Currently Reading: How To Deliver A TED Talk


Summertime in Florida means plenty of trips to the beach.  So far this summer, I’ve been to New Smyrna, Cocoa Beach, and Honeymoon Island in Dunedin.  All of this beaching for me means relaxing with a book.  I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (disappointing) and started reading the book my brother gave me called Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami (amazing).  Mostly, though, I stick to nonfiction.

While beaching with my husband, I re-read Jeremey Donovan’s How To Deliver A TED Talk with a focus on the upcoming revamp of Professional Communication and Presentation.  I highlighted many places that link our current class (a presentation class using Nancy Duarte’s Resonate) with our future class (a self presentation class based on Pamela Slim’s Body Of Work).


Re-reading Donovan’s book with a focus on how to blend the old class with the new made me pick up on vastly different pages and excerpts than when I read it the first time.  For example, I want to explain that communicating your professional persona and being able to present yourself and your personal brand to others is a challenge in the era of social media and texting.  Donovan says, “Those who learn how to communicate offline will have a better chance of being heard and of making a difference in an ever-more crowded world” (Source).  This really struck a chord with me, and I began to see how the blend of old class and new class might make sense structurally.

Donovan’s Tip #1 in the book, “Everybody has an idea worth spreading” is key for the revamp of Professional Communication and Presentation because everyone must also be able to spread their professional persona and to make their personal brand into a story or an idea worth sharing.  His second tip on developing a “speaking persona” resonated with me because I think that in class, we can link a professional persona with a speaking persona.  Donovan gives a list of categories of speaking personas that I think any student can understand and connect with.  I have an idea for a revamp of our old TED Analysis Presentation assignment in asking students to figure out what their speaking persona will be and finding a TED Talk with a speaker whose persona is similar to their own.  This will help incorporate TED Talks into the class with a focus this time on professional and speaking personas.

I also liked Donovan’s section in Chapter 1’s “Organizing Your Talk” on story, so I think another presentation my students can focus on in the reboot of the class is developing a compelling narrative that inspires and connects with the audience’s deepest rooted needs and desires.  Chapter Two’s Prompts on pages 48-50 can serve as an exercise and a basis for narrative presentations at the beginning of the new Professional Communication and Presentation class which will feed into the overall narrative students will tell in their Professional Persona Projects based on Slim’s Body of Work.

What was your favorite part of Donovan’s How To Deliver A TED Talk?  Can you make any additional connections between Donovan’s book and Slim’s Body of Work?


Content Is King: Public Speaking Secrets from TED


Jessica Stillman recently published an article on Inc. called “5 Secrets of Public Speaking From the Best TED Presenters.”  Naturally, I gobbled up her “secrets” which come directly from Jeremey Donovan’s book How To Deliver A TED Talk.

TED has, thankfully, revolutionized the way some people present information.  Presentations are no longer about delivering a report to an audience and relying on your eye contact and the sparkle in your voice to get you through.  Content is key, as Stillman explains in her article.  Her 5 secrets include crafting one big idea or central message; focusing your content on your audience; creating an effective hook; repeating a catchphrase that will resonate with your audience; and telling stories (Source).  Many of my colleagues are still teaching that basic report style of presenting.  They believe that content is secondary to delivery and that the speaker’s message should be information-packed and logos-driven.  As long as the delivery is charming, they say, the speaker will be successful.  I disagree, and this fundamental difference is what drives the presentation revolution.  I believe in Donovan’s advice.  I believe in TED.  I believe in Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  I also believe the tired way of teaching public speaking relies on Carol Dweck’s fixed mindset (check back for tomorrow’s post elaborating on these issues), and a teaching environment where only so-called naturally charismatic people can deliver great speeches is an environment I do not want to be in.



Let’s examine two TED Talks to prove Donovan’s point.  Take Sir Ken Robinson’s “Schools Kill Creativity.”  Perhaps one of the most famous and well-loved TED Talks, Robinson’s 2006 presentation has been viewed 20 million times because of the story-driven content.  I don’t remember Robinson’s factual evidence.  I remember his humor when he talks about his wife and children, and I remember my sadness when he talks about a young Gillian Lynne.  My emotional connection to the content of the speech is what makes “Schools Kill Creativity” successful.  It certainly isn’t Robinson’s delivery!  Stricken with polio at a young age, Robinson doesn’t use movement to get his point across.  His power comes from his content.  Some of my colleagues argue that “Schools Kill Creativity” is too story-driven.  That means they don’t understand how people learn and how ideas are successfully transmitted.  To me, that also means they don’t need to be teaching a public speaking and presentation class.

Let’s also look at Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts.”  Her point is that we aren’t all extroverted, social, outgoing people, and we live in a world where these qualities are prized.  So what happens to introverted people?  Does that mean they are poor communicators?  Does that mean they are poor public speakers?  Some of the best presentations ever delivered in my classroom were given by introverts, and that is because I look much deeper than superficial things like eye contact and a powerful voice.  It’s a good thing that I can look deeper, because during her TED Talk, Cain’s delivery isn’t perfect.  She does appear shy, soft-spoken, and timid.  If I prized delivery above all else, I might not even give her speech a chance.  Thankfully, 5 million people did give Cain a chance and watched her TED Talk.  In fact, Cain’s presentation holds the record as gaining 1 million views faster than any other speech in TED Talk history and is one of the most-viewed Talks of all time.  Cain’s TED Talk shows the power of authenticity over showmanship (Source).  To me, that’s what public speaking is all about.  The power of presentations don’t lie in flashy delivery but in that content.  Stillman’s article on Donovan believes this.  The presentation revolution was founded on this.

Why do you think so many people – especially public speaking and presentation instructors – resist the ideas of the presentation revolution?  Is there anything we can do to help them see the light?