Hint: it’s not about flashy charts.
Okay, so yeah. TED is amazing. It’s a culture-shaping, era-defining, not entirely uncontroversial extravapalooza that has earned the mind share, eyeballs, and admiration of tens of millions of global citizens. I had a chance to do a TED Talk a few years ago. And last year, my pal Bruno Giussani, one of TED’s impresarios, asked me to write up some advice for future speakers.
I stumbled across that advice the other day — and decided to repurpose it in the hopes it will help the legions of TEDx speakers and anyone else trying to move others by standing and delivering.
Here are my three key tips.
1. Prepare . . . but not too much.
These days, very few TED speakers arrive unprepared and just try to wing their presentations. That’s great. Preparing is a sign of respect for your audience — and the only way to wrangle your ideas inside an18- or 9-minute fence. But lately I’ve seen a handful of people who were too prepared and too rehearsed. Their presentations were so heavily shellacked that they seemed inauthentic; their ideas suffocated under all that varnish. Remember: Human beings, despite their imperfections (and sometimes because of their imperfections), are far more persuasive than expertly-tuned presentation robots.
2. Say something important.
There’s a big difference between saying some important things and saying something important. Your goal isn’t to demonstrate how much you know or to catalog your many insights, but to leave the audience with one idea to ponder — or better, one step to take. When people hear some important things, their heads nod. When they hear something important, their souls stir, their brains engage, and their bodies prepare to act.
3. Say it like yourself.
Don’t mimic someone else’s style or conform to what you think is a particular “TED way” of presenting. That’s boring, banal, and backward. Don’t try to be the next Ken Robinson or the next Jill Bolte Taylor. Be the first you.