Book Review- TED Talks

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
by Chris Anderson, 2016


While the book is geared toward TED-style talks, it does have useful pieces of advice for any presenter. You just have to see a bit past the inflated discussion of presentation motivation. Not every talk’s topic is so all-important/all-consuming as to be your life’s work and worthy of a national audience. I am giving four talks at an upcoming conference. While I think they’re all awesome, I don’t make the mistake of believing each is life-altering.

I will use some of the advice from this book in future posts. I do suggest academic presenters read it; again, take it with a grain of salt, though. Here are some quick quotes from the book:
-“Your number-one mission as a speaker is to take something that matters deeply to you and to rebuild it inside the minds of your listeners.”
-From Sir Ken Robinson: “There’s an old formula for writing essays that says a good essay answers three questions: What? So what? Now what? [My talks are] a bit like that.”
-“To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant talk, with crystal-clear explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with the audience, it won’t land.”
-From Salman Khan: “Be yourself. The worst talks are the ones where someone is trying to be someone they aren’t. If you are generally goofy, then be goofy. If you are emotional, then be emotional. The one exception to that is if you are arrogant and self-centered. Then you should definitely pretend to be someone else.”
-“Many speakers use their slides as memory nudges… What you mustn’t do, of course, is to use PowerPoint as a full outline of your talk and deliver a series of text-crammed slides. That’s awful. But if you have elegant images to accompany each key step of your talk, this approach can work very well, provided that you’ve thought about each transition. The images act as terrific memory nudges, though you may still need to carry a card with additional notes.”

There’s a useful appendix at the back of the book that contains all the TED talks that the author, who organizes the TED movement, references. You could watch those for inspiration.

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