This TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favourites. Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in education, innovation, creativity and human resources.
In his latest book, The Element, Robinson states: “The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.” His website is worth a look.
Before you do so, however, watch his talk below. It is 20 minutes, so find some time when you can watch it without interruption. Afterwards, we’ll look at some of the reasons why I think it is so great.
What I liked
- His talk seemed less a presentation to the audience and more a conversation with the audience.
- He did not need a single PowerPoint slide or other prop to support his talk.
- You might have noticed his limp at the beginning as he comes on stage. Robinson contracted polio at the age of 4. Yet he did not hide behind a lectern. He opened himself up to the audience. (He even joked about his limp at 15:30.) It is understandable that he did not move about the stage but he didn’t have to; he filled it with his personality and intelligence.
- Ken Robinson spoke passionately about the topic.
- He involved the audience in many ways: his use of the word “we”; his asking several rhetorical questions; his reference to different things that the audience had experienced while at TED (e.g., his mentioning at 2:50, 13.30 and 17:55 other talks that the audience had heard); etc.
- He let the audience know, early on, what the talk was about, especially at 3:15: “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.” In the public speaking business, we call this signposting.
- His humour was wonderful, understated and well-timed. For example, when he said the words mentioned in the previous point, he spoke with great solemnity and purpose, rousing the audience to applaud. However, instead of continuing with the same heavy theme, he immediately lightened the mood – “That was it by the way. Thank you very much. So, 15 minutes left.” Classic stuff, but clever too because it allowed the audience to recharge for the next serious part. Robinson did this throughout the speech.
- He used two powerful quotes – by Pablo Picasso and Jonas Salk – at appropriate points in the speech to drive home his points.
- He told stories. Great ones. Memorable ones. Stories that reinforced his main point. The story about Gillian Lynne (15:20 – 17:45) was especially terrific for this talk.
- Ken Robinson wasn’t afraid to pursue an extemporaneous idea, especially a humorous one that the audience clearly enjoyed, such as the humour about William Shakespeare as a child (6:50 – 7:50).
- He ended memorably and passionately with a challenge to the audience.
- He had a good time out there. You can see that he was enjoying himself. It is fitting that Sir Ken’s latest book is entitled “The Element”, because that it exactly where he was – in his element.