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

From recommendations of font sizes to larger philosophical applications to life, this book is a great resource for any public speaker (of course), educator, or anyone brave enough to try and impact the world through Ideas.

Thank you to my wife for finding it in a Hong Kong bookstore. 

Here are some highlights:


The Why of Public Speaking:

“Your number-one goal as a speaker is to take something that matters deeply to you and to rebuild it inside the minds of others.” – pg 12

“An idea is anything that can change how people see the world.” Pg 13

“An important idea, wrapped up in a fresh story, can make a great talk.” Pg 15

When giving a presentation, “give, don’t take.” It’s not about you, the admirations you want to receive, or to boost your name and product, it’s about sharing a gift that you have that will benefit others, not self. Pg 24

“ The intense appeal of the standing ovation can lead aspiring speakers to do bad things.” pg 27

“Here’s the thing about inspiration: it has to be earned. Someone is inspiring not because they look at you with big eyes and ask you to find it in your heart to believe in their dream. It’s because they actually have a dream that’s worth getting excited about. And those dreams don’t come lightly. They come from blood, sweet, and tears. Pg 28

“If you have dreams of being a rock-star public speaker, pumping up an audience as you stride the stage and proclaim your brilliance, I beg you to reconsider. Don’t dream of that. Dream of something much bigger than you are.” Pg 29

“What are humans for? Humans are for being more human than we’ve ever been. More human in how we work. More human in what we learn. And more human in how we share that knowledge with each other.” Pg 234

“The secret to happiness is: find something more important than you are, and dedicate your life to it.” – Dan Dennett

“We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful. Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle. We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning.” – Andrew Solomon


The How of Public Speaking:

 "Throughline is the connecting point that runs through your entire presentation, connecting every piece, and perhaps encapsulated in fifteen words or less."

“The throughline traces the path that the journey takes. It ensures that there are no impossible leaps, and that by the end of the talk, the speaker and audience have arrived together at a satisfying destination” pg 33

“Great writing is all about the power of the deleted word” pg 36

- Don’t be trapped by your ego – kill your darlings.

“An issue-based talk leads with morality. An idea-based talk leads with curiosity.” Pg 41

“If you want to reach people who radically disagree with you, your only chance is to put yourself in their shoes as best you can. Don’t use language that may trigger tribal responses. Start with a visual of the world as seen through their eyes. And use every one of the tools described here to build a connection based on your shared humanity.” Pg 62

“There’s always somebody who wants to confiscate our shared humanity, and there are always stories that restore it. If we live out loud, we can trounce the hatred and expand everyone’s lives – Andrew Solomon pg 69

If the whole power of a talk is in the connection between the speaker and audience, slides may actually get in the way of that. Pg 113

With a talk and slides, you have two streams of cognitive output running in parallel. The speaker needs to blend both streams into a master mix. In these circumstances, the audience member’s brain needs to decide whether to focus on your words, your slides, or both and it’s mostly involuntary. You must choose where you want their attention. Pg 116

            Questions: Are the visuals key to explaining what I want to say, or a distraction?

“Give your audience enough time to absorb each step. Don’t feed too much of the slide at a time or people will get overwhelmed.” Pg 122

- Rarely show clips longer than 30 seconds

- Must explain something that can’t be explained by still images; and have great production value

Transitions: Should never call attention to itself

- Cut: shifting to a new idea

- Dissolve: two slides are related in some way

“Every word you speak that someone has already seen on a slide is a word that carries zero punch. It’s not new news.” Pg 142

- Tease the arrival of a slide before revealing it.

Every piece of content in our modern era is part of an attention war. It’s fighting against thousands of other claims on people’s time and energy . . . all these are lethal enemies. You never want to provide people with an excuse to zone out.” Pg 157

“If the ending isn’t memorable, the talk itself may not be.” Pg 168

The How: Authenticity

“When speaking live, we are vulnerable. When we are live and passionate, the audience can sense the conviction, and they get to be a part of the excitement of seeing a big idea identified, battled with, and finally shaken into shape.  The fact that they can sense that the presenter truly mean what they’re saying in the moment helps give permission to embrace the meaning, the idea.” Pg 134

“If the audience can tell you’re reciting. They may see your eyes roll around between paragraphs as you bring the next sentence to mind. More likely they will notice that your tone is slightly flat and robotic, because you are focused on brining the right sentences out instead of brining real meaning to those sentences.”  Pg 136

- As related to life: scripted apologies or affirmations have a similar effect.

Ask, “Is this essential to advancing my message, and is this interesting, really interesting? Do I love saying this line? If anything lands in the maybe pile . . . it’s out” pg 145

A Checklist:

-       Is this a topic I’m passionate about?

-       Does it inspire curiosity?

-       Will it make a difference to the audience?

-       Is my talk a gift or an ask?

-       Is the information fresh? Or is it already out there?

-       Do I have the credibility to make this talk?

-       What are fifteen words that encapsulate my talk?

-       Do those fifteen words really matter?


 Future TED Talks:

            Sherwin Nuland         

            Bryan Stevenson

            Rob Reid

            Hans Rosling

            David Deutsch

            Nancy Kanwisher

            Steven Johnson

            David Christian

            Dan Pallotta

            Reuben Margolin

            Thomas Heatherwick

            Hans Rosling

            James Nachtwey

            J.J. Abrams

            Brene Brown

            Julian Treasure

            Billy Collins

            June Cohen