How TED presentations impact public speaking?

Today many of us are exposed to TED presentations, would it be occasionally or frequently as it is with me. If you don’t know exactly what I am talking about I strongly encourage you to go and visit the TED web site and watch at least a couple of them. I reference some of my favourites when I talk about a bamboo stick from the great Hans Rosling or the iconic way of presenting of Lawrence Lessig.

Does TED exposure affect public speaking? This is the question I posed myself, and I believe the answer is yes. It does, and it is both a bad and a good thing for a presenter in today world.

If you do public speaking or deliver presentations here are some things you want to consider.

3 things that you are worse off

Polish. Unless you are really talking at TED, people normally don’t expect you to deliver a TED presentation. Still TED has raised the bar in terms of quality of messages and delivery. What is a pro level has changed, and this unconsciously impacts also every day presentation. In other words it may be easier to look average. So you have to raise your bar too just a little.

Engagement. This may sound strange, since at first look in the vast majority of TED presentation the speaker talks and the public listen. What I mean is that despite the low interaction with the audience, those talks are very engaging for the mind of the people watching them. Brilliant ideas, compelling delivery and great supporting visuals they all draw the public in. If you want to achieve something similar you can bring in your public speaking the same level of enthusiasm and passion.

Expectations. This resound with the first one, albeit seen from the other end. If you watch a lot of TED presentations you may become overcritical of yours. It’s quite normal but not how it should be. Live it as a stimulus to improve yourself, but also put it in the right perspective. Preparation for a TED talk requires time and effort, and you normally get help for it. Quite often that’s not the case in your every day presentations.

3 things that are unaffected by TED presentations

It’s about people. TED talks are about someone convey a message and get the audience to resonate. You may see some cool visual aids or videos, but what it is really all about is the connection between the speaker and the audience. It’s the great idea and the ability to sparkle a light in the audience mind with it. Effective talks move the audience. It was true before TED, it is true for TED, it is true for your own presentations.

Storytelling. A good number of TED talks begin with a story, or are related to one. People react to stories, they work very well because our brain works with associations and it is one of the best way for us to encapsulate concepts. It is effective to use storytelling no matter what your topic is about, or if you are on a TED stage or not.

Visuals. Professional visual aids are used during TED and you may think you don’t have the budget, expertise or skills to match their quality. The point here is that we are visual animals, it’s the most important sense and you have to engage it properly. Without hiring a professional studio, you can avoid too much text, make data cool and easy to read, and use images with style. And remember you can even paint a picture with words (although being a Chile’s National Literature Prize winner helps here).

3 things that are good for you

The formula. Probably none better than Chris Anderson can give you advice on how to come up with a great TED presentation. There’s no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common, is what Chris says. A sentence I use often in my seminars is “There is no schoolbook answer”, but there are some great principles to follow, and TED is a great framework for them.

Learning examples. The great news about TED presentations, is that you don’t need to fork thousand of dollars and jump on a plane, you can watch them comfortably on video. Every time you do it you are exposed to the craft of public speaking, those are learning experiences. Also try to look at them with an inquisitive eye, to spot things that you like and you can replicate in your own style and context.

Repository. The TED site is a fantastic repository of superb ideas, but is also a vault of great public speaking examples. Are you looking for a way to express a certain concept? How to represent some data? How to use a washing machine in your next presentation? Chances are you can find inspiration there.

In conclusion

I believe TED talks have somehow impacted public speaking, though not at its core. You can judge for yourself if it is good or bad. I am definitely going with the former as you can see from my list. The negatives are small and can be mitigated or managed. The positives are there for us to grasp.

Finally, not related to public speaking, the world needs great ideas and TED is a place to spread them.

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