Young Upstarts

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[Review] Talk Like TED

First founded in 1984 as a single one-off event, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has evolved into a global series of conferences built on its slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” that’s taken over the intellectual world by storm for its vast lineup of the world’s most fascinating thinkers and subject matter experts sharing their knowledge in the talk of their lives of usually under 20 minutes. These talks – over 1500 so far – are recorded and uploaded onto the Internet and have attracted more than a billion views online in total.

Aside from the sheer brilliance of the content shared, one of the things that strike you about these TED talks are how most – if not all – of them are very well delivered by their speakers. Whether non-native English speakers or those not used to speaking in the limelight, many present their content concisely, clearly, and convincingly.

Communications coach Carmine Gallo, who researched the presentation techniques of the legendary Apple founder Steve Jobs in his best-selling book “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience“, similar explores the reasons behind why TED speakers seem to be able to mesmerize their audiences so easily in his new book “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds“.

Gallo studied over 500 TED talks – amounting to over 150 hours of content – and interviewed scores of TED speakers to unearth their communications secrets. For example, he looked at why Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk about her stroke has been viewed more than 10 million times; why civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson’s talk received the longest standing ovation in TED history and was voted one of the most “persuasive”, and why Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about education reform has been viewed more than any other TED talk including those by world famous celebrities.

He then compiles the results into nine different insights about public-speaking:

1. Unleash the Master Within – digging deep and be passionate to identify your unique and meaningful connection to your presentation topic.

2. Master the Art of Storytelling – telling stories that reach people’s hearts and minds.

3. Have a Conversation – relentless practice and internalization of content to the point where you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.

4. Teach Me Something New – revealing information that’s completely new to your audience, packaged differently, or offers a fresh and novel way to solve an old problem.

5. Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments – presenting a shocking, impressive, or surprising moment that is so moving and memorable that it grabs a listener’s attention and is remembered long after the presentation is over.

6. Lighten Up – Not taking oneself or your topic too seriously, and giving the audience something to smile about.

7. Stick to the 18-Minute Rule – Limiting content to just eighteen minutes, the ideal length for any presentation.

8. Paint a Mental Picture with Multi-sensory Experiences – Delivering presentations with components that touch more than one of the senses.

9. Stay in Your Lane – Being authentic, open and transparent.

Of course, many of these presentation tips are common sense, but Gallo puts them together in a very convincing manner that helps to demystify the success behind so many of TED talks and provides many excellent ideas on how one can put a convincing presentation of one’s own. If you’re in the business of public speaking, or even where convincing people in a very short time is critical – such as sales – “Talk Like TED” is a fabulous resource to help you polish those skills.


Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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