The TED Secret to Great Public Speaking

My previous two posts centred around TED Curator Chris Anderson. The first was about his reflections on the day that TED might have died; the second was a quote about compelling presentations. I have decided to create a “tricolon” of posts about Chris Anderson, so here is the third one.

TED Talks

It distills the key points from his recent TED Talk about the secret to great public speaking. In fact, it is not a TED Talk in the traditional sense, as Anderson delivered it while sitting in a chair in a studio and not before a live audience. But it does contain several nuggets of wisdom that will benefit speakers wherever they speak.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Overusing devices such as storytelling, emotion and vulnerability can hurt your talk. You will come across as cliché or emotionally manipulative.
  • All great TED Talks have one thing in common: The speaker is able to transfer into the listeners’ minds  an idea, which is an extraordinary gift. When a speaker connects with an audience, the brains of the people in the audience begin to sync with the speaker’s brain and with each other. They literally begin to exhibit the same brain-wave patterns.
  • If communicated properly, your ideas are capable of changing how people think about the world, and shaping their actions both now and in the future. Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.
  • There are four guidelines to conveying an idea:
  1. Limit your talk to one major idea. Ideas are complex. You need to reduce content so that you can focus on the single most important idea and explain it properly. Give context, share examples and make it vivid. Your one idea should be the theme of your entire talk and everything you say should link back to it in some way.
  1. Give your listeners a reason to care. Make them curious. Use intriguing, provocative questions to identify why something doesn’t make sense and needs explaining. If you can reveal a disconnect in someone’s worldview, they’ll feel the need to bridge that gap. And once you’ve sparked that desire, it will be easier to start building your idea.
  1. Build your idea based on concepts that your audience already understands.  Speakers often forget that many of the terms and concepts they live with are completely unfamiliar to their audiences. This is the curse of knowledge. We forget what it was like when we knew nothing about our subject. So use language that the audience understands. Start where they are. Metaphors can help bridge the knowledge gap because they link the new idea to an idea that the listener already understands.
  1. Make your idea worth sharing. It has to benefit the audience. If the idea only serves you or your organization, it’s probably not worth sharing. But if your talk can benefit the audience in some way, it has the potential to be a great one.

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  1. Dear John:

    Thanks again. Love the way you analyze and share these milestone events in the speaking world.
    In the unlikely event you (or your readers) have not yet seen it, here is another excellent discussion of the ideas laid out in the recently released TED Guide book.

    Chris Anderson in Talks / Authors at Google

    Hope you enjoy and benefit from it as much as I did.

    Warm Regards … Rashid N. Kapadia

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International