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TED Talks

How to Talk Like TED

By John Millen

Ted has changed everything about presentations.
 
You probably know that I’m not talking about a guy named “Ted.” I’m referring to TED Talks, which are given at TED-sanctioned events around the world. 
 
The original TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is a conference that has been held annually since 1990.

Talks have been given by a wide array of world leaders, including presidents and prime ministers such as Bill Clinton and David Cameron and big thinkers such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the late Stephen Hawking. They also featured artists, musicians, surgeons, and every other conceivable endeavor.
 
No matter their stature in the world, all of the leaders’ talks have one thing in common: they are restricted to eighteen minutes in length.
 

One of the TED Talks I most frequently recommend to clients is Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Dr. Amy Cuddy, pictured in this photo.

Here are some TED-style strategies for developing and presenting your talk. As you read these tips, bear in mind that you can apply them to any of your meetings, from a convention speech to a one-on-one sales presentation.
 
Don’t give a presentation. Have a conversation with your audience. Presentation-mode means you’re giving a performance. A conversation means you are listening and responding to the needs of your audience in real time. You are present in the moment. 
 
Focus on conveying a single idea. Your talk is not a readout, and it’s not a data dump. It’s the opportunity to convey an idea into the minds of your audience, whether they be employees, investors, donors, or others. 
 
In his book, TED Talks, the Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson, whose title is the Head of TED, writes, “The central thesis of this book is that anyone who has an idea worth sharing is capable of giving a powerful talk.” Indeed, TED’s tagline is “Ideas Worth Sharing.”
 
Less is more. An eighteen-minute window is more than adequate to share your core idea. This is true of most any meeting or conference call. We live in a distracted world. Fight the urge to go deep and fill a five-pound bag with ten pounds of sugar. 
 
Here’s a sample format you can follow to give your own TED-style talk. With this structure, your eighteen minutes could be distributed like this: 
 
3 minutes – Story relevant to your main idea
3 minutes – Intro of your main idea and three key points
9 minutes – Three key points/stories developed (three minutes each) 
3 minutes – Close and call to action
 
Simple slides. As you develop slides, consider using only a few slides to keep the attention on you and your talk. Also, consider using images, rather than words and numbers, to support your talk.
 
Tell your story. Human beings are wired for storytelling and story-listening. Your talk will be best conveyed with a few stories illustrating your key points. The best stories have emotional resonance and a relevant tie-in or lesson learned. You can use stories from your personal and business lives.
 
Connect with purpose. By starting with why, the purpose of adopting your idea, you’ll be tapping into the power of meaning to inspire action. Telling stories connected with purpose adds additional impact to your talk.
 
Talk with your hands. As humans, we become more engaged watching people with open gestures and body language. A team led by researcher Vanessa Van Edwards studied why some TED Talks go viral, while others don’t. 
 
The team reviewed hundreds of hours of TED Talks searching for differences in the most and least watched talks. They analyzed hand gestures, vocal variety, smiling, and body movement.
 
Edwards’ team concluded that speakers who used the most hand gestures had the most views. “The most popular talks used an average of 465 hand gesture (yes, our coders counted every single one). The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures. And TED superstars Temple Grandin, Simon Sinek, and Jane McGonigal topped the charts with more than six-hundred hand gestures in just eighteen minutes.”
 
And it’s not only good for presentations. Edwards also notes that thirty years ago, researchers found that job candidates who used more hand gestures were more likely to win the job.
 
Call to action. As you develop your talk, think about what you want people to know, feel, and do. What beliefs, actions, or behaviors are you trying to inspire?

Your call to action can be as simple as asking them to think about your customers in a new way.
 
Today, there are thousands of TED Talks on every conceivable topic. I have a few highly disciplined clients who start or end their days with one TED Talk for motivation and inspiration. 
 
I recommend you visit the TED Talk site and think about how you might use this process to improve your own talks. You’ll find everything about your day-to-day communication will become easier and more natural.
 
So give it a try. Talk like Ted. 

John

One of the TED Talks I most frequently recommend to clients is Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Dr. Amy Cuddy, pictured in this photo.

Photo Credit: www.Ted.com


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