Talk Like TED

Summary Written by Scott Reavely
"The world was and still is clearly hungry for great ideas presented in an engaging way."

- Talk Like TED, page 4

The Big Idea

Don't underestimate the power of presentation

"Don't ever let anyone get away with calling public speaking a ‘soft skill.’"- Talk Like TED, page 121

If you expect a book on TED Talks to focus on how to make a quality presentation, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s my bias. I am a preacher. I am the butt of jokes that remind me just how bad speaking can be. And, I have to do things that no other communicator has to do. I have to get up every week and deliver a new speech to the same audience, sometimes 2-3 speeches a week.

My main concern is content. I want to speak what is right and true. I needed to be convinced again of the role of the communicator in the act of speaking and Talk Like TED did that for me. Think about it. Given identical content, who wouldn’t rather listen to a well-delivered, well-ordered talk than a poor one? And which would you remember better?

Consistently throughout the book Mr. Gallo repeats, “without [whatever the chapter is about] the speech would not have been so memorable or effective.” He makes a good case. Ultimately, the presentation serves the content. Have something to say and say it well.

Insight #1

KISS – Keep It Short Stupid!

"After someone listens to your presentation the real test is when they leave and someone asks, ‘What did that person talk about?’ I want to be good enough that they have a clear answer to that question."- Dan Pink, Talk Like TED, page 131

The stereotypical complaint about a preacher is we talk too long. TED Talks have a well-publicized 18-minute limit. Gallo explains why that 18-minute threshold makes for much better retention and enjoyment than anything longer.

He talks about the rule of three. People can remember three things better than more. They appreciate a symmetry in three items more than higher multiples. You see this illustrated in many places, not the least of which are Actionable Books summaries. We have a The Big Idea, insight #1 and insight #2. It is easy to read, retain, and I might say, to write.

I also coach speakers. My standard exercise is to have them deliver a 7 minute talk. I had one man last week promise seven points in seven minutes – he actually brought 12 points in 12 minutes! Don’t ask me if I remember any of them!

One way to handle this would be to crystallize the big idea of your talk into a 140-character Tweet that you could post on Twitter. If you cannot do that, Gallo maintains it will not be clear enough to you. And as a result, it will be hard to bring it to your audience with sufficient force, clarity or brevity.

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Insight #2

Make it Multi-Sensory

"People remember vivid events; they forget mundane ones."- Talk Like TED, page 141

I read the chapters about visual content and the engagement of senses right before I began to speak about the parables of Jesus. One of the reasons we remember Jesus’ speaking so much is that it is multi-sensory. He said, “A sower went out to sow…” “A man on a journey fell among thieves…” “You are the blind leading the blind.” Jesus routinely did this.

So, I attempted to take this one step further in my Sunday message. I was speaking about the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-21). So I passed around a bag full of kernels of wheat to my suburban congregation and asked them to take one and roll it around in their fingers during the remainder of my (more than 18 minute!) talk. I tried to add, not only a tactile experience, but one that would help them think about what kind of miracle it takes for that little kernel to produce any kind of harvest!

And in that same message I heeded another piece of his advice: use fewer words on a PowerPoint slide! One could maintain that the impact of a slide is inversely proportional to the number of words on the slide. This would make a slide with a picture and no words the most impactful. He says, “Use visuals to enhance words, not duplicate.”

I would love to violate the “rule of three” and pass along other Insights from the book, but you would be best served to pick up a copy and read it yourself.

Read the book

Get Talk Like TED on Amazon.

Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He transforms executives into extraordinary presenters—working directly with the companies that touch your life every day. A former anchor and correspondent for CNN and CBS, Gallo works directly with the world’s top business leaders to help them craft compelling messages, tell inspiring stories and share their innovative ideas with a global audience. Gallo has addressed executives at Intel, Cisco, Google, Medtronic, Disney, The Four Seasons, SAP, Pfizer, Linked In, Chevron, SanDisk, Univision,, and many other global brands. Gallo is also a popular keynote speaker whose customized multimedia presentations are a hit with audiences around the world.

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