TED’s secrets to a great presentation

TED’s secrets to a great presentation

Ever wondered why TED talks are so consistently excellent? Especially since that majority of slideshow presentations you sit through are deadly dull?

Cloe Shasha, director of speaker development at TED, plays a big role in that. For eight years she’s helped usher speakers all the way through the TED talk process, from the initial invitation to the stage. 

She knows all the tricks. And here, she shares them. Use them to make your own Keynote or PowerPoint presentations sharp, snappy, and maybe even TED-worthy.

Don’t read. Present.

Your seventh-grade speech teacher was right: Slides, like note cards, are not script pages to be narrated verbatim.

“Many people use slides like a security blanket or as an anchor to know what to say next,” Shasha says. “Especially in the first draft, people will put in a bunch.”

Avoid that.

Bullet points can work, as long as they help the audience navigate your narrative. But the real key- and you teacher said this too- is to have the material mastered before you even enter the room.

Watch this video to learn by example:

The healing power of reading by Michelle Kuo


Use humor appropriately

Shasha says that TED embraces funny presentations- in fact, comedian James Veitch’s hilarious “This is what happens when you reply to spam email” has more than 50 million views.  

But if you’re trying to be funny, make sure your material supports it. Your big presentation on improving workplace efficiency may not be the place to test your one-liners.

Watch this video to learn by example:

 “This is what happens when you reply to spam email”, James Veitch

Play photo editor

Whether you’ve made a presentation for a meeting or are speaking in front of thousands, here’s an elemental truth: Content should drive the visuals, not the other way around.

Shahsa says TED speakers don’t even begin to consider including photos until they’ve firmly established a narrative and the script feels about 75 percent baked. 

“If a photograph adds light to the story, great,” says Shasha. “But if the visuals distract, even for just a moment, they should go.”

Watch this video to learn by example:

 “You are not alone in your loneliness,” Johnny Sun

Look around

Make regular eye contact, and not just with those lucky enough to snag a front-row seat, suggests Shashsa. 

TED has a neat way to help speakers practice this. “We’ll put the speaker on a mini-platform and have three audience members spread out as far as possible: one on the left, centre, and right of the room.” The idea is for the speaker to learn address the entire scope of the audience. 

“We don’t want it to turn into a mechanical process,” Shasha says. “But it’s important to learn as a means of connection.”

Watch this video to learn by example:

 “The most detailed map of galaxies, black holes, and stars ever made,” Juna Kollmeier

This article was first published on app store stories