What We Can Learn About Presenting From TED Talks

TED Conference

image: afromusing

Let’s try an experiment.

  1. Choose a video at random from the ted.com homepage
  2. Watch it
  3. If you find yourself losing interest, select one of the three videos in the “what to watch next” section and go to step 2.
  4. Once you’re finished the video, select one of the three videos in the “what to watch next” section and go to step 2.

Keep doing this for a 30 minutes or an hour. And then answer the following questions:

How many videos did you watch from beginning to end?
If you’re anything like me then you wouldn’t have watched all of them to the end. Today I spent several hours looking at TED videos and of the 30 or 40 that I watched, I probably only finished 4 or 5 of them.

What made you switch to the next one?
It’s easy to say that it was because the subject wasn’t interesting but that is rarely the case because we all know speakers who can make even the driest and dullest topics sizzle and sparkle.

The real answer is that you lost interest for a number of reasons, including:

  • It didn’t grab your attention at the start
  • The opening grabbed your attention but the rest of it didn’t live up to the promise of the opening
  • The speaker treated it as a lecture not as a conversation
  • It wasn’t accessible, the speaker user technical terms and language that you didn’t understand.
  • The speaker spoke in a dull monotonous tone
  • The speaker used slides that will filled with lines of text and then read them

Look at some of the videos you didn’t finish again and try to identify what it was that made you want to change channel.

This is the first set of lessons that we can learn from TED, how not to do it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise that we make these mistakes as well. To find out either ask a colleague or friend to give you feedback or else record your presentation and watch it back.


What made you want to finish some videos?

Look at the videos again:

  • How did the speaker grab your attention?
  • What methods did they use to keep you interested?
  • Did they speak in a language that you understood?
  • Did their passion and excitement for the topic intrigue and excite you?

This is our second lesson, learning from success.

Next time you’re writing a speech or presentation, look at how your favourite TED speakers present and try to use some of their methods to engage your audience.