TEDnesday: Advice from TED Curator Chris Anderson

As I have been preparing for my #SATechTX talk this week, I found this article on the Harvard Business Review: How to Give a Killer Presentationwritten by TED curator Chris Anderson. The article features presentation tips and advice, in addition to featuring several examples of excellent TED Talks. So, instead of featuring a TED video this week, I’d like to share some of the wisdom I gleaned from the article.

Introduce the topic quickly, explain why you care so deeply about it, convince the audience members that they should too. 

I’ve found that the beginning is always the most difficult part of creating a presentation or writing a paper. In most instances, I can cut out the first two paragraphs (or slides) and not lose any content because that time is spent searching for the actual beginning. This advice is a great way to mitigate this problem – start with the problem you’ve solved and why you care so deeply about it. While it may not seem like you’ve solved a problem initially, a little creative thinking goes a long way.



Remember that the people in the audience are intelligent, let them figure some things out for themselves. 

Spelling out every step and detail of your plan or project can be infinitely boring to an audience. On the contrary, using industry or office-specific jargon and abbreviations can be just as off-putting. Is it really important that your audience know the acronyms you work with? Or can you generalize and talk about the content and purpose behind them instead.

Present a problem and then describe the search for a solution. Don’t talk about your company, rather, tell us about the problem you’re solving.

As interesting as your company, university, office mates, and mission are — they are more interesting to you, than to your audience. Listeners are looking for something valuable to take away from your talk – save your words for this instead of an overview of your organizational chart. Share enough about yourself and your department to set the stage, but then make room for the main event – your ideas.

Think of people in the audience as friends you haven’t seen in a year and whom you’re bringing up to date on your work. 

Confidence and bravado have a special place on the stage – but connecting with people requires humility, personability, and creating a conversation. Sharing your ideas with people you perceive as friends or equals lends a different tone than sharing with “an audience.”

Information is only interesting once, and hearing and seeing the same words feels repetitive. 

This point just can’t be reiterated enough for some presenters. Stop. Reading. Your. Slides. The best solution? Don’t put the words up there in the first place. The words are distracting and are being read asynchronously by the audience while you’re trying to keep their attention with your speech.

Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. 

You might fidget, rock, or pace while you talk – but that isn’t what will sink your presentation. Focus on sharing an idea in an interesting way and with all of the passion you can muster. Do that, and no one will mind that you were a little nervous.

What advice would you add to this list? Anything you have learned from your favorite TED Talks?

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