“Step Your Game Up” – Chris Anderson’s TED Talk Tells Us Why We all Have to Keep Getting Better, and Better, and Better

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED
Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

So, this story of the evolution of dance seems strangely familiar. You know, a while after TED Talks started taking off, we noticed that speakers were starting to spend a lot more time in preparation. It was resulting in incredible new talks… Months of preparation crammed into 18 minutes, raising the bar cruelly for the next generation of speakers, with the effects that we’ve seen this week. It’s not as if J.J. and Jill actually ended their talks saying, “Step your game up,” but they might as well have. So, in both of these cases, you’ve got these cycles of improvement, apparently driven by people watching web video.
Chris Anderson, from his TED Talk, How Web Video Powers Global Innovation


I show this Chris Anderson TED Talk to my speech students, along with the one by Amy Cuddy. So, I’ve watched both of them again recently.

Some Observations:

#1 – Video (video available to all through the internet) is changing a lot about our world. Just this week, we have basically found a man, Ray Rice, guilty of domestic abuse (in the court of public opinion), because we saw the video. Though the police report was already known, with graphic wording, it clearly did not have the impact of the video: Rice committed assault by “striking [Janay Palmer] with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.” (Read more about this here). And, though it is not news that ISIS/ISIL is bad news indeed, it was the spreading of the video of the beheadings of two journalists that dramatically swayed American public opinion.

#2 – There is so much available to learn – for free. Attending the official TED Conference is pretty much for the wealthy. But every TED Talk is now free, on-line. We can all learn from the content of the talks.

There is so much to see, and read, and learn — from so many sources — much of it, for free. What a learning opportunity era!

#3 – Everybody now HAS! to get better at what they do, because we all are compared to the best like never before.

Do you remember the “We’re number two – we try harder” ads for Avis? I’m not sure that would work as well today. Today, we want what we spend our money on to be the best – at the best price. The mantra for today, quoted again recently by Peter Thiel in his reddit AMA, is the line technology involves doing more with less.”

But, it may actually be this: do more, with less… and, be the best while you’re at it.

So, back to Chris Anderson’s TED Talk. Today’s TED speakers are better than the first year’s speakers. The TED conference has made every speaker on Planet Earth feel the pressure to “Step your game up.”

Not terribly long ago, when my Netflix account was the DVD through the mail version, I ordered a DVD of a favorite old television show. The show aired in the early 1970s. It had a big star, good ratings… it was successful. I couldn’t get through all the DVDs. It wasn’t as good as I remembered, to put it mildly. We are now spoiled by the available non-stop quality of the modern dramas. Our options are so much more plentiful: True Detective, Broadchurch, Sherlock… Whether you agree with my likes or not, trust me, they are a lot more engaging, complex, provocative than my 1970s selection. (You notice I have not named the show – after watching an episode, seeing how dated it felt, how simplistic it felt –- well, I think I’ll keep the name to myself).

And, another aspect of this – if you try a new show, and it is disappointing, you are not restricted to only three networks to choose from. You can watch dramas (if that is your preference) from different years, from multiple countries, all with a tap on an iPad.

So, here’s the point of this blog post. Everyone all around us is getting better. And, in an era of video, if part of what you do involves interacting with people (and, it does!), your speaking ability, your conversational ability, is being compared to the best like never before.

In other words you have to “step your game up” again this week. And, then, again, the next week. “Step your game up” is the challenge of the era.


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