Read This and You Can “Talk Like TED”


A roadmap to constructing and delivering presentations that inspire and motivate any audience.

talk like ted

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I was giving a speech at my father’s retirement banquet and I can tell you – I was a nervous wreck.  It’s one thing to speak on marketing to an audience of small business owners and something entirely different to speak to 450 people about my father and the difference he has made in our community.

I didn’t know where to begin or what to say.

You wouldn’t believe what happened next.  My doorbell rings and it’s the mailman holding a large envelope.  I already know it’s a review copy of a book.  I thank him and carry the envelope back to my office to open it up and inside is…. are you ready for this?  A review copy of Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo (@CarmineGallo).

Thank you Universe! I dropped what I was doing and immediately settled into the book.

TED: The Platform to Change the World in 18 Minutes or Less

For those of you who aren’t familiar with TED Talks, here is a short explanation:

“TED is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference and TEDGlobal — TED includes the award-winning TED Talks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.”

For many thought leaders, being a TED speaker is the pinnacle of their career.  TED Talks have redefined how we present our ideas.  If you’ve watched enough of these talks, you see that there is a formula for crafting a killer talk that you can use. Not just to speak at a TED conference – but to share your ideas with your company, organization or as in my case, a community.

The 9 Steps to Crafting a Killer Talk

The author, Carmine Gallo, has reviewed more than 500 different TED Talks (that’s roughly 150 hours worth of talks) to uncover these nine secrets to giving a successful talk.  He breaks out these elements into three major sections:

Part 1: Emotional:  This section is first for a reason.  Emotion sells and while every TED Talk is truly unique and each speaker has their own style, they do share one common element – the ability to convey powerful emotion in their speaking.  The first three steps to success are:

  1. Unleash the master within.
  2. Master the art of storytelling.
  3. Have a conversation.

Each of these chapters contains examples of talks and detailed deconstructions that will help you apply what these speakers did to your presentation.

Part 2: Novel: The human brain is hard wired to pay attention to new and exciting things.  Gallo found that the most popular talks conveyed something the audience has never seen – or at least hasn’t seen from the speaker’s point of view.  Here are three steps to giving the audience something new:

  1. Teach me something new.
  2. Deliver jaw-dropping moments.
  3. Lighten up.

I call this “tickling the brain” and audiences love it.  Inside this section you’ll find wonderful examples of people who have enchanted audiences with a new twist.

Ben Saunders is one example.  He’s the youngest man to ski solo to the North Pole.  He’s an adventurer and an arctic explorer.  He actually dragged 400 pounds of food, supplies and a computer for blogging across the North Pole.  There were times when he was the only human within five million square miles.  Why?  Saunders says:

“…there is something addictive about tasting life at the very edge of what’s humanly possible.”

That’s the essence of a great talk.  Something that makes you stop and say, “WHAT?!”

You don’t have to do anything as dramatic as Saunders, but you do have to dig deep inside your life and your experiences to find that moment.

Part 3: Memorable: In this section they talk about the power of the 18 minute rule.  It’s the ideal length of time for a presentation. The chapters in this section help you condense your ideas successfully:

  1. Stick to the 18 minute rule.
  2. Paint a mental picture with multi-sensory experiences.
  3. Stay in your lane.

Research has found that your brain really can’t handle more information than what you can grab inside of 18 minutes.  It’s called cognitive backlog.  The best way to comfortably feed your audience is to follow these rules – rigorously.

What You Will Love About Carmine Gallo

This is not Carmine Gallo’s first book – by any stretch.  I’ve reviewed many of them here. The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Apple Experience are just a few.

I have to admit that at first, I though Gallo was just a Steve Jobs junkie. But it turns out, he’s actually a communications coach for some of the world’s most admired brands: Intel, SanDisk, The Home Depot and many others.  He’s a former CNN journalist as well and that’s what I think makes this book so powerful. It’s a book about communication from a communications expert.

It’s also wonderful reading.  It’s not just a lesson or a guide or even a workbook, it’s actually entertaining.  Gallo describes each of the TED speakers so vividly that it actually feels like you’re watching all the TED Talks right from the book.

The Proof is in the Presentation

You’re probably wondering what I learned from the book and what I was able to apply to my speech.  Well, I will tell you, this was some of the hardest work that I have done.  I would say that digging deep to find my passion and emotion around the topic was rather challenging.

My next challenge was brainstorming a list of stories and events and then editing them down to just those vivid few that people would resonate with.

Finally, the delivery required a lot of practice.  That was challenging as well because the first few times I rehearsed my speech, I broke down in tears.  I don’t think this was the kind of emotion Gallo was talking about.

In the end, I was able to get up there, share vivid stories, bring tears to the audiences eyes along with a few laughs as well.  I’m not sure I’m TED material just yet, but thanks to Talk Like TED I know what it takes to get there and I’m on my way.  You will be too.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."