With a single speech today, I can reach millions of people. An enormous potential for those who have something to say, who can present authentically and with a certain competence.
Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Talks, names the number of over 1 000 speakers who have already succeeded in doing so by 2016. The 25 most popular TED Talks alone generate a reach of 16 to 56 million clicks each. On YouTube, TED and TEDx Talks now have 30 million subscribers with 4.4 billion clicks.
The secret to the success of TED Talks
In his book “TED Talks. The Official Guide to Public Speaking”, Anderson discusses numerous elements of successful TED Talks: From the basics like a good idea and keeping the red thread during the performance, to instruments like building a personal relationship between speaker and audience. He brings numerous successful examples of captivating, gripping stories. Each TED Talk is extremely well prepared. One reason for the many high-class presentations is intensive, professional coaching for each individual speaker. This ranges from the mental preparation to the competent and appealing communication regarding speech content to the outfit. Here nothing is left to chance. The speeches appear fresh and natural instead of memorized.
Most of the information in this book is not entirely new. I have nevertheless researched some particularly valuable tips with practical examples for you. If you implement these for yourself, you will certainly be able to present very high-quality speeches to your audience.
Manuscripts in preparation
Many speakers use a script which they adhere to more or less strictly until they have completely memorized their presentation. But it is not advisable to use either memorization or the written script as a starting point for the speech. You will achieve a much better quality if you develop your script as you speak. You can write down your speech after recording it with a dictation machine or smartphone, then improving during the course of your preparation. So from the first moment you are much closer to the spoken style than to the written one.
Most TED speakers have a comprehensive speech manuscript and memorize their complete presentation. But they do not talk as if it sounds learned by heart. At this point it is crucial that you could say more about each content of your speech than you actually will. This alone will make your preparation lively and varied until you have worked out a final version of your presentation.
Mental preparation that works
In addition to planning the content, many speakers also prepare themselves mentally for their presentation. They realize the added value that their presentation can convey to their audience. They adapt the contents of each individual presentation to their respective target group so that the respective audience receives the greatest possible value. This alone makes every presentation unique.
Some speakers deliberately contact their audience before the presentation. Especially at conferences there is often the chance to get into conversation with other people before a session, to refresh old contacts and to get a feeling for the mood and expectations of the audience. Old and new connections are anchors in the audience to which the speaker establishes eye contact.
Other speakers prefer calm and retreat. Meditation and relaxation can also help reduce adrenaline levels.
At first glance it looks unfavorable for those who have to be on stage immediately after lunch. Then light food is more appropriate than calorie-rich food – if at all. In any case, it helps to drink a glass of water or something refreshing so that your mouth will not dry out. I myself like chewing gum before my presentation to train my mouth muscles.
Chris Anderson once got his extreme tension under control just before a live interview by doing some push-ups. In this way he has redirected the excess adrenaline so that on stage he appeared calm and self-confident. I personally run or do other sports before delivering my speech – not immediately before the presentation, of course, but the evening before or, in the case of evening presentations, in the morning or early afternoon. In order to have enough reserves for the presentation, I do not run myself into the ground. It is crucial that I feel the vital energy in my body: I have done something good for myself. My audience can see how much energy I have in my presentation.
Lively and expressive graphics
Many presentations still include PowerPoint slides to this day. Photos and easy to understand graphics undoubtedly promote understanding and contribute to good entertainment and illustration of the often theory-based content. I want to point to something else instead: The basis of a high-quality speech is not that you put whole scripts and tables together, sort them during the morning and the presentation is ready. On the contrary! Photos and figures only support your presentation if they reveal new information or strengthen the knowledge you have brought in. Last but not least, photos have a particularly aesthetic effect – they appeal to the visual sense of your audience. And: Always only one photo per slide! The most popular TED speaker in this respect was Hans Rosling. He spent a lot of time preparing his slides. In his ten TED Talks we can see how Rosling pulls complex data to pieces, revives dry matter in a playful way and thus visualizes trends and long-term developments. The contents of his speeches are always quickly understandable and extremely entertaining.
New formats for speakers
Chris Anderson ventures the prognosis that speech variants will diversify over the next few years: New formats will provide variety and even more entertainment. But Anderson also emphasizes that it will always be the idea itself that counts. Substance beats format! Nevertheless, the latter will ensure a healthy diversity of our speech culture. Of the 16 formats presented in his book, I present three here:
- Use of requisites or props. Real life-size objects, even animals on stage, can have a dramatically positive effect on the audience. I have seen people with bicycles and kilograms of sugar bags on stage, visualizing a healthier lifestyle while others show their passion for baking bread and biscuits. Props can make excellent speeches unforgettable.
- Addressing all the senses. The audience sees and hears the speaker, but what about the other senses? Our sense of smell is stimulated when we watch the speaker baking bread, at least we will remember the smell of baking bread if we have already experienced this personally. Other speakers spray perfume into the audience. A factor that can be very effective despite the limited possibilities – precisely because only a few speakers will ever use it. Even electrical signals could appeal to our senses in the future, says Anderson.
- Dual presentations are a special challenge. With two people on stage, the audience easily loses focus, so that there should be as accurate a coordination as possible. In addition to alternating performances, the two characters can complement each other very well by imitating the speaker’s content non-verbally: through facial expressions and gestures, through spontaneously drawn pictures or sketches, or even through musical interludes.
Perspectives for new presentations
The 4.4 billion clicks of TED Talks on YouTube mentioned at the beginning are a clear indication that the future belongs to online presentations and in particular live broadcasts. The audience and each individual viewer can at any time individually select which presentation is of interest.
This is not just about visibility. Rather, the competence to present as effectively and authentically as possible in front of an audience or a running camera will in future be an essential ability to communicate with others. Those who are able to do so will gain in prestige and reputation, i.e. become visible as experts in their field. From the student, who would like to develop himself vocationally and personally further up to the professionally experienced expert, who wants to develop his network and win at influence: Goal-oriented personal training and presentation coaching belong to the key factors, which bring you forward in your development as a speaker. The TED Talks already show today what reach you can build.
So be aware of your personal strengths and where your greatest potential lies. Have fun and success!
This post is also available in: German