Presentation Lessons That I’ve Learnt from TED

Like most people I know, I love watching TED talks. They’re a great source of inspiration and I try to watch one most days. However, I particularly enjoy watching how the speakers present their ideas as the content itself. Here’s a few lessons that I’ve picked up.

Include a healthy dose of self deprecation

People on TED stages don’t need to big themselves up. We already assume they’re eminent and successful, even if we’ve never heard of them before. Admitting to mistakes, reflecting on your frailties and what it taught you is a great way to get the audience on your side and demonstrate your humanity. Plus nobody likes a big head.

This happened to me

Share a personal story. People love to understand a bit more about the person who’s speaking. This could be surprising, humorous, everyday, shocking. It doesn’t matter. Again, it helps you connect and helps illuminate your talk in a way the audience can relate to.

This is a great example of how a 13 year old boy from Kenya tells the story of how he came up with a remarkable invention

This is what I believe in

Without being too ‘preachy’ all the great speakers at TED have a clear point of view on the subject – and on the world – and are keen express it. Take a stance on an issue. Argue it powerfully. Speak from the heart. It makes the audience really sit up and pay attention.

Here’s the big picture

In telling your story, place it in a bigger contextLots of TED speakers draw upon interesting stories from the past. They also draw upon examples from different cultures or different parts of the world. It gives your own story gravitas and makes it more persuasive and engaging.

Here’s the killer facts

People will not be able to remember too many facts from your presentation. Therefore focus on the key ones. Don’t bombard people with too much data. Focus on the surprising or the alarming i.e., the interesting ones. Some people, like Hans Rosling bring them to life vividly.  Some just shout them out clearly and loudly. It doesn’t matter, As long as the audience gets it.

And finally…it helps if you’re funny

The comedy threshold in presentations is pretty low, so you don’t have to do or say anything that’s truly hilarious. However, sprinkling one or two gags or light hearted episodes into your presentation will put you and your audience in a relaxed frame of mind.

Who displays all these characteristics? Well here’s a TED classic, Elizabeth Gilbert, talking about creativity, a subject close to my heart.



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