TED is more than an amazing website.
It’s also a platform for sharing ideas. And TED is a culture.
TED speakers have become rock stars, mostly for their ability to convey their passion and ideas in about 18 minutes.
The most popular TED talk of all time is by Sir Ken Robinson (left). He used his talk to pose the question, “Do schools kill creativity?” This provocative question is still getting lots of attention.
But a good presentation is not guaranteed by having a good topic. The presenter must be able to bring it. That’s where a skill set and some speaking tips can help.
TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design, all hot topics in this day and age.
Very few speakers get to be on the TED stage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t present like one.
But being TED-like is harder than it looks. You must:
- Be passionate about your topic (no fakers)
- Speak without notes
- Keep the gimmicks to bare minimum
- Present amazingly original content
- Make time to practice
Here are some tips for giving an amazing TED-like talk.
Be in love with your topic
Simply put, TED speakers own their topics.
Not all TED speakers are master orators, but all are very passionate when they present. True, it’s easier to be passionate if you’ve dedicated your life to the subject or just published a book.
Let’s face it, the vast majority of presenters are not able to choose their topics. It’s impossible to fake passion about a dry or assigned topic. Or is it?
Well, you can certainly get excited about some aspect of your topic. And you probably have the ability to hold a group’s interest by presenting in an interesting manner, yes?
No TED speaker ever begins her presentation by saying that her topic is boring or that someone asked her to give this talk.
No TED speaker ever talks smack about her own topic. Strong speakers establish positive expectation in the early going, usually by promising–and delivering–on a rewarding measure of information, entertainment or both.
When you’re reading, you’re not passionate
Passion is compelling. Passion plays better without cue cards, teleprompters or even talking points.
If you have to read your presentation, it can be very difficult for the audience to believe that you’re truly passionate about your topic.
Speaking without notes is a big deal. Not stammering or stuttering for 18 minutes is impossible for most speakers.
To learn more about how to speak without notes, watch this video.
Avoid PowerPoint and cheesy props
TED speakers do not use PowerPoint.
I teach people how to do sales presentations, yet I rarely use PowerPoint or any other types of visual aids.
I’ve never understood why anyone would spend scads of time, energy, and money getting clients into a room only to say, “Please look away from me to the screen while I turn out the lights.”
Stand and deliver, baby. People like success stories, not bullet points. They like eye contact not talking heads.
And avoid cheesy props at all costs. They only serve to cheapen your image and water down your message.
How do you know if something is cheesy? Rehearse the presentation in front of people who will give you an honest impression.
If something about your presentation isn’t working, you definitely want to know before you’re in front of an audience, yes?
All TED talks are remarkably original.
It’s a real challenge to be completely fresh in your approach to a topic. Being original means doing your own research. Being original means not reciting a quasi-familiar joke that’s been making the email circuit. A fresh presentation is void of cliches.
How do you know if something in your talk is a cliche? Run through your presentation in front of a friend or two. If they know what you’re going to say before you say it, you’re probably employing cliches.
TED speakers practice
Guess what? These speakers practice their presentations. A friend tells me that his buddy worked on the TED camera crew for a while and that all speakers are required to practice their talks before they get to the studio and then again several times in front of the cameras.
All that practice helps the presenters get more comfortable with their content. Comfortable means authentic and authentic means believable.
Don’t forget to be human
Most TED speakers are not professional orators.
Audiences do not love speakers who are perfect. They love speakers who are human. Remember that vulnerability is not the same as weakness.
When speaking, try to position yourself as “the good guy.” Because the good guy always wins. It’s better, for example, to brag about someone else than to brag about yourself.
TED audiences–all audiences–love a come-from-behind story. Everyday people who have overcome adversity or completed some version of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey.”
Be the hero of your own TED talk and you will certainly be a hero for people in the audience.
Keep up the good work and I’ll see you on the TED stage.