A New Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk!


“Success, Drive, And The Drive To Keep Creating” is a brand new TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.  A follow-up to her wildly popular TED Talk five years ago, this shorter presentation is just as compelling and tackles the subject of success.  Check it out below:


Equal parts funny and touching, Gilbert’s story-based content takes audience members on a journey out of failure.  Her humor and her wisdom make me feel like I know her, and this delivery style embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked” presenter philosophy.  Whether you’re an artist or not, Gilbert’s message will resonate with you.

What was your favorite part about Gilbert’s new TED Talk?


Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”


Dr. Christopher Emdin‘s hook got me.  He tells the story of an aspiring teacher writing a 60-page paper about a super old education theory developed by a long-dead man and wondering what in the world that paper has to do with her future career goals and aspirations.

As a graduate student AND a full time teacher, this is something I’ve too often experienced.  I’ve found that research-based universities (the big universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida) are concerned with just that: research.  Teaching duties are secondary to research and publication, conferences and journals.  Research-based universities employ scholars: the thinkers, philosophers, and inventors of our day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have learning-centered institutions (formerly community colleges, now state colleges, such as Valencia College or Seminole State College).  These colleges are concerned with teaching and learning.  Check out Valencia’s learning-centered mission statement here.  As opposed to research, faculty members at learning-centered institutions are expected to be strong teachers.  Teaching is the primary goal, not the means to an end.

As Dr. Edmin’s introduction continues (watch him continue this train of thought until 1:30), he asks us to focus on this research-based university system which, from personal experience I can agree, trains students how to become scholars and researchers.  Teachers aren’t focused on engaging students or on creating magic in the classroom to inspire learning.  And Dr. Edmin thinks that is a bad thing.

You may be wondering who Dr. Emdin is.  A professor at Columbia University and a Director of Science Education for the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, Dr. Emdin is a superteacher.  He is the creator of the Hip Hop Ed social movement and has also collaborated with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA and the website Rap Genius on an initiative designed to engage students in science through hip hop battles.  Watch Dr. Emdin’s TEDx Talk below:


His argument is that superteachers aren’t often found in the classroom.  We know from people like Dr. John Medina, Garr Reynolds, and Nancy Duarte that great presenters (and great teachers) are storytellers, engaging presenters who focus on delivering content in an audience-centered fashion.  Superteachers and super-presenters are bound, linked, tied together, and this is a huge reason why I live and breathe public speaking and presentation.  Dr. Emdin says teachers are educated on theories and standards, but they have no idea how to develop that magic in the classroom, and that magic comes from careful study of effective communication and presentation techniques.  If we ditched education curriculum and replaced it with books like Brain RulesPresentation Zen, and Resonate, imagine the classrooms filled with students on the edge of their seats, excited and ready to learn.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Christopher Emdin sees that the system of education is broken.  His solution: teaching teachers how to develop “that magic” (as he calls it).  Dr. Emdin’s solution is that we should study effective presentation content and delivery, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What advice or suggestions would you give a new teacher to help her become a superteacher?

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Can We Have It All?”


One of my research interests, certainly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, is this idea of female leadership in the workplace.  What identity do female leaders construct and share with others?  What “self” are they creating and presenting to the world?

Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s “Can We Have It All?” tackles an important question about women in the workplace.  She argues that no, we women can’t have it all.  Watch her moving TED Talk below:


Slaughter opens with a powerful story that just punches me right in the gut.  As a woman without children who is dedicated to her career, I can’t fathom the decision she made.  And that’s what her entire presentation is about.

Slaughter talks about the measure of a woman’s success – being at the “top” of her career.  I agree that this is one major way I measure my own success as a woman.  She says we have to rethink this so that “success,” and she presents her big idea at about the 4:00 mark.  Then, she moves into why we should adapt a new solution and how we can do it as humanists – not as feminists.

Learn more about Slaughter’s perspective in “Elite Women Put a New Spin on an Old Debate” by the New York Times and NPR’s “The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work.”

