Talk Like TED 9 secrets summary

October 17, 2014



Talk Like TED “The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds”

What is TED? TED stands for Technology, Education, Design. It was created in 1984 as a onetime event. Today, TED is the premiere main event of events where the top minds are given approximately 18 minutes to make a presentation of their talk. The total TED Talk views in YouTube is over 1 billion.  


The difference with this book and the other public speaking books is that Talk Like TED is supported by the latest science from the best minds on the planet. Scientists using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or fMRI can scan people’s brains to see exactly what areas are being activated in the brain which supports studies in the area of communication.

Here are a few of my book notes on Talk like TED, the 9 secrets in a nutshell. But this summary here won’t do justice to the overall content of the book. You would want to read the whole book and check out multiple references of keynote presentations done by the speakers in a TED conference:

1) Unleash the Master within (Passion)


  • Dig deep to identify your unique and meaningful connection to your presentation topic. Passion leads to mastery and your presentation is nothing without it.
  • Ask yourself: What makes my heart sing? 



2) Master the Art of Storytelling.


  • “Stories are just data with a soul.”
  • Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds.
  • The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership—people who inspire uncommon effort.
  • Ideas are the currency of the 21st century and stories facilitate the exchange of that currency.

3) Have a Conversation

  • “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it until you become it.”
  • How to say it so people would listen: Rate, Volume, Pitch, Pauses.
  • Don’t deliver a presentation, have a conversation instead.
  • How you say something is as important as what you say.
  • Some speakers rehearse their presentation not once, twice, or even 20 times. Some rehearse it 200 times.
  • Be confident, use gestures, avoid mannerisms.

4) Teach Me Something New


  • Deliver information in ways that nobody has ever seen before.
  • The best ideas will fail to inspire if they are not packaged effectively.
  • “Familiar information repackaged in an unfamiliar way.”
  • “You’ll grab their attention if you can teach them just one thing they didn’t know before.”
  • Give your audience a new way of looking at their world.


5) Deliver Jaw Dropping Moments


  • The brain does not pay attention to boring things.
  • Set an emotionally charged event.
  • If you connect to an audience’s emotional responses then they will perceive the information more vividly.
  • Hook people. Craft and deliver repeatable quotes. Your ideas deserve to be remembered.
  • Persuasion occurs when 3 components are present:
  • Pathos (Emotions) – 65%, Ethos (Credibility) – 10%, Logos (Logic) – 25%

 6) Lighten Up (Sense of Humor)

  • Don’t take yourself(or your topic) too seriously. The brain loves humor. Give your audience something to smile about.
  • Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message.
  • A humorous observation is very effective rather than telling jokes.
  • Humor is a form of interpersonal communication, and a good sense of humor is therefore an important social skill that we typically admire in others.
  • Don’t try to be funny. But do pay closer to how you use humor, how others respond to your humor, and the message you send. It’s all in the telling.
  • You don’t have to be funny to be humorous. You just have to be willing to do your homework to make your presentation entertaining.

7) Stick to the 18-minute rule

  • Thinking is hard work. In 18 minutes you can make a powerful argument and attract people’s attention.
  • 18 minutes is the ideal length of time for a presentation. If you must create one that’s longer, build in soft breaks (stories, videos, demonstrations) every 10 minutes.
  • Researchers have discovered that cognitive backlog or too much information, prevents successful transmission of ideas.
  • The 18-minute presentation works so well because it leaves your audience with some brainpower and glucose remaining to think about your presentation, share your ideas, and act on them.

 8) Paint a Mental Picture with Multisensory Experiences

  • If a person imagines how water smells or tastes, it triggers the same areas of the brain as if the person has actually ingested the water.
  • In presentation slides, use pictures instead of text whenever possible because vision trumps all other senses.
  • Use one theme per slide.
  • TED-like slides have little text, no bullet points, and plenty of photographs and visuals.
  • The holy grail of a presentation is to transport your audience to another place.
  • Think of a presentation as a Broadway play.

9) Stay in the Lane


  • Be authentic, open, and transparent.
  • You should hold the space. Holding the space meant being vulnerable, expressing the raw emotion.
  • An inspiring speaker should move his audience to think differently about their lives, careers, or businesses. A great speaker makes you want to be a better person.
  • When you deliver a presentation, your goal should not be to deliver a presentation. It should be to inspire your audience, to move them, and to encourage them to dream bigger. You cannot move people if they don’t think you are real.
  • Good speakers aren’t just lucky or talented—they work hard.
  • Be true to your authentic self.

Conclusion: One of the Ted speakers, Larry Smith, said I wish you success. He doesn’t say “Good Luck” because luck has little to do with success. You don’t need luck to be an inspiring speaker. You need courage, passion, know how to articulate your ideas simply, and express what makes your heart sing.





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