As someone who often speaks publicly, I believe there is always room to improve and learn from others. This book has served as both a reminder of rhetorical skills as well as a catalyst for my personal public speaking improvement.
In recent years, TED talks have grown in popularity and worldwide cultural impact. At TED events, 18-20 minute talks are given on a wide array of topics and by an equally diverse range of speakers. Topics include environmentalism, heatlh, education, technology, social problems, inspirational stories, to name a few. Rockstars, athletes, CEOs, actors, activists, politicians, professors, and others are invited to give various TED talks.
The first thing I realized as I read the book was that most of these people are not professional public speakers. Unlike pastors, they don’t give new speeches every week. There are pluses and minuses to this. They are able to work very hard, for a long time, on one message. However, they also don’t get the much needed weekly practice it takes to develop as a speaker. So how do the best one’s do so well? Carmine Gallo reveals nine secrets of the best TED talkers. In my own words these nine secrets are:
- Find your passion and speak passionately about it. Put another way, own your material. This should be true of every sermon preached, the preacher should first own and apply the truths he is trying to communicate.
- Practice telling stories. Put in the work. Practice a lot. Record, watch and listen to yourself (you will spot your most annoying speaking habits). Get feedback from as many people as possible.
- Maintain a conversational tone as you speak to the audience, with lots of eye contact (don’t read notes!). Don’t kill your audience with powerpoint slides full of texts… pictures are ok… but slides should have as little text as possible. Keep them simple. You want your audience listening to you, not trying to read your slides.
- Be sure to incorporate new information, and try to deliver it in novel ways.
- Build your story to a have a climax “Aha” moment. Make only one main point. Make it clear and memorable.
- Use humor naturally. Don’t tell jokes, but help your audience see the humor involved in your subject matter.
- Keep it short. It takes more creativity to speak clearly and concisely in 18 minutes than it does to speak for 60 minutes. If you must speak longer than 18 minutes, then be sure to give the audience many mental breaks such as stories and interesting illustrations.
- Try to paint mental pictures that involve as many of the the senses as possible. Studies show that the more you can involve the five senses (either mentally or actually), the more likely it is that you’re audience will remember what you said.
- Don’t try to be someone you aren’t, just try to be the best version of you possible. While we can learn a lot from different speakers and their styles, it will come across as disingenuous if we try to be someone else while we speak.
While unpacking each of these nine points, Gallo incorporates many examples and stories from various successful TED talks. Listening to these stories alone make this a worthy read.
I would encourage anyone one who has to give public talks to read this book. I guarantee you will find a nugget or two that will help your next talk connect better with your audience.
FYI… with over 30 million views, this talk “Why schools kill creativity” is the most viewed TED to date.