How do you take a presentation from good to great?
Preparation, confidence, and the ability to relax, Ken Robinson told Business Insider in an interview at this week’s World Business Forum in New York. Eight years ago, Robinson gave a TED Talk on how schools stifle creativity. It has since been watched more than 28 million times, making it the most popular TED Talk ever.
We asked Robinson to share his top secrets for giving a compelling speech. Here’s what he said:
Keep it simple.
“I think of talks in five parts: An introduction, three points, and a conclusion,” Robinson told us. While he uses this simple structure to plan talks ahead of time, he said he doesn’t write the entire speech. He maps out where he’s going to go but not how he’s going to get there, which keeps each talk feeling fresh and alive.
Make notes on index cards.
“I find it very hard to read a speech, which is why I simply make notes,” he said. He jots down topics on index cards to trigger his memory, and he only uses a few to remember the most essential points. For an hour-plus talk, he made seven cards.
“Obviously, you need to be confident in what you’re going to talk about,” Robinson said. “You don’t need to have all the answers, but you need to have confidence.” When you’re sure of yourself and your message, the audience starts believing, too.
Create a connection with the audience.
“Your relationship with the audience is paramount. On stage, I’m hoping to make a connection,” he said. Humour is one of his best techniques for building rapport. In his talk at the World Business Forum, for example, he made at least one joke a minute, including in his opening remarks. “I was born in Liverpool in 1950,” he said. “I know you’re wondering: How could that be? You’re so boyish.” He paused for laughter. “I’ve had work done.” The audience roared.
“I tell myself to relax,” Robinson said. “If you’re freaked out, they’re freaked out.” While easier said than done, preparation and a few deep breaths should help calm your nerves.
Watch Robinson’s famous TED Talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” below.
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