3 Hidden Presentation Lessons From TED Talks

By Susan Trivers

A brightly lit stage, huge screen and one speaker in a circle of light talking to an eager audience for under 20 minutes. That’s a TED talk, and the model is very popular. Groups and associations are adapting this style to their own meetings and the phrase “TED talk” is it’s own definition.

What should you, the typical business speaker, learn from the popularity of the TED talk format? While most people mention the short time frame and the image-only slides, they usually don’t mention TED’s tag line: “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

“Ideas Worth Spreading” is about content! What made TED attractive is the concept that ideas–content–should be at the forefront of speeches and presentations. It’s not about slides or gestures or body language.

It’s about your ideas and how you craft your spoken content to share them. And it’s about your presence during your time in the spotlight.

How do you learn from TED Talks?

1) Have an idea that grabs people.

a. How can you think “inside” the box and see what others don’t see?

b. How can you reason against a popular theory or idea?

c. How can you help others imagine themselves becoming more like their dreams?

2) Use your own natural language.

a. Make an audio recording as you talk through your idea. This is informal, just to capture how you think when it’s freshest, and what that sounds like.

b. Listen to this again and again to keep the authenticity while you’re writing.

c. Trust yourself. Use only trigger words, not full sentences, when writing.

3) Practice and rehearse dozens of times

a. Practices are for you. Listen to yourself, love your own naturalness, play with your voice, only fix sticky parts.

b. Rehearsals change your focus to the audience: see them, imagine their excited responses, feel yourself being present in the moment.

c. Spend twice as long on practicing as you spend on writing. Spend another two times as much on rehearsing. You will not know the difference this makes until you do it, but afterwards, you’ll always practice and rehearse like this again.

Use the TED Talk format and the tag line “ideas worth spreading” to help you craft and deliver speeches and presentations that grab and engage your audience. Great content, delivered with passion and authenticity–now that’s an idea worth spreading!

About the Author:

Susan Trivers runs The Great Speaking Coach, a presentation skills training and consulting company.


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