channels at abovethefold.ca. I’m your host Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.