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6 tips on delivering a TED-worthy presentation

Posting in Technology

I was at an industry conference a couple years back in which the keynote speaker announced, right up front, that he would not be using PowerPoint slides along with his presentation. The audience erupted in enthusiastic applause.

Of course, there is a place for slides in presentations, especially if they are eye-catching and add punch to the point being made. If you have ever watched a TED presentation, you would see that most speakers use slides, and they really help the presentations pop.

Steve Farnsworth, an advisor to the TEDxSanJoseCA event, and marketing social media guru, recently outlined what it takes to pull together a TED-quality presentation in a post at the Eloqua site. The lessons he provide can be applied to all public speaking situations. The bottom line, he says, is to keep your talk short, simple, and emotionally truthful. Here are his pointers:

  1. Tell a story: "A story takes people on a journey of challenge, discovery, and emotions with salient sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and even smells. Think of the opening as a mini story."
  2. Include a middle and an end: That opening propels the audience into the crux of your story, the middle, which may describe a quest, the challenges faced, and how you overcame them. Then describe, in upbeat terms, the resolution.
  3. Keep slides to a bare minimum: Time at TED talks is usually too short for many slides, but if you have to use them, keep it simple, and "just a clean visual representation or picture is best. A word or two per slide if you must."
  4. Be passionate: "Passion is conveyed by going on an emotional journey. The speaker needs to share how key events touched and changed them. When obstacles seem insurmountable, passion drives the hero forward. Many speakers just share the facts believing the audience will 'get it.' That never works."
  5. Be emotionally messy: "Brutal honesty – the kind that we rarely share even with friends – is required. Share the experience, even when it doesn’t show you in the best light. Those moments open us, and the audience, up so we can learn. Threaded throughout TED talks are those personal failings, wins and losses. It forges a deep connection with the audience."
  6. Edit mercilessly: At TED, Farnsworth relates, "speakers often ask for more time than the 18 minutes allotted. No one is given more time. Usually people try to talk faster and touch on the ideas quickly. This fails big every time. You have to cut mercilessly. Have 9 key points? Cross out 3. Can you make those 6 work in a pinch? Kill one more."

(Photo: TED.)

— By on November 21, 2012, 1:00 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure