Every Speaker is Now Compared to the best TED Talks – My lessons and Takeaways from TED Talks by Chris Anderson

ct-chris-anderson-ted-book-bsi-20160425Almost every human born at almost every place and moment in history has had their potential capped by a single fact over which they had almost no control, namely, the quality of the teachers and mentors they had access to. But now, for the first time in history, it’s possible for anyone on the planet who has access to the Internet to summon to their home the world’s greatest teachers and inspirers. The potential that represents is breathtaking.
Chris Anderson, TED Talks


Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson.

Where to begin in this post? This is a must-read book for every person who has presentations to give. (Which, in the modern work world, is just about every person). And, as I said in my first takeaway (see below), because of the popularity of the TED Talks, every presenter is now compared to the best TED talks. In other words, every person has to step up his/her game, and then keep aiming for perpetual improvement as a speaker.

Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, is the one who made the decision to put these Talks out there on the internet for all to watch. Great decision!

And, by the way, in case you did not know, TED is always written in ALL CAPS, because the TED conference began with a focus on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Now, TED has expanded to cover “any topic of public interest.”

One of the elements of the book that I especially liked was the way Chris Anderson referred to the ancient discipline of rhetoric, and then throughout the book, basically translated those great time-tested rhetorical principles for a modern era. This is how I included this in in my handout (fyi – my graduate school training was in rhetoric, and I especially liked what Mr. Anderson did here. I created the table):

From Classical Rhetoric to Modern TED

Then (Classical Rhetoric) Now (TED)
Logos Reason
Pathos Connection
Ethos (credibility + character) Reputation
Mythos Narration (story & story-telling)
Stasis (and, dissonance) Demolition
Thesis Throughline
Invention Preparation Process
Delivery On Stage

• Note especially the idea of the Throughline:

Throughline: the connecting theme that ties together each narrative element. Every talk should have one. You can think of the throughline as a strong cord or rope, onto which you will attach all the elements that are part of the idea you’re building.

• The True Basic of the Basics (you might want to read my blog post about this: 2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation):

  • Have Something to Say (invention)
  • Say it Verv Well (delivery)

• Here is my summary of the TED process, as he outlined it in the book:

  • Get the right idea
  • Use the right words
  • Know your audience
  • Take your audience on a journey

• And here is my summary of The “basics;” the “rules,” from the book:

#1 – Time & Words — you have about 140 words per minute (the range, from 130-170 – 139 is the “average” for an 18 minute TED Talk; 18 minutes, 2500 words)
#2 – Structure — A. Introduction—getting settled, what will be covered B. Context—why this issue matters C. Main Concepts D. Practical Implications E. Conclusion
#3 – Rehearse; in front of someone who does not know your field of expertise. – (RM – using the “Cynthia Test.” Cynthia is smart; sharp; but does not know your field).
#4 – All persuasion is self-persuasion!
#5 – Script your talk – or, something close to it! (but write for speaking, not for ”reading”).
#6 – Never go over your time allotted. Not ever!
#7 – Just before you speak – drink water.
#8 – There is no one way; do it your way. (no notes; music stand; note cards – be comfortable!)

• And here are my lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Learn from TED because every time you speak, you are now “compared” with a good TED Talk. Keep getting better!
#2 – Learn from TED because many skills are learnable. Work at it!
#3 — Learn from TED because there is much to learn, and in these (usually 18 minute) Talks, you can learn much. In other words, get intentional about your TED watching schedule.
#4 — Learn from TED because you have a Talk within you; maybe more than one. It’s time to get it out there.

There is much more to the book, including a great section on what to wear on stage. This part of the book was written by Kelly Stoetzel, who is quite prominent on the TED team, and in this book – and she happens to the the daughter of Carole and Jim Young, long-time regulars at our First Friday Book Synopsis here in Dallas.

Let me say it again – before you give your next speech or presentation, buy and read this book. Not only will you be glad that you did, but it is practically a career necessity in these striving-for-greater-excellence times.


15minbb150(My synopsis of TED Talks, with my comprehensive, multipage handout, and the audio recording of my presentation, will be availabel soon on our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. We also have many, many more of our synopses available on our site).


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