Inspiring Presenters Talk Like TED!

There’s nothing dryer than spending a two hour presentation pouring over bar charts and crowded PowerPoint slides. We know, because as market researchers, we constantly need to address the dichotomy of giving our clients the detailed insights they expect from their investment whilst not overloading them with information. Put another way, we need to deliver inspiring presentations if we want to inspire action.

Carmine Gallo believes he has the formula for giving the perfect presentation. This is the result of analysing 500 of the most popular TED presentations, speaking to key TED speakers alongside experts within neuroscience, psychology and communication. The result is three fundamental elements which if suitably executed, will enable you to deliver a TED-worthy presentation – one sure to capture the hearts and minds of any audience.

These elements are:

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EMOTIONAL – They touch my heart

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NOVEL – They teach me something new

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MEMORABLE – They present content in ways I’ll never forget


To help individuals deliver on each of these elements, Carmine Gallo explains the principles which underpin each of these in his book aptly titled ‘Talk Like Ted’.

Talk Like Ted

Whilst these guiding principles pass the sense-check, what is really compelling is the fact that many of them are rooted in science – which offers added confidence to the data-driven researcher! The principles, in summary are as follows:



PRINCIPLE 1: Unleash the master within

This is about finding an intensely meaningful connection to your topic, to help express your passion. This might not be something obvious and literal from the content of what you’re talking about – but it could be linked to a wider purpose, motivation or unique aspect of your personal character that gets you fired up by your topic. Science has proven that passion is contagious and so you definitely need it to inspire others!

PRINCIPLE 2: Master the art of storytelling

The Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that to persuade others requires three components: ethos (credibility, expertise, reputation), logos (data, statistics, logic) and pathos (appealing to emotions – effectively through storytelling).

One of the most successful TED presentations of all time was that of Bryan Stevenson – which resulted in the longest standing ovation in TED history. On analysing his presentation which consisted of 4,057 words, each sentence was categorised into ethos, logos or pathos, revealing that 65% of the presentation was linked to telling stories, appealing to human emotions!

Science has proven that stories activate more parts of our brain – from the language areas to the sensory, visual and motor areas. This is what makes stories more memorable.

PRINCIPLE 3: Have a conversation

The art of presenting a topic requires practice and the confidence in finding your own voice and style. An audience can spot a ‘fake’ – someone whose style is not natural to them. The trick is to practice, practice, practice until you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as if you were having a conversation with a close friend. Use your own language – simple words can often be far better in getting your point across more clearly.



PRINCIPLE 1: Teach me something new

Our brains are also wired to pay more attention and remember anything which is novel or unfamiliar. In these instances, the brain releases dopamine – a powerful chemical which acts as the brain’s natural “save button”, helping us to retain new information.

To back up this point, YouTube trends manager Kevin Alloca looked at why certain videos stood out over others. Given that two days’ worth of videos are uploaded very minute, it is no easy feat to go viral. On reviewing the most popular videos, he claimed that it is “Only that which is truly unique and unexpected” that can stand out, as the brain is drawn to novelty.

PRINCIPLE 2: Deliver jaw-dropping moments

Continuing in the same vein, Gallo suggests that inspiring presentations need to deliver jaw-dropping moments. This is the result of presenters delivering something shocking, surprising or unexpected – creating an emotionally-charged event. The shock factor is what makes it memorable to an audience.

Bill Gates’ TED talk on malaria treatments in 2009 is a perfect example of a jaw-dropping moment in action. As part of his presentation, Gates surprised his audience by unleashing a swarm of mosquitos on them – after which, the presentation went viral online.

PRINCIPLE 3: Lighten up

A final principle here is to inject appropriate levels of humour into your presentation. Human nature is such that strangers in a room may have their defences up whilst they form an opinion of you. Given that humour makes your audience smile and releases serotonin in the brain (lifting moods), then it effectively helps to lower people’s defences and make you as a presenter more likeable! However, remember who your audience are and that you are not a comedian. Humour is about making people smile using humorous anecdotes, metaphors or wit; it is not about cracking a continual stream of jokes or potentially offending audience members in stand-up fashion.



PRINCIPLE 1: Stick to the 18-minute rule

TED speakers all have to follow the 18-minute rule – without exception. No presentation can exceed 18 minutes, which forces speakers to be disciplined and focused in their content. This also helps them by lowering risk of losing their audience’s cognitive attention due to fatigue or information overload.

Coincidentally, some also believe that the average length someone takes to drink a cup of coffee is around 18 minutes – perfect given that TED videos are viewed online with your coffee as the perfect accompaniment!

PRINCIPLE 2: Paint a mental picture with multisensory experiences

Utilising multimedia, different formats and descriptions within your presentation – will mean that you touch more than one of the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. By stimulating the brain in this way, you force it to pay attention, enhancing the overall experience and making your presentation more memorable.

Don’t be tempted to fill your slides with text if you can say what you need to say verbally and get away with just one word on a slide. Use images, videos, sound, smell – even props to engage you audience, alongside rich descriptions and stories throughout.

PRINCIPLE 3: Stay in your lane

Last but not least, be you. There’s nothing an audience will trust more than someone who is authentic, true to themselves, transparent and comfortable in their own skin. As mentioned earlier, an audience can spot a phony and you risk losing their trust by not staying in your lane.

So talk like a TED speaker in practice – but be sure to find your own TED voice and identity when following each of these principles.

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