A few years ago I attended the TEDx conference in Adelaide. I was also involved in coaching some of the speakers who were due to present at the event. I LOVE TED talks and to see local South Australian speakers shine at the Adelaide TEDx event was a joy. If you are unfamiliar with the TED phenomenon, then you are missing out on a world of wonder.

TED began in 1984 as a Technology Entertainment and Design conference and has since evolved into “Ideas that need to be spread.” TED talks are short powerful presentations that cover everything from science and business, through to issues that affect all of humanity. The TEDx Program is an independently organised event that focuses on fresh ideas from a local perspective. The 2015 event was held at The Adelaide town hall on the 21st of November and featured 24 local speakers. The topics ranged from building better prisons and paedophilia, through to inspirational talks on persistence and tolerance. 

TED talks are unique. They are bite sized parcels of information delivered with warmth, humour and passion. Listening to a full day of TEDx presentations prompted me to reflect on what makes a TED talk work.

Here are five elements that make a great TED talk and how you can apply them to your next presentation. 

  1. Expertise

TED presenters have intimate knowledge about their subject. They may not necessarily be leaders in their field, but they do have a unique view point and speak from their personal experience.

  1. Engage

A TED talk is like stand-up comedy – if you don’t get the audience’s attention immediately and keep it, you won’t last long as a comedian.  The best TED talkers engage the audience with a great grab, personal stories and deliver their message with passion and movement. TED talks are all about the speaker – there are very few slides and props; TED speakers need to be brave and not hold back

  1. Timing

TED talks are between 10 and 18 minutes long. For some of you 18 minutes may seem lengthy – but how do you explain your lifelong passion or your PhD in thesis in less than 20 minutes? With so many speakers on the day and a packed agenda – speech structure is vital. The TEDx speakers only had 10 minutes for their presentation. When coaching them I suggested they structure their presentation like this:

  • 2 minutes for their grab and introduction
  • 6 minutes for the body of their presentation (allow two minutes each for your three main points)
  • 2 minutes to conclude and reinforce their message

As you can see, when you lay out your presentation structure – there is not a lot of time! For those of us who love to embellish, disciple is needed. You don’t have to memorise your speech word for word, but you do need to make sure you have a prepared plan and stick to it.

  1. Purpose

Every TED talk needs an objective what do you want people to do, say, think or feel? Are they to laugh, cry, contemplate or act? Make it memorable and make it clear.

  1. Is your talk an idea worth spreading?

 A TED talk is not a plug or a pitch. You will see some celebrities and professional speakers speak at TED talks, but they won’t be spruiking their wares and they often show a more personal face than usually seen. Some of the best TED talks have been delivered by ordinary people who have an extraordinary story and an idea worth spreading.

So, do you have a TED talk in you? If so, I’d love help you bring it to life!

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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