Dear Colleagues:

TED Talks. Are they still relevant? How did they influence business? How have they democratized idea sharing?

Read on!
WWTD: What Would TED Do?

Since the first TED Talks in 1990, I don't know of anything that has had such a sizeable impact on how we communicate, especially when it comes to making presentations - business and otherwise.

Through their rise in popularity we've learned that any topic can be entertaining if it's presented concisely and with genuine passion. 

TED Talks have probably had their greatest impact on business communications. While still all too common, presentations that rely heavily on big slide decks with countless data-filled bullet points are increasingly frowned upon. Thanks to TED we've all learned the value of story-telling. Now when someone is charged with making a presentation, it's fair to expect them to spend more time planning it than delivering it. The challenge today is taking a single big idea and sharing observations about the organization that bring the data to life. The TED influence means that speakers now aim to give audiences an understanding of the topic being presented with fewer slides and a compelling story.

TED Talks have established a target presentation length of a maximum of 18 minutes. As TED curator Chris Anderson once said, "long enough to be serious, but short enough to hold people's attention." TED Talks exploded at a time when audience attention span began to decrease at an alarming rate. Companies now ask their teams to give "TED style" talks. These are relatively short presentations that force speakers to focus on one message and share stories and facts that will make the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time - whether it is at a staff meeting, a company meeting or a conference.

TED Talks have democratized the distribution of knowledge; we've learned that valuable and exciting information and ideas can come from anyone - whether a world-renowned CEO, an academic, a stay-at-home parent or an inspiring teen. A whole new generation of presenters has emerged. TED has shown people that ideas have value and that enthusiasm and knowledge can draw attention to even the most esoteric idea. 

Meet the Communicator's Communicators 

There are countless TED Talks specifically about effective communications. Many share insightful perspectives on all aspects of communication, and teach audience members to be equally effective speakers and listeners. 

If you're looking to strengthen your communications talent in workplace or social settings, here are a few TED Talks that provide inspiration.

Celeste Headlee: Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation
Julian Treasure: How to Speak So That People Want to Listen
David Grady: How to Save the World from Bad Meetings 

Making a Memorable Presentation

We've all been there - it's time to give a presentation, so we dust off our usual PowerPoint, update a few facts and get some snazzy new clip art to perk it up. But today's audiences are savvier and expect more. They know that there is a wealth of online information out there, and they want to be moved or entertained. Otherwise, you'll find yourself delivering your talk to a group of heads looking down at small glowing screens. Audiences are interested in speakers who relate information through compelling personal experiences, infographics, fun videos - and who say what needs to be said in 18 minutes or under.  

If your presentation style could use an update, go to the source - try using the tips and guidelines that TED Talk speakers themselves follow when they create their own presentations:
  • Keep it Short.The TEDx Speaker Guide tells you straight out to keep it short and focused. TED Talks can be no longer than 18 minutes, but the guide stresses that you might not even need that. As it points out, "Short Chunks + One Subject at a Time = Happy Audience".
  • Make it relevant.This Fast Company article encourages potential TED speakers to be sure that their idea is current. To keep your talk relevant be certain you have the most up-to-date facts to back up your claims. 
  • Practice. Public speaker expert Jezra Kayereminds you that practice makes perfect. Find a volunteer listener and run through your presentation, because few people handle *crickets* well. Real life feedback is invaluable in improving your talk's effectiveness.
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