Did you watch any great TED Talks over the weekend?

Leaning In with Sheryl Sandberg


When I first saw it featured on the front page of TED.com, I thought, “A TED Interview?! Awesome!”  When I actually started watching the Sheryl Sandberg interview by journalist Pat Mitchell, I was on the edge of my seat.  Mitchell asks some great questions, and seeing and learning more about Sandberg really resonated with me.  I loved Sandberg’s humor, her storytelling, and her advice for women.  Watch it below:


Sandberg discusses the lack of women raising their hands in school, the negative words placed on assertive young female children, and the expectations that come with being a woman.  This “lean in” movement is the experience of finding one’s voice as a woman in this world, asserting one’s self, and standing up in leadership positions confidently.

At the 8:30ish mark, Sandberg explains that if a little girl leads, she is called “bossy.”  When those little girls grow up into strong women, they are very often told they are too aggressive at work.  I can tell you this, I’ve been called bossy almost every single day of my entire life from childhood to adulthood, so I know firsthand how prevalent this is in our society.  Sandberg, though, gives us some great advice to combat this.  She says, “Don’t call a little girl bossy.  Tell her she has executive leadership skills” (Source).  Sandberg’s advice is so right on.  She is such a moving speaker, and her message is so important.

Sandberg wants us to create a dialogue about a woman finding a life on her own terms.  Let’s have a conversation!

Stephen Cave’s 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death


In my public speaking classes, I teach my students to begin their presentations with a strong hook.  Garr Reynolds uses the P.U.N.C.H. acronym to describe strategies to grab an audience’s attention.  Stephen Cave’s TEDx Talk “The 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death” has one of the strongest hooks I’ve seen.  He asks the audience, “Who here remembers when they first realized they were going to die?”


The unexpected question startles us.  We weren’t expecting an in-your-face invitation to discuss a sometimes scary topic.  The question invites the audience to immediately participate in Cave’s speech; we are actively thinking about an answer to that question.  I don’t know the answer, exactly, similar to many of you.  So while they’re thinking, Cave tells a personal story which gives his answer to that very question.  And after his story about his grandfather’s death – the childhood period when he considered mortality for the first time – he says to the audience that we can use his example to uncover the answer in our own lives.

Check out Cave’s hook and story-driven introduction below:


The introduction isn’t the only great thing about this TEDxBratislava presentation!  Take some time to watch the entire speech.  Cave explains the 4 stories, 4 narratives, cultures use to answer that very same question in his hook.

His simple slides support his message in a clear, elegant way.  Check out his use of big, bold text and typography at about 4:50.  He also uses a combination of icons and pictures, so the blend of text + image is interesting from start to finish.

What is the strongest presentation hook you’ve heard?  How do you personally prepare a good attention-getter for your audience?

Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful by David Steindl-Rast


Thank you for being so patient, Creating Communication readers, during this overwhelmingly busy time in my life!  Work has been off-the-charts busy with overhauling our online course; teaching extra classes; and handling more student issues than usual.  My graduate class has also been crazy as we wrap up our semester.  My final research paper was due yesterday, and our class final exam will be next week.  Because I will be so busy studying this week and over the weekend, I elected to stay in Orlando for Thanksgiving as opposed to driving to my hometown.  Though I am sad I won’t see family, I am exhausted.  I need a break, and I can’t wait to spend some time alone.  Do you ever feel that way?

This Thanksgiving, I am focusing on slowing down and being grateful despite the frenzy going on around me.  Brother David Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  Called “Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful,” the Benedictine monk teaches us how to calm ourselves and to focus on giving thanks.  Check out his beautiful lesson below:


This Thanksgiving, I am going to stop, stand still in the middle of the tornado that is my life right now, and be thankful for every single blessing I have been taking for granted.  Whether you will be traveling and spending time with family or, like me, home alone, I hope you will find some time to stop, meditate, and be thankful.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!


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?