Want to give a presentation that has the magic of a TED Talk? It’s not as hard as you may think.
At least that is according to Carmine Gallo, author of the new book “Talk Like TED.” To write it, Gallo combed through 500 talks to find lessons that could help anyone who has to give a pitch or a presentation.
What makes a TED Talk pop? For Carmine, it’s a combination of making an emotional connection, delivering a novel experience, and making the talk memorable. When all three pieces are in harmony, you get the power that can launch movements, like Facebook COO
Sheryl Sandberg’s did for women at work.
Here are Gallo’s top three strategies for giving killer presentations.
1. To connect with people, tell them a story.
At the end of 2010, Sandberg was preparing for her TED presentation. “I was planning to give a speech chock full of facts and figures, and nothing personal,” she said in an interview. But before she went on stage, a friend stopped her, saying that she looked out of sorts.
Sandberg said that as she was leaving from home that day her daughter was tugging at her leg and telling her not to go. Her friend’s reply: Why don’t you tell that story? Sandberg was sceptical — why would she tell her story in front of people?
Because, as Sandberg soon realised, the best way to connect with people emotionally is through stories. She told one in hers, and it helped launch a movement for women’s empowerment in business.
“I find that the most successful TED presentations are 65% stories, 25% data,” as well as a short explanation of who you are and what you’ve done to establish your credibility, Gallo says. “It doesn’t have to be a personal story. You don’t have to talk about your kid like Sheryl Sandberg did, a story can be a case study,” like Malcolm Gladwell does so well.
2. To make a presentation novel, create “emotionally charged events.”
Back in 2009, Bill Gates released mosquitoes from a jar when he was on the TED stage.
Gates wanted to talk about malaria, and these bloodsuckers provided a lesson in how the disease spreads.
As Gallo explains, this was what researchers call an “emotionally charged event,” an incident where you experience shock, surprise, or fear.
That emotionally charged event triggers a release of the brain hormone dopamine, which cements the experience in your memory. It’s the reason you remember intensely happy or intensely scary moments so well.
The audience was expecting a standard PowerPoint. They got mosquitoes.
“In every pitch, every presentation, you have to figure out a way to package the information in a way that stands out, that’s new, novel, unexpected,” Gallo says.
3. To make a presentation memorable, use the rule of threes.
“We can remember three or four chunks of information in our short-term memory,” Gallo says, “so I always advise people when they’re pitching a new product or talking to a reporter, give them three reasons, three new features that are interesting in the product, three reasons to invest in you.”
Grounded in cognitive psychology, the rule of three pervades art and literature, from The Three Little Pigs story to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as rhetoric, like that declaration about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You can see the same pattern in Ted Talks. Sandberg, for instance, gave three ways women can lean in to their organisations.
Now at nearly 15 million views, Harvard neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor gave a talk on her experience of suffering and recovering from a stroke, called My Stroke of Insight. It’s broken into three parts: what she was doing as a brain researcher before the stroke, the day of the stroke, and the spiritual journey she took as a result of the stroke.
The last part was a late addition. Before the talk, “a friend pulls her aside and says, ‘You went on this big spiritual journey, you really went and found yourself — why don’t you express that?'” Gallo recalls. Bolte Taylor thought of herself as a scientist, so she couldn’t get that vulnerable. But it was that emotionally resonant last third that helped her presentation go viral, Gallo says, catch Oprah Winfrey’s attention, and change the course of her career.
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