TED's Secret To Great Public Speaking - Deepstash
TED's Secret To Great Public Speaking

TED's Secret To Great Public Speaking


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TED's Secret To Great Public Speaking

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Over the past 12 years, Chris Anderson has had a ringside seat, listening to many hundreds of amazing TED speakers. He’s helped them prepare their talks for prime time, and learned directly from them the secrets of what makes for a great talk.

And even though these speakers and their topics all seem completely different, they actually do have one key common ingredient. And it’s this: Your number one task as a speaker is to transfer into your listeners’ minds an extraordinary gift - a strange and beautiful object that we call an idea.


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During a talk, X number of people, many of whom have never seen each other before, are finding that their brains are starting to sync with the speaker’s brain and with each other. They’re literally beginning to exhibit the same brain-wave patterns. They’re not just feeling the same emotions; there’s something even more startling happening.


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If we could look inside the speaker’s brain, we would see billions of interconnected neurons in an impossible tangle. But if we looked closer, we would see that a few million of them are linked to each other in a way which represents a single idea. And incredibly, this exact pattern is being recreated in real time inside the minds of everyone listening; in just a few minutes, a pattern involving millions of neurons is being teleported into X minds, just by people listening to a voice and watching a face.


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What is an idea anyway? Well, we can think of it as a pattern of information that helps us understand and navigate the world. Ideas come in all shapes and sizes, from the complex and analytical to the simple and aesthetic.

Our minds are teeming with ideas, and not just randomly. They're carefully linked together. Collectively they form an amazingly complex structure that is our personal worldview. It’s our brain's operating system. It's how we navigate the world. And it is built up out of millions of individual ideas.


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That’s why ideas really matter: if communicated properly, they're capable of changing, forever, how someone thinks about the world, and shaping their actions both now and well into the future. Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.


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If you accept that your number one task as a speaker is to build an idea inside the minds of your audience, here are four guidelines for how you should go about that task:

  1. limit your talk to just one major idea
  2. give your listeners a reason to care
  3. build your idea, piece by piece, out of concepts that your audience already understands
  4. make your idea worth sharing


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Ideas are complex things; you need to slash back your content so that you can focus on the single idea you’re most passionate about, and give yourself a chance to explain that one thing properly. You have to give context, share examples, make it vivid. So pick one idea, and make it the line running through your entire talk, so that everything you say links back to it in some way.


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Before you can start building things inside the minds of your audience, you have to get their permission to welcome you in. And the main tool to achieve that? Curiosity. Stir your audience’s curiosity. Use intriguing, provocative questions to identify why something doesn’t make sense and needs explaining. If you can reveal a disconnection in someone’s worldview, they’ll feel the need to bridge that knowledge gap. And once you've sparked that desire, it will be so much easier to start building your idea.


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You use the power of language to weave together concepts that already exist in your listener’ minds - but not your language, their language. You start where they are. The speakers often forget that many of the terms and concepts they live with are completely unfamiliar to their audiences. Now, metaphors can play a crucial role in showing how the pieces fit together, because they reveal the desired shape of the pattern, based on an idea that the listener already understands.


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Ask yourself the question: “Who does this idea benefit?” And be honest with the answer. If the idea only serves you or your organization, then, sorry, it’s probably not worth sharing. The audience will see right through you. But if you believe that the idea has the potential to brighten up someone else’s day or change someone else’s perspective for the better or inspire someone to do something differently, then you have the core ingredient to a truly great talk, one that can be a gift to them and to all of us.


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“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison


There's no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common. TED curator Chris Anderson shares this secret - along with four ways to make it work for us.