How TED talks can improve your presentations

Find some great speakers / speaking examples and model after them

Well, one place to look for those factors would be somewhere where there are consistently great talks.  Maybe about…just about anything.  Top individuals giving presentations on topics that are common…and those that are not common.

Got any idea where that could be?  Let me give you a hint….The first presentation was in 1984 and was a financial dud. It wasn’t until six years later that a second conference was held..and it continues to be a success to this day.  It must be a good conference…at a current ticket price of $6,000, and only by invitation to be in the audience.  These presenters HAVE to be good.

Well they are.  TED talks.  (Trivia question: Wonder what TED stands for?   Technology, Education and Design).  If you have watched TED talks on YouTube you know these are top rated presentations.  Engaging.  Riveting.  Educational.  Interesting.  Fun. Memorable.  In some cases…life changing.  All in under 18 minutes.

Wow, that is a HUGE reputation to live up to. It’s no wonder these are consistently great talks.

More than 1,600 TED talks…all available on-line for free. Over 1 BILLION on line views.  I think they have a great recipe for success.

But WHAT makes them great?

There was a great review just the other day by Carmine Gallo in Forbes, “9 Public Speaking Lessons from The World’s Greatest TED Talks”.   After studying over 500 top TED talks and other related research, it’s interesting to hear Gallo say, “I’ve reached the conclusion that the human brain is wired to love the TED style. People simply can’t get enough of TED talks because they are truly addictive.

Addictive?  Huh?  Who ever heard of a talk or presentation being called addictive?

But……couldn’t that be REALLY useful in your business?  What if people who heard you once wanted to hear more?  Wouldn’t THAT be useful?  Wouldn’t THAT be a huge boost to your business presence?

Well, I don’t know if these tips will make your presentations addictive, but if you follow them, they certainly WILL make them better.

  1. Unleash the master within.Passion leads to mastery and mastery forms the foundation of an extraordinary presentation. You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.
  2. Tell three stories. Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds. Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.
  3. Practice relentlessly. Harvard brain researcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor had this “stroke of insight” that has been viewed 15 million times on Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation 200 times before she delivered it live. Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.
  4. Teach your audience something new. The human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation jolts the audience out of their preconceived notions, and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world. Robert Ballard is an explorer who discovered Titanic in 1985. He told me, “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.”
  5. Deliver jaw-dropping moments. The jaw-dropping moment—scientists call it an ‘emotionally competent stimulus’— is anything in a presentation that elicits a strong emotional response such as joy, fear, shock, or surprise. It grabs the listener’s attention and is remembered long after the presentation is over.
  6. Use humor without telling a joke. Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you seem more likable, and people are more willing to do business with or support someone they like. The funny thing about humor is that you don’t need to tell a joke to get a laugh. Educator Sir Ken Robinson educated and amused his audience in the most popular TED talk of all time: How Schools Kill Creativity. Robinson makes humorous, often self-deprecating, observations about his chosen field, education. “If you’re at a dinner party and you say you work in education—actually, you’re not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education…” Robinson makes very strong, provocative observations about nurturing creativity in children, and he packages the material around humorous anecdotes and asides that endear him to the audience. Lighten up. Don’t take yourself (or your topic) too seriously.
  7. Stick to the 18-minute rule. A TED presentation can be no longer than 18 minutes. Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across. Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas. TED curator Chris Anderson has been quoted as saying that 18 minutes is “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”
  8. Favor pictures over text. PowerPoint is not the enemy. Bullet points are. Some of the best TED presentations are designed in PowerPoint. Others use Apple AAPL -0.61% Keynote or Prezi. Regardless of the software, there are no bullet points on the slides of the best TED presentations. There are pictures, animations, and limited amounts of text—but no slides cluttered with line after line of bullet points. This technique is called “picture superiority.” It simply means we are much more likely to recall an idea when a picture complements it.
  9. Stay in your lane. The most inspiring TED speakers are open, authentic, and, at times, vulnerable. Researcher Brené Brown even gave a TED talk on the topic of vulnerability and how her own research led to her personal journey to know herself. Opening up paid off for Brown in a big way. Oprah discovered Brown on TED, invited Brown to be on her show, and today Brown is a bestselling author and regular contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine.

There, that’s the end of the copied content…back to this blog…

I can’t say enough about these points.  To me, most are just great ways of describing what I have learned from a number of other sources, but some of this information is new.

18 minute segments

The 18 minute rule is a good one.  But if you have to go longer to cover a complicated topic?  I was struggling with this relatively short time period.  Then I had a brainstorm.  You may need to have more time to cover a topic, but you CAN break most presentations into smaller bite size components. With that in mind, give the audience a “mental break” at the 18-20 minute mark.  Insert some nice photos of wildlife or something completely calming.  Let your audience digest the past 20 minutes for about 60 seconds.  Then start your next section, using each 20 minute block as if it’s an entirely new lecture.  Perhaps even using a different background or style.  MAKE IT DIFFERENT, and each section will be more memorable on it’s own.

So instead of having an hour lecture with a one line name:”Influenza Infections” where everthing blends together, you can chop up that topic into three mini-lectures presented like this:


  • Influenza: History and World Impact
  • Influenza: Basic Biology
  • Influenza: Current Status
  • Summary

Now which do you think would be better received by the audience?  Which do you think would have better audience retention?  Which do you think would be easier for YOU to prepare?

So take these valuable lessons and go forth and talk.  TED talk.

How TED talks can improve your presentations

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