Putting our talk together
- Keep it punchy
Most TED Talks are only 18 minutes long. This might not seem a huge amount of time but it’s considered the perfect length for a talk – long enough to delve into the subject you’re discussing but short enough to hold people’s full attention.
In actual fact 18 minutes is no time at all when we’re presenting.
Just by making our introductions and a few opening remarks we can easily go through the five minute mark. That’s almost a third of our presentation time gone without doing any of what we’re supposed to. Remember; the goal of our talk is to plant our idea in the minds of an audience.
So we need to be punchy. Don’t waste a minute of time when you’re speaking.
Think about what’s the strongest and most concise way we can get something across to an audience.
- Don’t use five sentences when one will one do.
- Use simple language and avoid long-winded passages of text.
- Keep a good flow.
- Think about your opening
We often say that someone makes their mind up about a person within the first thirty seconds of meeting them – and the same can be true of a talk.
The best TED Talks have an imaginative and attention-grabbing opening.
Example: Economist Larry Smith opens with the line, “I wants to discuss with you this afternoon, why you’re going to fail to have a great career”
Another example: Games designer Jane McGonigal starts with, “You will live seven and a half minutes longer than you would have otherwise, just because you watched this talk”
So we need to think about the best way to captures the audience’s attention straight off the bat.
- Can we wow the audience in the first 30 seconds? Or even less?
- Doing or saying something bold even in the first ten words can make a big impact. Can we do something with our opening line, before we’ve even introduced ourselves?
- Can we ask the audience a direct question or engage them with a problem immediately? Remember the idea that we’re trying to plant in their minds or the problem we’re trying to solve for them.
- Have a structure
Put quite simply – Say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you’ve said.
Follow a coherent thinking pattern throughout our presentation – at every stage we need to take the audience with us. Constantly ask ourselves ‘am I losing anyone along the way?’
- Don’t perform the talk like reading out a script
In the best TED Talks the speaker is completely relaxed and smiling at their audience. The fourth wall – the imaginary wall between the speaker and audience – has been completely removed. This is accomplished by creating a genuine connection with the audience.
So treat your talk like a warm conversation:
- Keep our body language open
- Make positive eye contact with people
- Use strong physical gestures and commanding movements across the stage
- Think about tone of voice – we can use power, pitch and pauses to create a connection with the audience
- Can we also use silence? Notice how Amanda Palmer uses silence in the opening of her Ted Talk on ‘The Art of Asking’
Sharing an idea we believe in passionately will help us come across as the real ‘us’.
You can read more about delivering your speeches with confidence in this article.
- Memorable Ending
The end of our talk is the part that an audience will remember the most.
So finish with a strong call to action. Ask yourself, what do I want my audience to walk out of the room thinking? Your concluding remarks should hammer that home.
- And lastly – practise your talk
Go through your presentation as many times as possible to get fully comfortable with it. You can do this on your own, but also try it out on other people, particularly those who don’t know anything about the subject you’re presenting on.
- How does it sound to the layperson?
- Do they grasp the main idea?
- Do they see the value in what you’re putting forward?
The clearer and more powerful you can make these messages the more effective talk you’ll have.
By following all these points you’ll have everything you need to produce a TED-worthy talk!